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Day 83 - What We Teach Our Kids

Parenting is an intense challenge, one I have never faced. I have no children. Still, when you think about the various pressures that face a parent in this world, you can't help but be impressed and a little bit intimidated. Parents are given custody of a little human being, charged with protecting it, helping it to learn and nurturing it along its path. The responsibility is immense, and it is not news to anyone that many people screw it up. Single parents face even more pressure, doing all of the work of a traditional family, by themselves.

Based on that alone, Mary Ellett would be remarkable. Spending an evening at play with her and her son, Nash, it is clear she is an incredible mom. She is attentive and yet urges Nash to explore, to play with other kids and expand his comfort zone. She plays with him, attends his needs and still is a presence of protection. In honest, watching Mary is like watching the physical embodiment of what was missing from my childhood. Mary raises Nash with joy. Nash shows it too. He is an incredible young man already at 4 years old. He is attentive, perceptive and genuine. We run a couple of races, Nash and I, at the beginning of the night and we soon seem to be good friends. Given that children are noted for their incredible honesty, I think I have made a good friend in Nash based on his reaction to me. I love that children are always present, in the moment, and he shows this often, asking about my prayer beads and how I have so much hair on my face but none on my head.

Mary is an incredible person. She really does exhibit joy. This project has really captured her imagination as well, and she tells me about that as we wander through topics of conversation, with the occasional pause for rules to a new game or a moment with Nash. We talk about fear, about the inspiration to be found in leaving everything to find your voice, your purpose and your passion. Mary has been dealing with some similar issues, trying to find her passion, at least in a work sense. When you see her look at Nash, you see the reflection in her eye, the spark showing you that this little boy is her purpose and passion. Still, she would love to work in more ways that she loves, and she does.

As part of her path, Mary has developed a love and passion for fitness coaching. She leads barre and spin classes, loving every minute of it. From the people who tell me about her classes, she is incredible, though the classes are tough. Her smile gets a bit bigger, her eyes sparkle and I can only imagine what she looks like in front of a room. She must be an inspiring sight in that arena, with her passion channeled into form. She keeps teaching more and more, expanding her work and loves every minute of it.

As Mary and I swap stories, sharing things that make us vulnerable and taking time, Nash runs around. We talk about what we teach our children, how we seem to spend more time filling them with fear than teaching them to actually pursue their dreams. We wonder if we are teaching them what we need to be teaching them. Are we teaching them that the circumstances of your life are not the things that define it, but the prologue from which you can decide which course your life will take? Are we giving them joy? As we talk, Katie Blomquist, a mutual friend who introduced us and founder of the nonprofit Going Places, joins us as a lovely surprise. Joy in the lives of children is her purpose, it is what gives her life and makes her vibrant. She talks about how we need to reapprach how we define failure for children, how we can actively encourage them to follow their dreams. Katie's arrival is not an accident, and her timing is perfect.

There is a beautiful philosophy to spending time with Mary and Nash, a wondrous confluence of joy and motion. Nash runs, we kick the ball back and forth with him and we talk about our fears and our dreams. We share our stories. It is a Saturday night, I have spent part of it with an amazing mother and her incredible son. I have made two friends tonight, and opened my mind even more. Perhaps we should all spend more time with children, to remember when we were that age and hope won more battles than fear.

Favorite Dinosaur: T Rex

Why: It is Nash's favorite and it makes her think of her son. It is incredible to hear her talk about her son, her purpose and passion.

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