September 12, 2016

To my Children: Learning is much More than Reading, Writing & Arithmetic.

Flickr/Anders Ruff Custom Designs

As I sit and watch my three kids head out the door to school for the first day of their new year, I am flooded with emotions.

First, I admit: I am sad. For the beginning of the school year marks a passage of time for me, more so than in January, at the beginning of a new calendar year. When they set off to a new grade, there are new experiences, more responsibilities, new faces, new teachers and new relationships to navigate.

Then, for the very same reasons, I am excited—a fresh start, new teachers, new grade, more responsibilities, relationships to navigate, and maybe even meeting some new faces. Thus, I find the beginning of the school year both exhausting and exhilarating. Especially when I pause and think about what it is I really want for my kids? What things have I learned that would benefit them to know about as they begin to navigate their own life paths.

Do grades really matter? How about all those subjects in school? What are they really there to learn? Where I sit—as a 41-year-old widow of three kids, ages 13, 12 and 9—I can emphatically say that what I desire my kids to learn in school is a bit more…broad.

Thus, at the start of the year, when they burst through the doors with a folder full of papers, including  the yearly parental question—“What are your goals for your children this school year?”—I look at them with a bit of distaste, as I toss the pile of papers aside, waiting until the very last minute to respond.

This year was no different—except this year, I decided to step outside the box and address a letter to my kids, not the teachers. I am sure when it is handed in, they will figure out what I am trying to say. If not, at least my kids will know what I want for them this year.

No, kids—it’s not about the classes, the grades or even the activities. Those things are just the tools used to help you learn what I think is the important stuff: learning how to be a critical thinking, independent, kind and loving human being.

In order to do that, I think these few simple guidelines may assist in pointing you in the right direction:

My Dearest children,

It is time to begin another new and exciting year of school. A brand new year, brimming with possibilities, challenges and opportunities. Everyday, as you walk out our door and into your school, take with you these tips that I feel will empower, guide and support you throughout your scholastic years.

Show up, be present and show respect.

Yeah, this seems pretty darn simple—yet, it is challenging. My dears, there will be classes you don’t like and teachers you don’t see eye to eye with. Heck, you may even dislike them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show up—or worse, be disrespectful. Take the time in these classes to learn how to get by in those challenging situations where you find yourself uninterested in the topic at hand. (You think I really like to clean the bathrooms? Um, no!) I am hear to tell you, there will be countless times in your life when you have to show up and do things you don’t want to do—but, you still have to do them. And, its best if you can do them with respect for the person who is in charge. (Hey, maybe one day you will be talking to someone who finds your topic or task incredibly boring. Wouldn’t you rather have them be kind, listen and walk away, rather than  be rude and gruff?)

Try your best. 

Does this take explaining? Really, just do the best you can. It may not be perfect, and you may not get it the first time around, but do it—and do it yourself!  Which brings up the next oh so important, yet, crucial skill to learn…

Fail. (Wait, what?!)

Did I just list fail as something I want you to learn how to do? Yep, sure did! We all fail—own it, learn from it, and you know what? Move on. If necessary, say you’re sorry, but mean it! Nothing is worse than a forced, insincere apology. If you must, wait…then say it with heart and meaning. Mistakes are a part of life, and you wont be the best at everything you do, so get used to it, and learn how to rise to the occasion of failure. I am telling you, from 41 years of experience, that you grow and learn the most from failing. Which leads to the next thing to learn…

Get back up: “That thing we call failure is not in the falling, it’s in the staying down.”  ~ Mary Pickford

My children, as you know, life comes at you hard. Things you don’t expect to happen, will happen. No matter how much you wish, how hard you work or even how much you may pray, bad things will happen, and it’s up to you to learn how to get back up and start again. The sun, regardless of the day, will always rise. Although there will be days you see it more clearly, it is always there, rising up in the sky after the darkest of nights. So you will too—trust me, you will. And to learn this, you need to fail.

My dear children, this life—this journey, your path—it’s not always easy. You are going to encounter a lot of bumps, road blocks and seemingly gigantic mountains. You may have even have to deal with lots of different people whose ideas may not match yours, but be open, be kind, and make choices out of the love that is nestled in your heart, not the fear that looms overhead. Because that fear, it’s not real. Danger—well, that is a whole other story. Start to become aware of the difference, and I promise it will get your far.

And you know what kids? No matter what happens “out there”—in the world of school, sports, activities, your life—know this: you are loved.

You are loved completely, wholly and truly for being the wonderful person that you’ve already grown to be thus far in your life. Keep growing, keep loving, keep learning, stay curious, and know that you always can come home and be wrapped in loving arms. Arms that will hold you tight, dry your tears, support you, guide you, and most importantly, send you back out to try again.

You’ve got this, kids—I believe in you and in the journey. Because that’s where all the beauty lies: in the journey.

Remember this: “The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you will miss all you are traveling for.”  ~ Louis L’Amour


Author: Kristin Carnevale

Image: Flickr/Anders Ruff Custom Designs

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina  

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Kristin Carnevale