Friday, July 26, 2013

It's getting cool in here...

Dear Little M,

Today, I received an invitation for your new student social to meet the other kids in your Kindergarten class.  Kindergarten!!!  Somehow, this snuck up on me, which is kind of baffling considering that I already sent in the tuition check, but what can I say?   Sometimes, I need to be slapped in the face with the obvious. 

(**For the record, this is not an open invitation to slap me, no matter how dense I may be.)

I’m mostly excited about your next chapter.  You’re going to learn so much and have so much fun….and I can’t wait to be along for the ride.  I know you noticed that I qualified the statement and used the word “mostly”.  Since I am incapable of shutting up, I will explain.

I’m nervous. 

You’re going to walk into that Kindergarten classroom as a sweet, kind and gentle kid…whose primary (if not sole) influences are your parents.  Those aren’t perfect influences, but at least we know what we (and you) are dealing with.

With each passing year, though, your sphere of influence is going to increasingly broaden.   Mostly, that’s a good thing.  Mostly. 

There I go with that “mostly” word again.

New experiences and knowledge and wisdom often follow new influence.  That’s the good part.  That’s what I want for you.  I want your life to be extraordinary and your experiences to far exceed mine.  I think that’s what every parent wants for their child.

The problem is that your influences will largely be your peers, and not all of those influences will be good.   I know you haven’t seen it yet, but kids can be mean, and girl kids can be meaner.  Most kids, at one point or another, will become highly concerned with the concept of being “cool”.

That last part worries me the most…largely because I don’t know one damned thing about being cool.  Nada.  You live with me.  You know this.  I spend virtually 100% of my time with me, and I know that cool doesn’t live here.   My own father affectionately calls me “Captain of the Nerd Herd”, for crying out loud.

Yes, I just said “for crying out loud”.  If that’s not evidence that I have no idea about cool, you also have an issue with identifying the obvious.  It’s not your fault.  It’s hereditary.

Since I am inadequately prepared for teaching you the nuances of cool, I’m going to employ some major-league parental license.  I’m old, so I’m allowed.  I’m playing Webster and I’m redefining cool…so when the day comes where you are concerned with it, you are at least chasing a slightly enhanced definition.

So, here’s the deal.  You were put on this earth for a purpose….to do something and to leave a mark.  Cool is figuring out what that purpose is and working hard to accomplish that purpose.  Cool is being inclusive and being kind and being honorable.  Cool is helping others and leaving the world in better condition than how you found it.  Cool is finding inspiration in others….to be good and do good…and inspiring others to do the same. 

You might notice that “cool” doesn’t have a damned thing to do with being pretty, or having lots of money or cool clutter, or being a good athlete, or getting good grades (which I know sounds funny since I am basically the academic police and school was the only thing I was ever really good at).   Pretty and speed and money—these things can all be taken from you, either through the aging process (trust me on this one), or just, you know, because.  The things in life that are truly cool are those things that you do.  The good thing about attributes like kindness and hard work is that the supply never truly depletes and no one can take them from you.

Cool is honoring the gifts that you were given while remaining humble.  It’s not squandering what you’re given, and it’s not exploiting what you were given to overpower other people.  Everyone else has their own unique purpose, too.

An interesting thing about life is that everyone (and I mean everyone) wants to feel important.   Another interesting thing is that everyone actually is important.   What matters, and what defines you as a person, is how you choose to actually be important.   There are some people who believe that the best way to be important is to deliberately exclude other people, or to make fun of them, or to make them feel as if others are somehow less and they are somehow more.  There are some people who believe that if they are prettier/faster/richer than you, they are somehow more important and will choose to let that be known. 

Before you come down too harshly on them (and heaven knows that I have, repeatedly and with some level of creative venom), remember that they’ve not been shown that there are better ways.  You have been shown, and that means that you carry an additional responsibility.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It gives you a special superpower.   You know that making someone else inferior isn’t going to make you feel any better about yourself in the long run, and instead you will know that the best way to feel good about yourself is to do and inspire good.    That’s powerful.

(***and let it be known that if you ever come home and say you were invited to a party where “everyone who’s everyone” got an invite, I’m going to first knock you into next Tuesday, and then I’m not going to permit you to go.  That’s not how we roll here.)

There’s a difference between being “exclusive” and being “unique”.  There is a difference between being in a clique and being in good company.  No one is ever going to bend over backwards to impress me, but I can honestly say that I’ve always been in good, cool company.  My friend A has collected over 10,000 pounds of food for the food bank, and is always volunteering (in a freezing cold meat locker, in pantries, packing boxes) to make sure that others have enough to eat.  My friend M provides a safe haven and a sounding board for kids who are gay.  My other friend M has never met a good cause she doesn’t like, and is constantly saving animals, collecting for food cupboards and women’s shelters, and supporting local businesses.  She also has basically turned her home into a perennial open house where everyone feels welcome.  My friends A and T have served our country in the military.  My friends C and T were dealt a hand that was so patently sad and unfair, and not only are the most faithful people I know, they are also doing everything in their power to make sure that other families aren’t dealt the same hand.  I could go through a list of all my friends and tell you about the wonderful things they do to help others.  It would take all day.

This means that I am lucky.  This means that I am in good company….and that’s cool.

Little M, be good company and be in good company.  This is what I challenge you to do.  Be kind, be purposeful, be patient with people and be forgiving.  Give people who aren’t initially kind to you a second chance, and then a third (maybe not a fourth, though)…by being kind yourself.  By being an example.  By giving them a chance to see the amazing person you are and reminding them, through your example, that they are amazing, too.  Trust me.  This will make you feel sustainably good.

Now, Little Miss, have at it.  Go be extraordinary.


Mama Nerd

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