Marvelous Monday

Top pic: Texas Discovery Gardens  Bottom pic: After church

Top pic: Texas Discovery Gardens
Bottom pic: After church

What a MARVELOUS MONDAY! Why? Well, not only did I wake up and have a chance to be an active participant in this day, but it’s MARVELOUS because I had a fantastic weekend with two of my younger cousins, Latrice and Shanice. They are first cousins to one another and 3 months apart. It was fantastic because not only did I get a chance to pour into their lives, but I also learned several things from them.

Let me start with the “pour into their lives” part. To be clear, I am not a “rich” woman. But I’m wealthy in the overflow when it comes to knowing how to do what I can with what I have. The girls spent the weekend with me, so on our way home Friday night I asked if they were hungry. Now, I knew that when I got home, I would eat a bowl of cereal (Golden Grahams if you must know).  But, I had a slight feeling these girls would NOT want a bowl of cereal to shut down their Friday night. When I asked if they were hungry, they both gave me a resounding “YES!” as if they had not eaten all day. I am a good “auntie-cousin” so when they said they wanted Jack in the Box, I got them what they wanted and we went home.

Latrice ordered just a burger and she tore that burger up as soon as we made it home. Shanice ordered a combo and only ate half of her burger and not even half of her fries, – but her soda, GONE!  Again, I’m not a rich woman so when I saw that half eaten burger and the fries that had been picked over, it took A LOT of self-control to remind her of the children in (insert any undeveloped country here) who do not have food. But, I didn’t. I just let it ride as she put her leftovers in the refrigerator. I knew there would be no other time for her to eat it during our weekend, but hey, she was trying.

Oh, I almost forgot. On our way home, I stopped by my parents’ house to get an air mattress for them to sleep on. Now, when I was growing up, my cousins and I had to sleep on pallets. But nope, not them. They had a nice, comfortable, huge air mattress which they loved☺.

Saturday morning I woke up knowing they would need to eat, AGAIN. I thought of using a Groupon to a local spot I already had, thinking they would love to go out to eat. But, after I gave them the option of going out vs me cooking pancakes, they immediately chose the pancakes. After I cooked pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns, and poured orange juice, we sat down at the table that they set (complete with silverware, napkins, & serving dishes) and enjoyed breakfast together. We talked about what we were looking forward to in our day and what we wanted to do. I also had a chance to see what they enjoyed watching on television. Needless to say, my TV stayed on the Disney channel – which was a pleasant surprise.

After breakfast, our first stop for the day was a Dallas hidden treasure. We used a Groupon to go to Texas Discovery Gardens for their highly acclaimed butterfly house. This was a hoot!! I’m not avid fan of visiting gardens, but to witness the beauty and experience the shared fear of butterflies with two 11 year old girls was HILARIOUS!  They both wanted a butterfly to land on them, but when the creatures got too close, their anxiety took over. Even though we’d read that butterflies do not bite, they still had this hunch they were going to “break out in a butterfly rash” if one got too close. Eventually, I was able to have one “land” on my finger. After I let it sit on my finger for enough seconds (yes, seconds), I handed it off to Latrice. Now, she wasn’t the calmest person with the butterfly, but she did it. And even though Latrice and I didn’t break out with an incurable disease, Shanice STILL didn’t trust it, so we moved on to another part of the garden.

When we left, Shanice looked sad and eventually said, “I wish I would have held the butterfly.” So what did we do? We went right back in there so she could do just that! I didn’t want her to leave without having the chance to do what she wanted to do! She wanted to go for it, and the least I could do was help her in her efforts. Did she do it? ABSOLUTELY!! Latrice and I were SO proud. I know, I know, it was just a butterfly. But it wasn’t. It was about conquering a fear, trying something new and succeeding! In the future, when she comes up against something that she’s afraid to do, maybe she’ll step out there and try, especially with the right support and encouragement.

After the gardens, we headed to the mall and truly shopped until we dropped, even though we didn’t buy much. It’s so hot here in Dallas, that it’s all about being in air conditioned buildings for as long as possible.  Eventually, it was time to eat, AGAIN. We headed to the food court and each made different selections. I had them use their own money for lunch, knowing dinner would come around soon. After lunch we headed to their stores, since they were so patient in my stores and OHMYGOODNESS! Justice and Claire’s were the places to be! I have to be honest with you, I was ready to go after ten minutes in one store, but they were browsing, laughing and talking…I couldn’t stop them and I didn’t want to. They touched everything, talked about how prices have gone up since last year and the new items that both stores had that they MUST have for the new school year.

Here is where I learned my first of THREE major lessons.

Don’t assume anything. For example, I’ve made the mistake of thinking they knew what I was talking about when they didn’t. And how could they if I haven’t taught them or explained effectively? Case in point:  I knew they both had the same amount of money. I also knew what each of them had spent on lunch. So when it was time to purchase their items out of Claire’s, I asked if they had calculated their totals. I wanted to know if they had looked at the price of things, added them up and decided if they had enough money. BUT, I didn’t say that. So when it was time to make their purchase, Shanice didn’t have enough money for her carefully selected items. I felt so bad because she immediately turned around to me with her eyes wide open looking for help (yes, I was sitting at the door in the ear piercing chair waiting #nojudgment). I could have said, well put something back. I could have said, “I asked you if you had enough money” – even though I really didn’t ask. I could have made a scene and embarrassed her and left her feeling small. But why do that?

