Ah, kids. Sure, they can push our buttons and push us to yell at times. But oh, oh they can also pull at our hearts and push us to a happier place with their innocent questions and answers.
Today, about 80 first graders, or 76 to be precise per the math of my first grader, pulled at my heart big time. The first graders in my son’s school are currently writing stories and when my son’s teacher announced the unit, he got all excited!
“Ms. S, my mommy wrote a story! She can tell you about it!”
So Ms. S asked me to come in and talk to the kids about the process of writing a book. Not gonna lie, the thought of talking to 80 munchkins terrified me! Kids can ask the most amazing questions – amazing in how their innocence rings so true, sometimes in comfortable ways, sometimes in not so comfortable ways. I braced myself with a bunch of big flashy posters, some orange socks and my favorite orange sweater and necklace and headed in.
It was an absolute BLAST!
I started talking and asked some questions along the way. The questions and answers were fairly telling, and probably not surprising to you. Here is the cliff notes version, not entirely accurate and probably not nearly as funny or precious when written by me as compared to spoken by a seven year old, but you’ll get the idea.
Me: So, I am here because I wrote a book. I got the idea one day because I decided I didn’t like yelling at my kids. Yelling hurts feelings. I can’t imagine you guys yell at anyone, right? (Giggles and laughter erupt. Raising hands goes out the window!)
Oh, I do all the time.
I yell at my brother just because he always takes me toys.
I yell at my sister. She sings the song from Frozen too much.
I yell at my mom because she annoys me sometimes.
Then of course… “well, my parents yell at me” and “my parents yell at me when I yell at my sister” and “I don’t like being yelled at.”
At this point, I thought, shit, there are going to be some parents unhappy with me tonight for bringing this topic to light and opening a huge can of worms. Oops! Sincerest apologies! Moving right along.
Me: Let’s look at the cover. A cover helps tell the reader what the book is going to be about. What do you think the book is about?
Lots and lots of LOTS of love.
Um, not yelling. Loving instead?
Do something nicer more.
What are those small words? Oh, okay, so you will give ideas.
Okay, those answers were spot on and safe. Enter a follow-up question:
Me: So yes, I will give some ideas. What are some of your ideas on what can you do instead of yelling?
Use our nice words.
Squeeze our hands.
Ask for help.
Say, “I’m Sorry.”
Just, you know, walk away.
I continued along and shared about the process and as soon as I wrapped up, the hands shot into the air and the questions started flooding in. Their interest in the book process (probably in any process) floored me. Then again, whenever I stop and really listen to my kids, their questions flood in and floor me as well – kids are cool like that.
Here are their insightful, spot on, and great questions – and some of my answers that I thought you would find relevant.
Why did you want to write a book?
I wanted to write the book because I wanted to share my story and hopefully make some people feel better.
Do you actually like writing?
Yes, I do! (Pause, how do I answer this to inspire this munchkin who clearly isn’t a fan of writing? Eh hem, my son!) Writing is like a puzzle sometimes. You have to find the right words to go together which is fun! And then sometimes, writing makes me feel better, you know, it’s like keeping a journal. Writing is way better than yelling when angry! Sometimes I get what’s called “writer’s block” or I don’t know how to spell a word and I get frustrated, but that’s okay. I know I’ll figure it out!
How can they print the book in another country if we live here and speak another language?
(Loved this. So sweet. Especially in the Internet age where these kids use devices all the time and email comes to mind before writing a real letter!)
Did you write the names of anyone on the inside, you know, like the first page?(Trying to understand until I got it…) Oh, you mean, like a dedication? Yes, I dedicated the book to my four boys because without them, without their love and support, I wouldn’t have become an Orange Rhino.
How will you feel if lots of people buy your book?
Very excited and proud – it feels great to work hard on something and complete it! Right? Like when you get a star on your math sheets!
(and the doozer…)
How will you feel if no one buys your book?
Wow. Great question. I probably would feel sad at first and disappointed. It is hard to work on something a lot and have it not succeed. Right? Like maybe you work hard at a soccer game, and you lose? But here’s the thing. No matter what, I’ll feel proud that I did it – that I worked hard and did my best.
How long did it take, like, how many minutes did it take to write the book?
(I love how they think in minutes, not hours or even days or weeks. Interesting perspective…great reminder to me to focus more on the minute, the moment.)
Are you going to make a lot of money?
(Laughing…) No, probably not. But I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because it made me happy to write and to know my story might make someone feel a little bit better.
Do you have to buy your own book?
(Again, laughing) Nope. I get a few copies!
Why did you choose an Orange Rhino as your, what’s it called, logo?
Well…here is a funny, gross story. But you can’t do this at home or ever, promise? One day my son yelled at me. I said to him, “If mommy can’t yell, what does that mean for you?” He said, “I can’t yell, but I can still pick my nose!” That night I looked up nose and it comes from the word Rhino. Then I looked up Rhinos and they are naturally calm animals that charge when provoked. I don’t want to be a gray, charging Rhino. I want to be an Orange Rhino – orange is a warm, cheerful, loving type color. So I want to be warm and calm.
Why are there four birds? Oh, because you have four kids.
Yes, and because rhinos and birds have a special relationship. The birds eat the bugs off the rhino’s back. This fills the birds bellies and helps the rhinos at the same time to not get angry at the bugs. So they help each other other; they have each other’s back! A family is like that!
Where can my mom buy the book?
(Oh boy…my sincerest apologies to that mom for stoking this fire!) She can buy it online if she wants sweetie. But you know what, I bet she is trying really hard already to yell less because she loves you.
Can I read it to my sister?
Go for it!
Can dads buy the book?
Yes! Anyone can!
Have you started your second book? (Gotta love the ambition!)
Oh my gosh, not yet! I have to wait and see how this does. But if I do, maybe the next one will be a children’s book about a character names Owen The Orange Rhino and how he is trying to figure out how to yell less and love more!
And the winner…
Do you yell?
(Said so innocently and without fear. Love it.) Sometimes I have, yep. I am not perfect. We all make mistakes sometimes and that is okay. If I make a mistake, I make sure to apologize, just try harder the next time, and to forgive myself.
And on that note, if you yelled today, forgive yourself. If there is one thing I came to really embrace more than even while writing my book, it’s that the goal isn’t perfection. Perfection isn’t going to happen. The goal is progress and more loving moments, or as kids say, minutes, along the way. And if there is one thing I came to really embrace more than ever today, it’s that our kids are interested. I asked my kids to help support me on my journey to yell less – to call me out when they thought I was going to yell, to do a silly dance with me when I needed to let steam off, to give me some quiet time to calm down. I mean it when I say I wouldn’t have made it without them. Don’t be afraid to include your kids in your journey. They might just amaze you…somehow kids always do. When we let them. And hey, in the process you might just amaze yourself.