Like most littles in this part of the world, my daughters recently began the new school year – my first-born skipped happily into grade 2 with legs that I swear grew six inches over the summer and my firecracker took her first bold steps into kindergarten. I’ve been thinking a lot about the words I want them to hear and carry with them through their school day and the years to come. It’s a weird thing, to send your tiny people out into the world on their own, without being right by their side to guide and comfort them each stumble along the way. In lieu of shadowing them every minute of their young lives, I have been sharing these thoughts with them in the hope that some will stick.
You are special
You have a unique set of talents and ideas and the world needs them and you, in full and fearless. You’ll feel pressured to fall in line and act the same as those around you – to like what they like and say what they say and feel what they feel – but you'll never breathe a full breath speaking into someone else's words, wearing someone else's clothes, following someone else's path. There has never been anyone just like you in this world and there never will be again. That’s incredible. Be proud and celebrate who you are.
Also, you’re not
Everyone has special talents which deserve the opportunity to shine. Everyone deserves the chance to learn and to be in the spotlight. Sometimes it will be someone else’s turn – lots of times it will be someone else’s turn. This is not only fair but necessary. We succeed when others do. We build community and a compassionate heart when we cultivate graciousness. Be happy for others. It only adds to your own happiness. And your turn will come.
There is an infinite amount of success
Someone else’s success does not leave any less for you. Even if someone else wins the game, is awarded the part you wanted in the play, gets the job of your dreams, there will be other games and other parts and other dream jobs and please believe me when I say that a lot of the time it is for the best because there is something better waiting for you. There is also an infinite amount of love. There is no competition necessary for these resources. They are in abundance.
Being smart is not about being right
In fact, you only become smart by being wrong. A lot. Like, seriously, a lot. It’s only by being wrong that you work to understand why something is right and sometimes – often – being wrong and persevering and working the problem out gets you to a better answer. And I’ll tell you a secret: making mistakes can be kind of fun and they make the victory even sweeter. This is true for life in general, too.
What you think of you is the opinion that matters most
You ask me sometimes if I think you’re beautiful, if you’re smart, if you did a “good job” and you’ve heard me answer your question with a question, time and time again: What do you think? I ask that because nobody’s opinion of you is more important than your own opinion of you. Of course the opinions of others matter some times in some ways but what others think of you, even what your mother thinks of you, should never ever trump what you think of yourself. That should always be your first question: What do I think? If you think you’re beautiful, smart and successful, that’s all that really matters, although the amazing bonus is that if you believe in yourself, others will too.
Look to give love
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: We have a responsibility to look out for one another. If you see someone on the sidelines, someone that needs help, someone that needs a friend, please be that friend. Offer a kind word, a warm smile, invite them to play with you and rate the lunches your dear parents packed for you. Tell a grown-up if someone needs help. What a wonderful thing to give your love and friendship. What a wonderful thing to receive it in return.
Listen to others
But not without question. Make up your own mind and follow your own sense of what is right and wrong. But listen to those around you – your teachers, your peers, even your parents once in awhile – because there is something for you to learn from everyone and every experience. Accept or reject or question what you hear, but listen and think about it. Talk too. Others have a lot to learn from you.
Listen to yourself, most of all
Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right – a situation, a moment, an idea – get away from it and speak up. You are the boss of you and you have choices and you get to decide what is best for you. Stand up for what you believe is right. I will stand up with you and for you, every time.
You are enough as you are
You do not need to get good grades or win awards or become top of anything or DO ANYTHING AT ALL to impress me or anyone else. You are already impressive. You are more than enough. You breathe and you are enough.
I am here for you
Always and without question. I don’t care how many mistakes you make, how many wrong turns you take, how much you may push me away. I am here as I will always be, in your corner, ready and willing to do anything and everything for you. You are loved more than you know and nothing will ever change that. These arms will always be wide enough to gather up those long legs and these lips will always be ready with a kiss for that curly red noggin. And this heart will always beat for you.