Funny, the things we remember from our childhood. Often, it’s not the big expensive trip or the thing that cost the most, but the little pieces that make up the bigger ones: the crazy family car rides, the chaos involved in actually taking the family photos, the tree in the front yard.
Another story I wrote also made it to Editors Picks in The Readers Digest contest. It is on the front page as of now, titled “Eddie.”
It is about the “photo” tree we had our yard growing up. The maple tree where we would stand and take all of our family event photos, first day of school, First Communion, prom, etc.
His name is Eddie. The big, tall maple that lived in our front yard. We named it Eddie because momma always said there was a refreshing eddy of a breeze that would come right around that tree in the sticky, hot summer. Eddie is in all our family photographs, the first day of school: “Go stand near Eddie so I can take a picture.” Easter: “Kids line up near Eddie. Quick, before you go get your church clothes all dirty!” Prom: “Why don’t you and George go stand over near Eddie? Ya’ll look so grownup!” Eddie was the home base for our massive neighborhood games of hide and seek “I gotcha ya!” “No way. I tagged Eddie first!” Eddie is still the first thing I see when I pull up to my parents’ house. A few less leaves, bending perhaps a bit more, but standing proud, delivering his cool breeze.
Do you like the Southern effect I threw in there? I think I wrote this after seeing The Help.
(My other Editors Pick, Sunday Car Ride, is now on the third page as more Life Stories flow in. Some of them are pretty good…but ignore those and vote for mine, http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/)
Don’t you wonder what sorts of things your children will carry with them into adulthood?
I came across an article recently about Randy Pausch. You all probably know who he was, the Carnegie Mellon professor who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, gave a lecture to his students titled, The Last Lecture, which went viral and was viewed and read by people all over the world. Originally written for his children, he shared it with a million others. You can find his lecture on YouTube, or buy the book version. It was a wonderful speech, the wisdom of a dying man, full of the kind of guidance and value only those in such a position can give. Sadly Randy Pausch died in 2008.
The columnist in the piece I read asked people to send in one piece of advice they wished to share with their children.
“One?” I thought, “That’s impossible.”
We humans love to give advice. We have whole magazines full of advice on how to parent better, how to lose weight, how to be sexier, how to clean your house. And then there are books and movies and talk shows full of advice. Every month professional advice givers are coming up with new suggestions for us; people like Oprah (the almighty advice giver), Dr. Oz (who makes me want to run out and buy vats of disinfectant), and Charlie Sheen (who also makes me want to run out and buy vats of disinfectant). Just please don’t take any instructions from that horrid Snookie person on MTV.
I realized that, thanks to all the media and wise people who have gone before me such as Randy Pausch, Dr. Seuss and Kenny Rogers, all the good advice has already been given. (What? You never thought of Kenny Rogers as a philosopher?)
“Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.” (Randy Pausch).
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” (Dr. Seuss).
“You better know when to fold them, know when to hold them, know when to walk away and know when to run…” (The great Kenny Rogers, he is as of this writing still alive, although his plastic surgery debacle is awful!)
“Man,” I thought. “That’s not fair! Those people got to give a lot of advice! Not just one piddly little piece, lots!”
So…then I thought, I have some life knowledge I would like to share, but I can’t narrow all that valuable insight down to just one thing! Forty or fifty things maybe, but not one! I mean, who can only give ONE piece of advice? Especially someone like me; I am a woman, a parent and a psychologist. That combination SCREAMS advice giving!
So, after mulling it over for some time, I managed to condense my infinite wisdom down to just three crucial life recommendations I would like to now pass on to the next generation.
Get your pens and paper ready!
Teeth, Feet, Fly.
When I was in college, a friend and I had a rule that when we were out and went to the ladies room, before returning to the table (or the bar), we were to check our teeth (for wayward pieces of food that might be stuck in there), feet (for a piece of toilet paper that might be trailing on the bottom) and fly (to make certain it was properly fastened).
Simple, basic, straightforward advice.
And while you are at it, teeth, feet and fly can also be expanded to looking after other proper hygiene issues such as brush, floss, deodorize, and wash. If you smell bad and look bad, you won’t get in the door: not for a date, not for a job.
This advice may help get you in but the rest is up to you. (Such as look people in the eye, without being creepy. Smile and answer them when they talk to you.)
And don’t forget to discreetly tell your friends when they have something in their teeth, or if their fly is down. Wouldn’t you want to know? Isn’t that what a true friend does? Tells you when something is not quite right? Helps you out when you are in a jam?
(See how I managed to sneak in a lot of advice there? It’s a mom trick.)
Never Say Never.
Never Say Never.
Not as in a, “fight for what you want, and stand up for yourself” Justin Bieber sort of thing, (What? You never heard the Bieber song, “Never Say Never?” You obviously don’t have a teenage girl).
Although that’s all good and true, and you should stick to your guns and not give up (sneaking in more mom advice here), what I mean is never say, “I would never do that!” Because the truth is, we don’t know what we would do, or not do in certain situations. What words we might say, or how we might act.
I am not saying you shouldn’t have your beliefs, or values, those are important, but just realize there are situations in life in which we all become strangers to ourselves, and do and say things we may not recognize. And if you say, ‘I would never do that,” in a judgmental way about someone else’s behavior and then later do something similar….it’s just awkward for everyone (Ted Haggard).
And, no matter what, when you are a parent don’t ever say, “My kid would never do that!” That is like the kiss of death! Once you look at someone else’s child’s antics and say, “Oh my God, my child would never do that!” I can pretty much guarantee you; your kid is going to do whatever it is… or worse.
Marry the one who makes you laugh the most.
Forget the one who your friends think is the cutest, or the one your parents think will be the most successful. Life is long, trying and tiring at times.
Marry the one who makes you laugh the most.
Marry the one who makes you giggle at the most improper times.
Who makes you smile at the same time you are crying.
The one who makes you see the absurdity in all of it all: in life, in others, in yourself.
The one who makes you laugh when you come home from an important job interview in tears and tell him/her that you just realized that you had some leftover green thing from lunch in your teeth the entire time.
Or who makes you smile inappropriately when you catch his eye in the middle of a serious school meeting regarding your child’s less than stellar behavior.
Marry the one who brings you joy, instead of flowers.
(Unless you are lucky like me and find someone with all of those aforementioned qualities, then go for it of course.)
So there it is.
My three pieces of advice for the next generation.
Now it is you chance. What three important things do you want to say to your children, or family, or friends, or dogs before you go?
If you had three pieces of wisdom to pass on, what would they be?
There is no guarantee anyone will listen but I bet the next time you go the restroom you will remember Teeth, Feet and Fly….