Let me preface this by stating that I may change my mind and add to this list but as of now, I feel that if I had to give both of my children (especially my son) a few words of wisdom it would be:
There are two things in this world that can determine your path in life:
- Your peers (the circle you are in)
My original wording was that there are two things that can shut doors and ruin your life, where it would take an extraordinary effort to get it back on track.
- Not getting an education
- Dealing with the wrong people
Since the original wording wasn’t as optimistic, I decided to lighten it up for this post (but believe me, my kids may get it either way). The reason that I chose the two is because both can open doors and provide opportunities but only one can ruin everything that you’ve ever worked for. The second trumps the first because education opens doors and dealing with the wrong people can shut them. It is imperative that young adults know this. I have watched some of my middle school students on the right path academically, let their surroundings and friends get in the way of everything that they’ve worked hard for. I have seen the brightest end up on house arrest, pregnant, addicted to drugs, etc. When I mention this, I always receive the snide remark “well I guess they weren’t that bright.” This is absurd. They are still children, learning how to navigate this world and some are doing without parents but guardians and grandparents trying to fill the role. To this remark, I reply “well, I guess all of the stupid mistakes that you’ve made in life, make you dumb as a doorknob.”
When these students return to me broken and embittered, I tell them these two things. I have them go over their particular situation and those of others that they know have gone down the wrong path. I ask them what do they see? Is there a common denominator? We explore their emotions and accept that its alright to feel this way but we must move on. They search me for answers when the answers are inside of them but they are too young to know that now. It is our job as adults to provide wisdom and not just be “the cool parent” or “the cool adult”. This generation is looking for guidance and formula that they can follow when there really isn’t one. So, I give them what I know to be true. Learn, whether it be the traditional way or an untraditional way. But, learn, read, explore. And if you are going to do these things to better yourself and open doors, then do not slaughter your dreams by dealing with the wrong people. We all make decisions in life and the old adage still holds true: Birds of a feather flock together.
Sometimes we think that staying “down” with others will inspire them and lift them up but, it does the reverse. What inspires greatness is walking in your own light and excellence and when those who want the same for themselves are ready to obtain it, they will come and follow you!
I wanted to write this post last month before school went into winter break but, things got so hectic and I fell way behind schedule. Last month, my daughter and I had a breakthrough moment when I was trying to figure out why she had been behaving differently besides the countless recent changes (baby brother, new county, new school, puberty). Every time I asked her why her behavior had changed so drastically and not for the positive, she would go into shut down mode. Then an epiphany hit me; I would use my teacher/mentor skills. Since we were in my classroom and it was the end of the day, I had her close the door and retrieve a dry erase marker. I told her to write on the board all of the things that I expect from her that are unreasonable ( her main complaint was that I didn’t care and I was unfair). At first she hesitated but, then she started writing. I didn’t say anything during this process even if I disagreed with some of the things that she wrote down. I let her voice (scribe) her opinion and when she was done, she stopped, closed the cap on the marker, and faced me. I then let her know that we were going to discuss each one and explain ourselves. This process ended up with her crossing some off the list because she realized that they may not have been accurate depictions of the situation. The one’s that were left on the board, I promised to work on to keep our bond strong and the lines of communication open. At the tail end of the conversation, the breakthrough came which led to tears and a big hug from my tween who had been stand-offish prior to for some months. The overarching theme is that she felt that I thought her opinions and feelings didn’t matter. She thought I felt that she was unimportant and the only thing that mattered was what I wanted and how I felt. I realized that my actions probably led her to believe this. The part that hurt me the most, is that is exactly what I felt about my mother and still do to this day. It devalues you as an individual. How can I support a strong sense of self-esteem in my young lady if I am devaluing her, whether it be purposefully or not? I let her know that it was never my intention to make her feel that way and I have been working on myself so that does not come across as often until I can stop it altogether. This exercise helped both of us see the reality and brought us closer together. The pure act of taking the time to hear her out, was in fact healing. My behaviors towards my daughter are part my own and part learned from my own mother. But, when we become parents and especially if you are a single parent with no other parent for your child to turn to, it is imperative to extend the olive branch, open the lines of communication, express humility, and start mending what may be broken. I am not saying that I have this parenting thing down pat, but I am on a constant road to healing and learning, and growing. Hears to your breakthrough moment!