Instead, I checked my own self, recalled my earlier inquiry and how they may have interpreted it, and pulled out $5 to make up the difference. I had watched her intently select her items, even asking for my opinion. Each item meant something to her. One item was even a gift for her mom. Sure, I could have taught her a lesson on what could have happened if I wasn’t there, but I WAS there, and I was able to help. Sometimes, adults use the wrong time to impart the wrong lesson. Besides, this was our “Girl’s Weekend” and I’m the oldest cousin. What kind of cousin would I be if I didn’t rescue them sometimes?

Later, I asked Shanice about my question of “Have you calculated your purchases” to see what she understood. She said she heard me, but didn’t know what that meant and she didn’t ask for clarity. I’d also neglected to ask if she understood me. I didn’t take the extra step to see if my words were making sense – if they were reaching her on HER level. As a life coach to girls and young women, I have to remember, I can’t always use the language that I would use with adults. I have to consider my audience, and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, in ALL WAYS, make sure they UNDERSTAND what I’m saying. Wisdom without understanding is not wisdom.

After hours of shopping we headed home. Once again, I asked the girls if they were hungry. Shockingly, they both said “NO!” However, after driving a bit more, I could hear them discussing wanting ice cream shakes. They’re so funny. I mean, we were in the same car and the amount of whispering that was happening in the backseat cracked me up! I remained surprised when Shanice said, “Cousin Shanterra, we’re not hungry but really could go for a shake.” Well, what they didn’t know was that I knew exactly where to go for great shakes. I received an email the day before on the top 10 places in Dallas for ice cream and one happened to be on our way home. We stopped in Pokeyo’s  and what an experience! The fact that they had Cotton Candy ice cream was “the best thing ever” for Latrice. But, they were out of Strawberry, which was disappointing to Shanice. However, Vanilla is her second favorite flavor, so she found happiness. By shake time, the weather had cooled down so I decided instead of going home, we would enjoy the shakes outside at the cute tables in front of the shop to sip and talk.

Here is where I learned lesson number two.

Popularity is important to them. We talked a lot about social media, particularly Instagram and Kik. They both want to be a part of the social media groups and the main reason is because their friends are on them. But when you have 2,068 followers and you may know only about 8 of them well, that’s 2,060 strangers looking at pictures of your 11-year-old self and that’s not cool. But here is where the conversation mattered most. No matter how much I said the number of followers is a fake reality of popularity, their reality is that the number matters. The number of followers means something to them because it matters to their friends. They all convince one another that the number says how cool you are, how current you are, & how popular you are. It also says how “cool” your parents are because they allow you to have an Instagram, Kik or Facebook account. Truth is, most parents have no idea their kids are on social media and there are a lot of filthy adults who exploit their obliviousness.

Now, I will be the first to say that I can’t imagine what it’s like being a parent for today’s generation. There is more access to mess, more mess to access and very little time to keep up with it all. But, privacy is overrated and we have to ask more questions, check more sites, stay current, and stay diligent. We also have to help our young people change their definition of popularity. We have to spend time with them, ask what it means to be known at their school. Ask what it means to be popular. Ask them about what it takes to be invited to the right parties and events. We need to know what matters to them so we can teach them what should really have value and meaning.

Finally, lesson number three came to me.

My cousins, like most young people, are teachable. The beautiful thing about spending time with them is that they actually listen. They want to learn, they want to do what is best. Not just right, but what is best. Best for them. This means they are not solely influenced by what their friends do (as they are all just figuring things out and often equally confused). When presented with a lot of love, time and laughter, they are eager to learn “what that best is” from those of us who are better able to “pour into them.” This lesson was most apparent after we went to church.

Sunday morning we got up and I fixed another fabulous breakfast because I wanted to make sure I took them home full! We got to church on time (I may or may not have a problem in this area) and had a MARVELOUS time!  But the best was yet to come. After service was over, we went back in the sanctuary and had our own special service of talking and praying together. I asked questions about things that I think we adults make assumptions about, like “Do you pray?” “Do you understand what it means to pray?” “Do you say, ‘Thank you’?” Yes, I wanted them to reflect on this at 11-years-old! They have both been in church all of their lives, but that doesn’t mean they understand the things being said and done in church. Again, wisdom without understanding isn’t wisdom. They listened, asked questions, and prayerfully they will implement what they learned. The important thing is that they are OPEN to being taught. That’s a blessing!

Just out of curiosity, after church, I asked the girls if they were hungry. Can you believe they said “YES!”? I really thought the breakfast would hold them, because it was holding ME. Well, once again, they were famished so we pulled into a drive-thru to take care of their hunger. As I ordered their food, I couldn’t help be grateful. I learned so much from them that I was fed and satisfied in more ways than one. I was so grateful they wanted to spend time with me. I realize more and more that I can’t have Marvelous University  for pouring in the lives of girls and young women – without first implementing the skills and lessons at home. Needless to say, I returned the girls to their parents- full of food, wisdom, understanding, and an overflow of “cousin love”.

After having the privilege of this time with my little cousins, I’ll say it again, this is a MARVELOUS MONDAY!

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