Going back to school is such a stressful time for everyone. It’s exciting, but it also causes so many mixed emotions and feelings of uncertainty.
I know when my kids start the year, we’re going to repeatedly be fighting about waking up in the morning, homework, chores, and rushing around like lunatics to get to whatever activities are on the schedule that afternoon. There is barely any time for deep discussions, and even when there is time, my children would never sit long enough to listen to me give them insight on anything. But there are a few phrases I am going to make sure to slip in here and there as we all dive back into the chaos that the next ten months will throw at us. If I can get these statements across enough and in the right instances, at least my daughter and sons will have some valuable tools to take out whenever they might need a little guidance and I’m not there to offer my advice. Out of all the hundreds of things I would like to tell them, I’ll be content with them hearing and living according to these five:
1) Even when it doesn’t seem like it, most of the grown-ups you encounter are on your team. They want you to succeed. As a kid, sometimes it seems as though it’s the little guys versus the grown-ups. They’re worlds apart and just cannot relate to one another on many levels. But I want my kids to understand that almost every adult they encounter in school, sports, religious situations, and any other extracurricular activity chose that role in life because they want to help and encourage young people. Even when it seems like they’re fighting against you, use at least one ear to listen and consider what he or she says as a voice of reason that is there to make you a more successful and productive human being. There is something valuable to be learned from every situation. Find the importance and wisdom in these lessons even if it seems like you cannot relate, you disagree, or even if you’re just completely uninterested.
2) You are already enough. Don’t waste your valuable time and energy trying to be like anyone else. Stay true to your core beliefs and do not change to try to fit in anywhere. Don’t say things that make you uncomfortable, wear anything that doesn’t fit your personality and style, or do what another person is doing if it does not come naturally or feel right. Confidence in who you are will attract the people who will stick with you through the long haul and won’t turn their back on you when someone “more exciting” comes along. Don’t seek out friends who can make you more popular, find the friends who make you feel more complete, accepted and understood.
3) Everyone is struggling in his/her own way. Be kind. Be empathetic. My kids have known about empathy since they were little. A person is never too young to understand that we are all connected in some way, we just need to seek out that connection to better understand one another. I tell them to look at a person in a certain situation and put yourself there before you react. Don’t forget about the boy or girl sitting alone because one day that might be you, and you’ll pray someone compassionate comes over. Pick someone to be your partner in gym who might not otherwise get chosen. Ask someone to your party who doesn’t usually get invited to parties. Sit by the person in the lunchroom who is at his/her own table. Be the person who helps and connects with others. That person always wins.
4) I am always proud of you, even when I don’t like a choice you’ve made or the way you’ve behaved. Just because I am yelling or lecturing; even if I tell you I need some space and time for myself; even if I sigh heavily in repitition or even if I cry from frustration, it is only a moment, and my love for you is so, so much bigger than a reaction to any one instance or series of instances. Know, in whatever tough scenario with which we are presented, I believe in you and know you are a wonderful soul. You are growing and learning, and I understand that, even when it seems like I do not. I am your biggest fan through it all.
5) Tomorrow, things will be better. Almost always, the following day is better. When we are in pain, feeling miserable, lost, or like we have failed, it seems like time is standing still. But time is always a flowing, moving, wave of change, and what it presents one day or week or even month is not indicitive of how your life will be. I promise it will get better. I will help you work to make it better. Together, we will get past whatever it is that is troubling you.
I know that often when I speak about these topics to my kids, I’ll be responded to with eye rolls, looks of pain and desperation, and an overall expression of disgust. But I also know it’s more effective than not saying anything at all. Maybe, just maybe they’ll keep all the information in their back pocket and take it out whenever they feel like they need some advice and no one else is around to intervene with some words of wisdom.