Trying to get it right

Our kindergartener talks in terms of good choices, sharing time, work time, recess, helping one another to learn, good listening and respecting his neighbor. Cheers to kindergartener teachers everywhere who lay out these basic structures for living life as a part of a community. Kudos to those who held onto those values as they moved past kindergarten. Mazel Tov to the leaders who remind us that these very basic values work at every stage of life and in every environment.


At this point, we have two cats, one dog, one bird, three Russians, one Omani, two middle-aged folks, three teens and one pre-teen living in our house. We have three vastly different cultures. (Not under our roof but in our family, we have one child in Spain and one in Minneapolis) I am struck by the fact that this is just one house in one city in one country. To have so many personalities trying to manage sharing space and resources can be a little bumpy at times. We usually resolve things though because we trust one another (for the most part) and we love one another and, most importantly, we agree that resolving things makes living better for all of us.

A couple of multiracial hands with different colors over white b

Today, I am going to shop for halal meat for the first time. This year, I have been to my first Russian services. I have learned some words in new languages. I have tried foods that I never had before. I have learned about other ways of doing life and have worked to adapt my habits and customs to make the folks in our house more comfortable. To be honest, I have had to do that to adapt to my husband’s ways of doing things and my own kids’ ways of doing things too. I mess up all the time. I say the wrong things. I cook the wrong things. I jump to the wrong conclusions. I accidentally hurt feelings. I send confusing messages. I make mistakes. I ask forgiveness. I try again.

When I read the news and learn about the ways that we humans find to hurt one another and how easily we disrespect one another and how rarely we give one another the benefit of the doubt, I start to despair. The living that we do here, under our single roof, takes a commitment to trying our best. If we weren’t, it would be unbearable. We have to get along because our space has limits and cooperation is expected. I wish that there was a magic spell which could be said to create these same constraints universally so that we, the global we, would have to get along with one another. I am deeply saddened by all the time and mourning and cost that is sucked up by human-on-human bad choices.

I wish that we could all sit in a big circle together, just like we did in kindergarten class, looking around the circle for a while so that we could be reminded of the basic getting-along rules. Naively, I think that if our little household can make it work, why can’t everyone. I know it is more complicated than that…but does it have to be? We are trying to get it right and end up getting it wrong lots of the time…the key is that we are trying.






a letter to a kindergarten teacher

That is the best word that I can think of to define our relationship with the mother and child living in our house. We are in and out of every corner of their lives trying to offer support, clarification, normalization, comfort, access, assurance, interpretation, on and on. Letters home from the teacher come through me and are communicated to her so that she can know some of what is going on with him at school. Sometimes, I don’t share the letters. If there is a space for me to explain a behavior or to suggest a strategy…I just do that. I am winging it. Hopefully, I am being appropriately respectful. Hopefully, I am helping more than I am hurting.
Dear Mrs.                            ,
Thank you for reaching out.
This is a fairly unique situation…I think…at least in my experience. We are all trying to do the right thing here and we will inevitably get it wrong some of the time but I think that we will get it right far more of the time. 
We are in territory which is not written up in any of our collective educational backgrounds. We are navigating a space that is so tender with this little family and we all want to do that well. My heart melts when I see just how far things have come in terms of growing trust and having basic needs met and consistency in these sweet lives. Learning letters and numbers and all the rest is icing on the cake…not to belittle it at all because it is crucial for his success in life. At this point, I am happy when he leaves the house with a full belly and a rested body. I am overjoyed when she lingers to talk and let’s down her guard a bit. I am blessed when I see them working out their new rhythms and ways of loving one another. I wish you could get a slice of what we get to witness each and every day….it is miraculous.
Knowing where they have been and where they so easily could be is at the forefront of my mind every day. I also think of all of those like them whom I did not stumble across on the street and have not been as lucky…You are a huge part of their lifeline. Please don’t underestimate that. You are teaching them to trust school. You are teaching them that he is going to be ok. You are teaching them that he has a future.
I sent this out this week. I want the people who intersect with this little boy to know how much power they have. I wish I could send this message out to everyone, about every child, about every mother, about every person….
We all have some sort of role that puts us face to face with vulnerable souls. Maybe you sit next to them on the bus; maybe they come and go from your office; maybe you see them walking through your neighborhood…..Don’t take those moments for granted. You are a part of their lifeline. You are! Don’t underestimate that. Consider what you are teaching through the ways that you greet, talk, listen, interact with the vulnerable….