A letter to my kids
My dearest boys,
So excited! School is starting today! Summer was so fun, but … let’s be honest: it’ll be great to see your friends, right? What fun it will be to tell them all about your summer, your adventures, and your triumphs! So much and so little has changed.
I look at you three and I can't help but get a knot in my throat: look at how much you have grown and changed over this summer break! So many inches gained! The competition for which of you is the tallest is too close to call! And, most importantly, after all of this forced-fun family time you are finally FINALLY treating each other like friends and not just brothers. Talking and giggling together, plotting the next (mis)adventure. Real three muskateers, in a good way.
Boys, you are so very lucky. You have at least two instant friends on the school ground. Regardless of where in the world we are, you will always have two people who will be by your side, no matter what. Not everyone is that lucky. Boys, a suggestion, if I may? Have compassion for those who don’t have your good fortune, for those who are not as lucky to have a circle of supportive friends. I know it can be hard to leave the security and casual acceptance of your circle of friends and reach out to an unknown. You know what, though? That new child, they, too, have something to offer. They, too, want a circle of acceptance. Be brave and share yours. One can never have too many friends. Reach out to the new kid. We have been there, right? Let's make this first day easier for someone. We know what it feels like to be the ones on the playground who know no one else. You’re not generally the ones who have not yet gathered the courage to walk onto the playground, or join the group playing soccer, but others might not be as brave as you are. You might see a new kid, sitting alone, watching, in that one lonely seat. I know it can be hard, too, to be the one to approach the new faces on the playground. You never know: Are they going to be kind in return? Are they going to smile and reciprocate? Are they going to accept? You can’t know without trying, but that first step can take so much courage. Take that first step, reach out a hand.
Boys, another suggestion, if I may. Be the example kid in class. Be the one that your classmates go home and tell their mom and dad about at the dinner table because they admire you so. Be the kid that other kids want to be. And be that kid not because you are the smartest or the coolest, and not because you are the fastest or the funniest. Be that kid because you are the kindest. And because you reach out and you include. To be known as someone who is kind is one of the greatest compliments a person can garner.
There will be lots of contests at school, and your dad and I don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight A’s. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for soccer at your class break. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or the pill in the back row. You don’t have to have the coolest gadgets or the best handwriting. We just want you to be you, to be proud of who you are, and to help others be all that they can be, as well. Build others up rather than pull them down. Even on grumpy days, do your best to think of at least one or two positive things about the people you see; the more positive you can frame your thoughts, the quicker you'll turn your mood around. Thinking positive can become a habit, one that everyone will want to emulate.
Boys, know this: We don’t send you to school to become or to be the best at anything. We already think you are the best. We love you all; being ‘best’ doesn’t add to that. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. You are loved. Period.
Three words to remember, my boys: 1. Kindness. 2. Compassion. 3. Bravery.
Embrace these qualities, my boys, and be the force that embraces rather than rejects. Use those big hearts of yours, and include. Be watchful for those who are not as compassionate; reach out to those who might be ill-treated. Sadly, on every playground, on every school yard, there will be one or another who pulls others down. Don’t let that happen on your watch. Be brave, and stand up for what you know to be the higher path. Use peer pressure to bring about positive change.
One more thing: know that what works for our family doesn’t always work for others, and visa versa. I know you wish we embraced phones and screens as much as other families might. Our opinion, though, is that it is ever so much better to connect with the people around you, and not those on the other side of those screens.
Learn, sure. Learn and grow and flourish. And reach out. Lessons come from more than just books and the classroom. Lessons can be learned anywhere, and you never know from whom you will gain knowledge. Your teachers? Absolutely an invaluable resource. Your friends? Yes, them too. Those you haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting? You just never know, so reach out and learn.
This school year that is about to open? So many adventures await you. Embrace them. I can’t wait to hear about each and every one of them. May you wake up every day, enthused for another day of learning, of being amazing boys, and of making the most of the opportunities you are lucky enough to be given.
I love you all, with all of my heart, and more than you will ever know.