“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
Shakespeare was onto something when old Polonius was doling out parental advice to his son, Laertes, as he’s about to embark upon a journey to satisfy his young man’s education in Paris: Keep the aphorisms short and sweet, lest they be ignored. On the eve of my eldest child’s commencement of formal schooling, I feel the need to share a few thoughts. She may not stumble upon these words until much later in her life. Maybe they’ll serve as a refresher for us both, somewhere down the line and act as a guide as she leaves home to begin full-time school.
My Dear Daughter:
Congratulations! You are about to start a new chapter in life. You’re five-and-a-half. Things may not feel different from day to day, but pretty soon a majority of your day will be spent away from home; away from your dad, sister, brother, and me. Instead, for most of the day, you’ll be with a teacher and other kids your own age. The next twelve years will be a primer for life. Welcome to “Society 101.” You may not be outright excited at this moment, “I want to stay home! Home is better!” but I am excited for you!
I’ll let you in on a little secret: nothing you do in Grades 1-8 really matters..at least not on paper. They don’t start keeping score until High School. Of course, your Dad and I will never tell you this, but it’s true. You could take a nap all the way up to 8th grade, turn it around in High School, and go on and lead a perfectly successful life.
It’s your choices in life that matter.
Choose wisely, choose fearlessly, and choose often. Sometimes you will get second chances, but such opportunities are never guaranteed. Just focus on what you can control, ignore what you can’t, and make choices you can stand by. I have no doubt you will do this. You wouldn’t allow others to choose for you, and we’ve known that for a while.
From the time you were two years old, you have gone forth and forged your own path. Here’s an example: about 3 years ago, I signed us up for a Mommy-&-Me ballet class in the rich neighborhood of town. All the little girls looked downright precious in their tutus and slippers, and the teacher was so sweet and flexible, considering the age cohort of 2-3 year olds. While the other girls dutifully followed the instructions of the teacher, I watched as you ran serpentine around the studio and swung upside down from the barre for the duration of class. We quit ballet after the third week. This was an early indicator of your feisty nature.
I’ve pored over many an internet article titled, “Raising Your Headstrong Child With Love” and looked into “Taming the Spirited Child Without Taming Their Spirit”. You know what, though? None of those labels matter. You are strong-willed, inquisitive, and blunt (but in a good way). You would make an excellent lawyer someday, although you say you want to follow in your Grandfather’s footsteps and join the medical profession as a “Broken Bone Doctor.” On the eve of your entry into formal schooling, you have room to change your mind. Your Dad and I are here to support you.
That being said, all the support in the world can’t keep you from making mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, I hope you DO make mistakes. Screwing up is part of life. It’s the only way to learn new things. I grew up in the era of parents who believed in Self-Esteem. This was (in hindsight) a well-meaning social experiment played out in the aggregate, the results of which were mixed at best and social corrosive at worst. Parents inflated their children with constant, empty praise all the while protecting children from experiencing failure. Every parent thought his/her child was “so smart,” and never hesitated to holler it from the rooftops for the most fleeting and banal of reasons. This is not a path we will walk with you. You have true gifts. On their own they will do nothing and take you nowhere. Combine them with your dynamic personality, fuel them with hard work, and you could literally change the world. The teachers you will meet in the years to come can point you in the right direction, but no one can walk the path for you (no matter how smart you are).
And you are smart, kid…but there’s a lot more to life than just smarts. Be kind to others, always. You may only be five, but there will be many children whose paths will cross with yours, and some of them have been through things no child should ever have to go through. Demonstrate compassion. Your peers may not remember every lesson they learn in school, but they will remember every single person who treated them with kindness.
I love you, and I am here for you every step of the way for the next twelve years. You will always be the rainbow jewel of my heart.