I wanted to give my boys some advice before they started their school years last week. I had visions of Glennon’s letter to her son entering 3rd grade and wanted to write something HALF as great. So, I sat down to write 2 separate letters for them to read the night before school started. Each letter was specific to the particular kid and his personality and needs. I printed them out and put them in envelopes with their respective names.
Here’s where it gets real.
I have lived enough to know that people don’t really want advice, even when they ask for it. I think I’ve parented enough to know that my children don’t want any “wisdom” imparted upon them from my years of experience to help them through their challenging times. My experience has been that advice is usually ignored, especially if it’s not a total affirmation of what that person already wanted to believe.
I had some fantastical visual of my boys quietly reading each of their letters, then climbing into my lap and telling me their thoughts, telling me they loved me and thanking me for being so thoughtful and taking the time to talk to them through my writing.
I know that I can sometimes write better than I can say things aloud and I hoped they would absorb everything I wanted to impart like immense sponges. In reality, neither one of them gave a rat’s ass about even reading the letter. I had to cajole and bribe. I had to promise that reading One. Simple. Short. Letter. was going to be sufficient for their daily reading time, after which they could have extra iPad time.
Finally, they each agreed to read the letter, sat down quietly for a few minutes, then threw it over their shoulders and grabbed their iPads. I waited. I waited for the hugs and the love and the thanks. I crept back into the living room as both were engrossed in their tablets….”so, anyone want to talk about it? Any thoughts?”
They shrugged and said in unison “nah.” That was it. They thought it was lame and annoying.
Whatever. I still don’t think it was a total waste of time. I said what I wanted to. Maybe a lot of it was repetitive for what I try to show them every day. But maybe after saying it, teaching it, trying to live it and having them read it, one or two things may stick. Below are some snippets of what I wrote to them.
To my 4th grader,
BE HUMBLE – You may be better at math than someone else. Another kid may get history so much quicker than you. You may feel it’s silly that someone doesn’t get something as quickly as you do. Just because you do something THIS WAY and the kid next to you does it THAT WAY, neither one of you is WRONG. People do things differently, people think differently, people react differently. You are not right and they are not wrong. Try to see that every single person you meet sees the world through different eyes than you. You cannot change them. Let them see the world as they do.
WORDS – Be smart with what comes out of your mouth. Name-calling is not cool. People who use mean words aimed at someone else are just showing the world their own insecurities and doubts. And standing aside and laughing while someone name calls is just as brutal. Remember your words can bounce right back at you like the other person is a mirror. Don’t say to someone else what you wouldn’t want said to you.
TRY – You are responsible for your effort. A teacher may tell you that homework is “optional” or “extra credit” that night. You have a choice. You can decide not to do it because it’s not required. Or you can do it because you want to be better. If your baseball coach told you that you could have special batting practice but it wasn’t “required”, you’d probably really want to go because you wouldn’t want to miss a chance to get better. School is pretty similar to baseball. Practicing leads to improving. At the end of the day, be proud of the work you put in so you can say to YOURSELF (not the teacher or your mommies) that you did the best you could.
FEEL – You may feel that it’s not cool for boys to have feelings. I’m sure some boys believe that. But I don’t. Every single person has fears and worries and secrets. Every. single. person. Even the coolest person on the planet. Secrets and worries will weigh you down – your moms are here for that burden and those worries and fears. You can decide how and when you want to talk about things, but know that we will always, always listen and never think any less of you for sharing your burdens. That’s what we do as parents, help take that load and let you move on.
To my 2nd grader,
LET IT GO – You may get frustrated or angry sometimes with other kids or teachers. Remember that everyone else gets frustrated too, but we are all learning how to be better at dealing with being angry. Try to find something that cools your roll, winds you down. Count to 10. Breath deep and say “calm in, anger out” whatever works for you. Don’t let other people ruin your happiness.
RESPECT – You may like to be silly and entertain your friends. But know when it’s a good time and when it’s not okay. Your teacher, the principal, Nurse G, everyone deserves politeness, saying “please” and “thank you” and looking them in the eye.
KEEP YOUR STYLE AND FLAIR – I love your style. I love that you are Dylan and no one else. Don’t let anyone tell you that something you like isn’t “cool”. Because being who you are is so cool and I hope you never stop being Dylan.
I ended each one with:
No matter what, your mommies will always be here for you with hugs and love. We love you so, so, so, so much.
Most importantly, have fun this year, pal. You do work hard and we are so proud of you in so many ways.
Lame, uncool, whatever. I still don’t regret trying!