of this week, most parents have sent their kids back to school, many of which are experiencing this for the first time — which is, well, emotional. We all
know why, of course. This is the beginning of the end of our tenure as guides
and teachers and caretakers. Our
children are no longer under our supervision 24/7 and we have no choice but to
think for a parent, one of the hardest pills to swallow is the idea that our
lovable, AMAZING children might not be so lovable and AMAZING to his or her
peers. And so I would like to focus this week’s column on the importance of
prepping one’s children for the possibility that they will not be liked.
let’s be real: Not everyone is going to
love our children, let alone like them. And our kids should know that. They
should also know that that’s OK.
OK to be disliked. It is a part of the human experience.
is hard for us parents to accept because we adore our children and are unable
to see outside of our own bias most days. And we’re entirely right to feel this
way. Hello. I mean, OUR KIDS ARE AMAZING and everyone should think so, duh.
there is a chance that people don’t. And there will be times when they won’t. And
it isn’t just childhood but fortherestoftheirliveshood.
this post, for example. I am very much aware that there are people reading
these words right now who don’t like me. As a born people-pleaser, it has taken
me many years to recognize that I can perfectly unlikeable at times and that’s
OK. I’m doing my best and being myself and owning my words for
better, for worse, for as long as they feel right to me … It’s OK to be
disagreed with. It’s OK to be the one dissenting opinion. It’s OK to stand
up and be told to sit down. Again and again and again.
And, hell, sometimes the
critics are right! Sometimes I am being a jerk. Sometimes I get a historical
fact wrong or rub someone the wrong way because strong opinions often do that. Sometimes
my posts are full of typos … And I’m OK with that. FINALLY. I’m OK with
others thinking less of me for whatever reasons they have decided to think less
of me, because living to impress everyone is a fast track ticket to
was not nearly as confident as my children are. I was what one would call an
outsider when I was in elementary school. I was so obsessed with the way others
perceived me that I didn’t speak at all. I was so afraid of getting into
trouble that I never lived my life. The ONE time my name ended up on the board, I became inconsolable. I assumed my teacher hated me, just like I assumed all
of my peers hated me for eating flower sandwiches and tucking my shirts in.
We cannot protect our children’s hearts from breaking. But we can talk to them candidly, remind them that there will be times when they won’t be liked and that it's OK.
wanted to be loved by everyone and therefore isolated myself from the world.
wasn’t until sixth grade when I began to care
less and less. Not that I didn’t still care, because I did, but I stopped
trying to impress and please my teachers, my friends, my parents. I became
strong-willed, and for the first time, had real friends. Some kids liked me. Some
did not. Some teachers liked me. Some did not. But it was a FAR better life
than the one I led when I tried to impress everyone.
that this was the most important social lesson of my life (and one I am still
working on), I have been extremely transparent with my children on the issue.
truth is, we cannot protect them. We cannot change the minds of classmates who
don't want to hang out with them, be their best friends, invite them to their
birthday parties, but we can remind them to be bold, to be kind and to be THEMSELVES.
cannot protect our children’s hearts from breaking. We cannot keep them from
the tears they will undoubtedly shed in a bathroom at some point. But we can
talk to them candidly, remind them that there will be times when they won’t be
liked and that it's OK. We are all capable of being loved. We are also
capable of being disliked, ignored and misunderstood.
recently read the collected interviews of Wes Anderson and the following
passage stood out for me:
“There is one thing you
can absolutely, 100 percent rely on, which is that if you show five different
people the same thing, they’re all going to have a different complaint or
compliment. Each is going to have a different response and you’d better know
what you’re gonna do, otherwise you’re going to get confused.”
One of the great secrets to happiness in this life is recognizing that there
will be people at every turn who think you suck. There will be birthday parties
you don't get invited to and teachers who don't understand your brilliance and
friends who misunderstand you and on and on …
Beyond the usual school supplies, bento boxes
and new shoes, let us remember to equip our children with the knowledge that they
are lovable regardless of how many friends they accumulate or who wants to sit
with them at lunch. They are lovable even when they aren’t unanimously
liked. We all are.