SEVEN LESSONS YOU LEARN BEFORE AGE SEVEN

Childhood, if you were blessed enough to have a good one, teaches you virtually everything you need to know to be a successful (and happy) adult.  Grown-ups are just bigger versions of children at play.  My childhood was an incredibly happy one and I look back on it often and fondly.  If your childhood wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine… fear not.  Review the lessons below and live your childhood now.  It is never too late for a second (or third… or fourth) childhood.  So, sticking with this week’s theme of childhood: here are seven life lessons that you should understand by the time you are seven (or seventeen… or fifty-seven).

1. When a boy pulls your pigtails or throws sand at you… he likes you. This may not be the healthiest life lesson, but it’s an accurate one.  The little boy who trips you or steals your lunch pail or sticks his tongue out at you is likely not a bully (if he is, look to number 5).  As your parents would tell you when you were young, “He has a crush on you.”  The key factor of this juvenile behavior is the time and attention the boy spends on you.  To pull your pigtails successfully, he must time it just right… sneak up behind you… quietly… and tug just enough to make you squeal.  He has succeeded.  He has your attention.  He put in quite a bit of effort to get it.  Males rarely differentiate between positive and negative attention (hence why crude whistling is still {mysteriously} a popular way for men to garner your attention).  If you give a man a reaction, he is happy.  He thinks you’re cute.  And he thinks you’re cuter when you wrinkle up your nose and get angry.  You’re the cutest if you squeal.  He likes you.

2. Sharing is  important… learn to take turns. There was a particularly popular truck at my preschool.  It was made of shiny blue metal.  There was a little boy who played with the truck everyday.  He wouldn’t share.  In fact, he threw tantrums when someone else asked to play with the truck.  Soon, that little boy had no other friends… just the truck.  The other children adapted.  They picked up the seemingly less exquisite tiny cars and toy trains and sat in a circle passing the cars and trains around to each other.  They were laughing and playing and pretending.  The group of children built a beautiful imaginary world for the cars and trains to live in.  The little boy didn’t get to be a part of this world.  He just got his truck.  The world you are able to build when you don’t share or take turns is small and limited.  The world you can build by including others is expansive, surprising, and often remarkable.  The world becomes so beautiful that the shiny blue truck becomes a distant memory… and so does the selfish little boy.

3. Bring cupcakes for the entire class on your birthday and a card for each classmate on Valentine’s Day. Some people get left out.  That’s part of life.  I have been left out before.  It’s likely that you have, as well.  Make it a point to not be an individual that leaves people out.  The reason that a lot of schools make it a requirement to bring a card for every child in the class on Valentine’s day is simple.  The teacher realizes that taking an extra five minutes to make one more cupcake or write one more card can save a child a lifetime of dealing with the memory of feeling unimportant… or, worse: forgotten.  Don’t forget any child in your class.  You don’t even have to be friends with them… or know them well, at all.  Just bring the extra cupcake.

4. When it’s someone’s day for Show and Tell… pay attention. My elementary school’s version of the traditional Show and Tell was called Student of the Week.  The student was given a board and a shelf to fill with images, pictures, objects or anything else that represented exactly who they were. The student was to set up the board early on Monday morning.  On Friday afternoon, after a whole week of the student’s display being up in the classroom, the student was to explain what the display meant.  I remember my intense anticipation for the Monday when I would be Student of the Week.  I had picked out everything carefully with my mom the weekend before.  On Monday morning, my mom and teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, helped me while I tacked up family photos (lots of them), put my nickname on the board, put up a bunch of pink things and set my two favorite dolls on the shelf: my American Girl doll, Kirsten (who was Swedish, like me) and my other doll Karen.  Bringing my Karen doll was both the most natural and most vulnerable choice that I had made.  My board was so pretty and Karen stood in stark contrast.  She had blonde hair and wore a bright pink sweater… she also had glasses and crooked teeth, just like me.  My parents had put her in my Christmas stocking a few months before, right after I had gotten my glasses.  She reminded me that there was nothing wrong with me… but I was worried the kids wouldn’t understand.  All week long I watched the kids stare at the board… and Karen.  When Friday afternoon came, I couldn’t breathe.  Mrs. Sullivan called my name and I stood up and walked deliberately to the board.  I could either quietly and nervously explain myself (like my friend Betsey had done the week before) or I could do it my way.  So I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face, and grabbed Karen.  I think I talked about her almost the whole time.  The whole class listened and clapped.  When someone tells you something about themselves… make sure you listen.  You can even clap.

5. The best way to deal with a bully is to ignore them. This is incredibly difficult to do.  What you truly want to do is hit them.  Yell at them.  Or tell on them.  None of this works.  Childhood bullies are usually the children who have an unhappy home life.  The same is true for adult bullies.  Just because they are unhappy doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate them.  You should stand up to them… in the most effective way possible.  The same way that little kids will taunt each other by saying, “I can’t hear you… I can’t hear you!”… you should do the same.  Not out loud, of course… that will just encourage the bully.  Think it in your head.  Are you being targeted? Walk away.  And, if all else fails and they follow you? Just laugh.  Mature? Nah. But it works.

6. Wear exactly what you want… stripes and florals work because you like the way they look together. Never, ever dress to please someone else or to fit in (unless it’s at your job and you have a dress code… Don’t get ridiculous and lose your paycheck over this).  I used to baby sit a little girl named Alana. She was three.  She loved her closet and she refused to let anyone else picked out her clothes.  Her mom hated it… but I secretly adored her spirit.  I remember trying to put her in an outfit that her mom had picked out. She yanked the clothes out of my hand with a firm, “No!”  I wasn’t the least bit angry… I was amused.  Alana defiantly strode into her closet and, after a long struggle (I heard things crashing to the ground), she emerged.  She had tugged a striped pink shirt over her head (it was on backwards). She was wearing green and purple floral leggings.  She had pulled a fluffy skirt over the whole ensemble.  And she was wearing fairy wings.  She smiled at me and said, “See?”  Yes, I saw.  And she was beautiful.

7. Don’t be afraid to kiss the boy you like… even if he throws sand at you (again). I think back to my first kiss.  I was four.  I had a crush on a boy named Christopher.  I even wrote a fairy tale about him (well, I told the story to my mom and she wrote it.  My love for literature is clearly nothing new).  He and I always played Ninja Turtles together.  He had floppy blonde hair and talked really fast.  I was in love.  One day, I tricked Christopher.  I told him to meet me under the slide.  And then I kissed him.  He ran away.  I thought he hated me.  I cried.  A few days later, Christopher hurt his eye and came to school wearing an eye patch.  The eye patch had an image of Cinderella on it getting out of her pumpkin stagecoach.  After gathering a little bit of four-year-old courage, I asked him why he had chosen that particular eye patch.  He said simply, “Because Cinderella is your favorite movie.” Cinderella is still one of my favorite movies.  And I’m still glad I kissed Christopher.

Now do me a favor.  Get out of your chair.  Go outside.  And play.

Comments

  1. Jamie RAGE says

    #2 Is brilliant. It all is. This is my favorite blog post you have done. Thanks for being wonderful and making my days a little bit lighter with your playful insight. 🙂