Today’s Throwback Thursday is a post from last year when I sent my boys back to school and now that my baby is starting Junior High, they need this advice more than ever!
(Sorry folks this is a long one.)
This week I took my firstborn to High School registration. (That’s right, that adorable boy pictured above on the left, is old enough to be in high school.) The totally streamlined (ineffective) system of registration was on full display. We turned in receipts, picked up schedules and waited in an endless line for student ID pictures.
I was unnecessary in this process as soon as the fees were paid, so I went to sit on the bleachers of the gym while Cole stood in line with his friends to get his picture taken.
As I watched kids and parents file in and out of the gym, I was amazed that the ‘institution’ of high school hasn’t changed since I was there and probably not since my parents were either.
Every stereotype was represented. The athletes, the cheerleaders, the computer geeks, the shy girls, the shy boys, those waiting for their growth spurt, those who I suspect are actually under cover cops because they have full beards. The girls in their brand new ‘back to school’ outfits for picture day. The boys in their brand new shoes their moms insisted they buy. The air was choked with insecurity and excitement. I was sitting in the middle of a John Hughes film.
Except I wasn’t. There was no soundtrack. I don’t know if the boy will actually “get the girl.” No Molly Ringwald (Thank heavens, what was his creepy fascination with her?) although I would have been fine with an appearance by Anthony Michael Hall (he probably has kids this age). This was real life. This was my child’s present experience and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it all.
I watched a hundred different expressions pass in front of me in that gym and I wanted to grab every kid and say, “You’re going to be ok!”
So today’s post is a bunch of boiled down thoughts specifically for my three boys as they head back to school but also for all of those kids in the gym, nervously awaiting the beginning of a new school year.
1. You are amazing!
Obviously, I am your number one fan because you are mine. But I am amazed at the humans you are becoming. No matter what anyone says to you, or what life throws at you, just know that there is someone on this earth who sees you as the most amazing thing that has ever existed and is on your team cheering you on. Even when I get angry or frustrated with you, I will always be here watching you in awe.
2. You can do hard things.
Mr. Watson (the beloved band teacher) once said, “More than anything, kids just want to feel capable.” He’s exactly right and the only way you will feel capable is if you learn to do difficult things. Don’t give up. Stick with difficult tasks. Figure it out. Work hard. Self esteem doesn’t come from me telling you you’re great. It comes from you discovering that you are capable of learning and doing hard things.
3. Take risks.
You will mainly regret the things you didn’t try. (Obviously there are some regrets of things we do try, like my Dorothy Hamill haircut in eighth grade). Just don’t let your fear of embarrassment, or failure, or physical harm (no wait, do let that keep you from doing stupid things) keep you from trying new things and meeting new people.
4. Failure happens.
Failure isn’t the end of success, it’s the beginning of a life lesson. Failure provides as much information about a process as success. Learning to recover from failure is one of the most valuable skills a person can have. We’re not all winners all of the time. But learning to look at our failures and see what needs improving, helps us to grow. It also helps us to allow others around us to fail without judgement. Nobody can live up to perfection all of the time.
5. Be the friend you are looking for.
Smile. Say hello to people. Worried about who to sit by at lunch? So is just about everyone else. Pick someone. (Remember #2? ) Put yourself out there. (See #3) What’s the worst that could happen? (See #4) You’ll survive. Because, who wouldn’t want a friend like you? (As #1 clearly states) “You are amazing!”
6. Nice guys finish nice.
This one’s a biggie! What’s rule numero uno in our house? BE NICE! That’s it. There is no excuse for being unkind. You can’t control how other people treat you. But you are ALWAYS in control of how you choose to respond. So BE NICE. Teacher’s like nice kids. Parents like nice kids. Kids like nice kids. I know they say “nice guys finish last” and maybe sometimes that’s true. But the bottom line is “Nice guys finish nice” and that’s what’s most important.
7. Be grateful.
You’ll have good and bad days but, no matter what, you have two parents who adore you. You have a safe place to live. You will never starve to death. You have clothes to wear. You have people who care about you. You are not alone. You don’t carry the financial, emotional or physical burden for your family. You are able to spend your time becoming who you want to be. Having worked in schools for much of my adult life, I know that this isn’t always the case. Many kids don’t have a fraction of the things listed above. So be grateful that you do and wherever you can help those that don’t.
The most painful thing I do each year is relinquish summer and my time spent with three incredible boys. I hate sending them off to spend more of their waking hours with strangers than with me. But it’s part of the process of growing up and I’ve got to let them go. Hopefully, I’ll survive. If not, it’s only 284 days until Memorial Day…