Mayhem Monday: Be a Kid Again!

It’s graduation season and everyone is focused on future success, but I have a feeling there’s something missing from our lively dinner party conversations and graduation speeches. It’s missing because we like to talk to graduates about growing up and reaching goals, while quietly sweeping under the carpet the realities that come with it.

Let’s face it. “Adulting” is no fun. When you’re a kid you’re allowed—even encouraged to have fun! But as we grow older we’re expected to “put away childish things” and set about grown folk’s business—all the business we were shooed away from during our childhood, I might add. Now we’re expected to solve adult problems–and be quick about it! There’s no time for dallying with paint brushes and poetry!

People grow out of creativity the way they grow out of their belief in Santa Claus. It falls by the wayside along with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth fairy. The closer we get to adulthood, the more we learn that mistakes are to be avoided and failure is not an option. We have to get it right the first time:

  1. What will your major be when you get to college? And don’t change your mind! Even if you find yourself in classes that leave you drained.
  2. What will you do after you graduate? Don’t get it wrong! Nevermind that you’re brain dead from all those classes that you hated. Now you have a degree that you don’t want and it’s time to find a job that you’ll want even less!
  3. Then what? Spend the next 30 years showing up every day for a paycheck just because you chose to be an adult?

Nah. Let’s not put away childish things. Let’s be a kid again!

You know the great thing about kids? They mess up. And they know it! And when they mess up, you know what they do? They own it– “Oops…sorry!” Then they dust themselves off and move on! Can you imagine? Suppose you chose the wrong major? The wrong job, the wrong career or maybe you just made a mistake? Rather than acting like an adult and trying to explain it away, justifying it, acting as if you meant to do it, covering it up and pretending it wasn’t a mistake at all, why not be a kid? Own it. “Oops…sorry!” and move on!

You know what that will allow you to do? Make another choice!

It will allow you the freedom to choose another path, another job, another major, maybe another class. You won’t have to pretend as if you have all the answers or have it all together. You’ll be free from a life of misery, doing something that you never wanted to do just to please people you don’t even know!

Being a kid frees you to be creative, to try something new, to see what happens, because you can’t always predict what will happen, but that’s what’s exciting–and liberating–because when you’re a kid you’re not afraid of failure. Messing up is part of the process of growing up, yet growing up is an ongoing process of which kids have no real concept. For a kid, to grow up is just a willingness to surrender to the euphoria of free-falling into the open spaces of possibility without any clear sense of where the end will be, but to enjoy the exhileration of pure experience.

In other words…Kids know how to live!

We adults could learn a thing or two. This graduation season, I’m going to see if I can find that carefree kid that I used to be. She’s probably up for some fun, how about you?

Happy Monday!

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Cover Photo credit: Himanshu Singh Gurjar (@himanshu723)

A Case for Second Place

Anyone who knows me will be surprised by the title of this essay. Second place? Am I actually suggesting that good enough is, well, good enough?

No.

Well, yes.

Let me explain.

I believe in striving for excellence. And I will never stop pushing myself, my children, my students and anyone else who crosses my sphere of influence to be the very best that they can be and to, of course, strive for FIRST PLACE!

But, suppose our very best efforts don’t earn us the coveted award and honors for which we’re competing? The reality is only one student gets “Student of the Year.” Only a handful get to be in the top ten.  Only a fraction will be in the highest percentile. So what about the rest of us? Are we failures?

As I listen to parents and grandparents brag about their prodigies who’ve snagged the precious few scholarships set aside for the deserving few and smugly imply that “those other poor kids who didn’t make it will have to just fend for themselves,” I can’t help but think about all those “other poor kids” who fall within that broad spectrum called “second place.” Now, mind you, I’m not talking about the barely-getting-by C students, the I-don’t-really-want-to-be-in-college-anyway company. I’m talking about the better-than-average assembly. The hard As-maybe-an-occasional-B bunch. The, no-it-doesn’t-come-easy-but-I’m-disciplined-focused-and-hard-working crew. Or the no-it-doesn’t-come-easy-but-I-study-cause-mom-and-dad-are-always-on-my-case cadre! What do these groups get? A pat on the back and a handshake? A “nice job, but sorry you’re not good enough”? Do you only deserve accolades if you’re brilliant beyond words? Are you only worthy of note if your GPA is off the charts and your standardized test scores are record-breaking? Does it count for anything if you’re articulate, personable, make friends easily and not too bad at solving equations?

