I am pretty sure that I could still recognize my grandmother’s handwriting. She died when I was in high school, but because she lived in Washington DC and we lived here, she was constantly sending things in the mail. Birthday cards, letters and notes to my mom, but more often, she would send newspaper clippings about things she thought Mom would be interested in.
Nowadays, my mom continues the tradition in her own fashion by taking a picture of a newspaper clipping and texting it or emailing it to me. Yeah, she still reads the newspaper on paper, which is cool. At least there is something around to light fires with.
I have continued the tradition my way. Husband or I find something we want to share with the kids and we do a group text with a link. Sometimes it’s a video, sometimes it’s a picture, sometimes it’s just a link to a story on whatever news outlet we are reading. I also occasionally send out group text “quotes of the day.”
Yeah, I’m that lame mom.
Years ago, there was this little movie called Akeelah and the Bee. I’m not sure if it won any awards, but it was a really good movie. It played over and over in the car whenever we went on trips. The story is about a girl from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks who was ambitious enough to find her way to the National Spelling Bee and win it jointly with another boy from a more traditional spelling-bee winning background. She had a tutor (Lawrence Fishburne) who fulfilled the father figure role in her life and helped her realize many things about herself.
That she was smart.
That she was capable.
That no matter what her environment or challenges, she had the ability to overcome and achieve despite it all.
And most importantly, that she should never be afraid of being great.
There is this quote that Akeelah had to read out loud in an effort to practice her oratory skills. It is quite famous, taken from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love.
I wrote this out on our chalkboard wall in the basement (sorry to all of you who have “signed the wall” over the years, it was time for a new quote), and I texted it out to my kids the other day in the hopes that they would read it and 1. not roll their eyes at their geeky mom, 2. see themselves in it a little (read: Abby, Emma, Lucy, Mollie) and 3. embrace the power of these words and have the courage to come outside of the small shell that the world of school and peer pressure has enforced around them. You know that shell, the one that says your hair can be only so long and God forbid never be short, that your jeans must be a certain color, you can laugh, but not guffaw, you can smile, but not look overly happy … need I go on? The ridiculousness that kids (and adults) adhere to daily.
Abby has been afraid of failure, yes, but I’ve written this before, she’s also afraid of success. Mollie is afraid of shining too brightly sometimes, wanting more just to fit in at school, be well thought of, but not sticking out too, too much. Emma has always been quietly successful, yet at the same time carries a huge backpack of self-doubt. In fact, the only kids I know who aren’t as affected by outside influences are the young ones. (Of course they aren’t in middle school yet.) I would suspect every child, more precisely every teenager carries this weight around of being afraid to shine at what they are good at in fear of being thought of badly.
That sounds crazy doesn’t it?
I would suspect there is more than one adult around who feels this way also.
The goal is this: teach our children not to shirk the responsibility of being great. Swimming, school, singing, oboe playing, acting, cooking, being a friend … embrace your gifts, share your gifts, become a servant so that you can lead others to do the same. Hopefully, if we can do this, we can inspire ourselves to greatness at the same time.
Isn’t that what we are all called to do?