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Of Kings and Happy Endings

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If you are into warm fuzzy reads in the parenting category…..you scanned the right page ….read on….

A few weeks ago, if you were in the area of Cloverlea, you may have received my heartfelt flier – about a lost cat. Kitcat had gone missing. Now Kitcat is no ordinary cat (as few are) and I was very distraught when this much treasured member of our family failed to come home. I set about on a campaign to find him ; posters, fliers, SPCA,, vets, internet – no effort too big , no stone un-turned.

Within a day I was called to the first ‘sighting’. A few neighborhood kids rode up my drive on their bikes and told me they had seen the wandering feline a few days earlier. The next day a parent phoned me to say his children had seen him a little farther afield and the day after that two young girls excitedly lead me to a neighbors cat (a feline look-alike).

After some 5 days of endless searching, calling, hoping and crying….I was woken at 3am by a faint meow. Holding hope at arms length, I crept downstairs to find a bedraggled, wet, famished pussy cat in my kitchen. “Meow”, he said “The king is back”.

As I sat in the dark on the carpet letting Kitcat head-butt, purr and relate his story, I was struck by the reaction of the children in my neighbourhood. They had risen to the challenge. They had become involved. They had wanted me to feel good (find my cat) so they could feel good and you know – I felt a warm gratitude for this upcoming generation.

Someone said that kids need an opportunity to be noble – to be a hero – to do good and, after this ‘lost cat’ experience, I know they are right. My neighbourhood kids were much more caring, concerned and empathetic about my plight, than most of the busy and life seasoned adults. For all their lack of life experience, these kids knew loss….and they knew hope…. and they were prepared to put the footwork into befriending the latter.

The morning after Kitcats return, I bundled him into my arms and walked out onto the street where I live. One small boy riding by on his bike, shrieked with delight when he saw us. It was evident I had given him joyous news (even though he knows neither me nor my feline very well) and he biked off in search of neighbourhood peers with which to rejoice.

My point is? Give kids a chance to be noble. Give kids a chance to do good.  Give them a chance to step up and give. Encourage them to befriend hope, sacrifice and hard work in ways that make their heart swell. Ignore your adult wisdom long enough sometimes to join in their pursuit of re-directing the injured, wayward duck, building the cardboard tree-house (because Jimmy doesn’t have one),walking with Sarah all the way round the block to find the end of the rainbow or join them on their mission – to find a missing cat. As adults we know that ducks die, cardboard gets wet, rainbows are elusive and that some cats never return. But ‘missions impossible’ breed Heroes and Heroines – whether the ending is happy or not.

My thanks to the Cloverlea kids for letting me know they cared, for putting some legwork into the caring and for taking a little hope and stretching it a lot.

Happy endings.

PS – This article was written for The Guardian and Parentline Manawatu some years ago. I am sad to report that in his never ending quest for freedom and experience – one day Kitcat left on an adventure and never returned. I am ever grateful for the joy he brought to my life and imagine he is somewhere out there…..happily chasing bunnies in the sky.

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James, DNA and irrational positivity!

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James is a deceitful boy. When James disappoints his parents they are quick to remind him of it. In James’ home hard work, and honesty are valued – so are kindness and love. James knows this. When James’ parents tell him he is a liar, he  has no argument. His feet are glued to this position the same way deceit  is glued to his internal cells. At some point deceit and James became one.

Mathew sometimes lies. He lies when he feels cornered or trapped and sometimes he lies to get his own way. His parents are quick to point out when deceit may have hitched a ride on his shoulder.   In Mathews home   physical fitness, and honesty are valued – so are love and commitment.  Mathew knows this. When his parents open the ‘invisible lie box’ and exclaim “Whoops……looks like one may be missing….”  Mathew  may confirm or deny this. Mathew doesn’t stand in glue. Mostly he ends up saying something like “I lied – I’m sorry”. At some point Mathew realised that deceit was a little like a button you might push on  the play station control; it was something you could chose. It was  just one choice – out of many.

In my work I have met a few unfortunate James and a few lucky Mathews. It is quite difficult for the James’s’ to understand they have a choice. Mostly this is because of how others see them and hence, how they see themselves. James never hears “That doesn’t sound like something my James would want to do’ when his latest exploits are revealed.

If you think about the  last time you felt honourable, giving, generous or kind, chances are it made you inclined to give more, do more, or be more. A kind of warmth sat in your chest and you wanted more of it.

The experience of achieving and giving  is infectious. Sometimes even when we have done wrong (been rude to our spouse/ forgotten yet another lunch date) and we fix it (Cook him his favourite meal/ pick her daisies from our garden)we get that same warmth in our chest. We feel pride. It feels good to do good. And, it is no different for our children.

One of my favourite lines is -’Every child deserves to have at least one adult who is irrationally positive about them’. Now irrational positivity can sometimes be in short supply but when it is there in the flesh….when you hold it close and stand by your child’s side I doubt that any anger, deceit, sulks, sadness or mischief  can  truly compete.

If we can find a way to unglued (or un-label) our kids, even during the most repetitive and trying of times we offer them ‘choice’. When we understand that they may not always make the wisest decision about things in the first instance but we hold the hope that they will make better decisions  next time or in the future –  we create space. Deep breath space.  Looking heavenward space.

With a little hope and positivity we  can invite better choices and….warm chests.

**This article originally written for The Guardian and Parentline