I certainly don’t have anything against the brilliant and beautiful minds, I just think we’ve spent so much time trying to make our kids into the crème de la crème that we haven’t given them any credit for being a hearty cup of milk! But, according to the dairy industry “milk does a body good!” My point is, why not give the better-than-average second place a little more credit–even praise!? How about an “A” for their effort? Why should we praise the kid who can do algorithims in his sleep and not praise the kid who puts in extra work, maybe even hires a tutor and practices tirelessly to get it right? But rather than acknowledge the hard work that went into the B+ we only honor the easy A.

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Well, I’m here to make a case for second place. I’m here to vouch for the hard-earned B, to give a shout-out to all those who have other gifts–the gift of gab, the gift of personality, the gift of diligence, consistency and hard work.  These gifts are not measured by SATs or GREs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value, and you can be sure that not everyone has these gifts.  Did you know that some of the most “brilliant” people are not so fun to be around? Often they are quite the opposite, but no one wants to talk about that. We hail them for their brilliance and ignore the fact that they are socially-awkward or devoid of basic personal skills. I’m not throwing shade, I’m making a point. My point is, let’s stop with the hierarchies–acting as if the brilliant ones are better than the rest of us, or even as if we are better than them! How about they have their strengths and we have ours?

Let’s stop putting pressure on our kids to be what they’re not. Let them be who they are. Let them be the best that they are.

And stop bragging about how your kid made the highest score on the SAT. Whoopee! He’s a great test-taker! My kid knows how to make people feel good about themselves and they like to be around her. Whoopee! She’s a great people-person! Which one should be in first place?

I’m making a case for second place.

What’s the Word?

I think it’s just par for the course that children will find their parents to be amusing. My kids have a great time standing my husband and me in the middle of the kitchen and cranking up some song so they can show us a new dance move. Then they promptly demand that we try it. On the spot!

And, of course, we’re terrible.

What do you expect? We’re middle-aged adults with nostalgia for 80s and 90s moves like the “cabbage patch”, the “prep” and the “tootsie roll”.  We have very little comprehension of these millennials’ “whip & nae-nae,” neither do we know why we need to “hit the folks,” nor understand the excitement they express when we “dab”.  (I’m pretty sure that I unintentionally “dab” every time I sneeze!)  Nonetheless, we attempt the moves that they hastily demonstrate and inevitably they roar with laughter!

Apparently, we’re hilarious.

So, it’s no surprise, then, that my kids find hilarity in other random moments, also. The generation gap allows plenty of room for differences—not just in how we dance or how we dress, but also in how we speak and in the particular words we use to describe things.

For example, my kids also giggle when I tell them to “zap” their food in the microwave!  What’s so funny about that? Considering this scientific phenomenon of heating something with invisible rays, what else would you call it?

Zap!

I love how alive our language is! Words are created and recreated every day. That’s why I’m starting this regular blog entry called “What’s the Word?” which will explore our many unique expressions. I’ll also share commonly misused words…or, at least, words or phrases that are not (yet) accepted as standard.

So, what about you? Do you use a word or phrase in a unique way? A word that, perhaps, others snicker about? Maybe it’s a word you made up or one that you’ve co-opted for a different use.  I’d love to hear about it!

Also, tell me how you refer to the process of warming food in the microwave. I’d love to know if I’m the only one who “zaps” it! (Hmmm…maybe “Zap” could be the name of a new dance!)

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