A new school year started and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I really want my children to learn this year and through life. What are the lessons I think they need most?
It occurred to me that the two lessons I most want my children to learn are things I say all the time about food.
1. Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum
This is a rule in our house that we enforce to various degrees of success. It means not just sprouts and kale but Cheez-Its and Gatorade, too. It means not just the kids, but us as adults not mocking what are children love. It means not just food but Cubs vs White Sox and football vs Irish dancing and yes, My Little Pony. If you have a yum, something you love, the rest of us should leave it alone.
In the movie Spartacus (stay with me) there’s a scene where Laurence Olivier attempts to seduce Tony Curtis by pointing out that some people eat snails and some people eat oysters, neither is better or more moral than the other, and he (Olivier) likes both. [Fun irrelevant fact, the scene was cut from the movie and the sound was lost. In the restored version it’s actually Anthony Hopkins’ imitating Laurence Olivier that you hear. Tony Curtis re-recorded his dialog even though he was over 60 when they restored it.]
If we could all just admit that most of what we believe to be true or right or false or wrong is actually a matter of preference, of yuck vs yum, we could clear up a lot of Internet debates.
Instead of criticizing other people’s choices, I want my kids to make and celebrate their own. I want them to follow their yum and believe in it, but to understand that their yum isn’t any better or worse than anyone else’s, it’s just theirs.
2. There are 3 meals a day, they don’t all have to be great.
This is something I actually say to my husband more than my kids. Just take something out of the fridge and eat it, or order already so we can leave this restaurant before the kids melt down. You will have more chances to eat, let’s move through this one. Admittedly, when it comes to food this one is easier for me than for him because frankly, I don’t care that much what I eat.
But, as my children grow and become frustrated by the normal ins and outs of life, it’s a lesson I want them to know. Today, this horrible day where you got in trouble at school, where you felt like you didn’t have a friend in the world, and where I yelled at you for no good reason, it isn’t your only day. It’s one day and there will be 364 other days this year. They’re not all going to be great, and they don’t have to all be great for you to be able to enjoy life.
Not every meal, every baseball game, every trip to the amusement park has to be exactly the way you want it. There are other chances to have a great day, and you will have those great days, but sometimes, you just have to move through the less-than-great days to get there.
As Alexander taught us so many years ago, “some days are Like that, even in Australia.”
I don’t think my children will learn these lessons at school. School is about right and wrong not yuck and yum. School is about doing things perfectly and having everything on a test just right.
But this is what we’ll be working on at home. This, and learning the appropriate and inappropriate places to yell “I am Spartacus!”