Something I’m writing is from the point of view of a skeptical child… she has learned that adults say well-meaning but meaningless things, things that are meant to make themselves, not the child feel better. She gets this cynicism from me. But I wonder which of these I will inevitably tell my own son?
1. “Just be yourself”
This is kind of a crazy-making thing to tell a kid, isn’t it? Do kids know who they are, yet? Should they know who they are?
Byron, I hope you sort out who you are eventually, but you’re only going to find out who you are through fearless experimentation. Also, I am forty-six years old and I still don’t know who I am.
2. “Everything will be all right”
Kid, I don’t know that everything will be all right. I have a lot of concerns about the future — ours, yours, the world’s. Try to be brave and know you aren’t alone.
3. “You can do anything.”
The truth is that you can’t do anything. For example, with short parents you are probably not bound for the NBA. The good news is that you’re good at some things, and people tend to like doing the things they are good at. Also, the world is filled with interesting jobs that don’t make you rich and famous, but give you a happy and rewarding life. We’ll talk about your dreams and try to get you there and keep our minds open.
4. “A real friend wouldn’t make you __________.”
Ah, but friendship is so complicated, isn’t it? At some point a friend is going to ask you to do something, and it doesn’t make them a false friend or a terrible person. I hope you have the courage to say “no,” because it takes more courage to stand up to friends sometimes than it does to stand up to enemies. But when you do say no, you can say “I am still your friend.”
5. “These are the best years of your life”
My own childhood wasn’t that happy, and the last thing I needed to hear was that it would go downhill. Fortunately it didn’t. Every decade has been better than the one before it. In my 20s I got a career, in my 30s I got a house and met your mother, in my forties I fulfilled my dream of publishing and you came along. I hope you find that your life steadily improves as you get older and find your way in the world.