Growing up is a hard thing to do. The crash-course of life often gets especially hairy during adolescence. Being an only child, I didn’t have an older sibling to tell me about how to navigate the social aspect of school — no one to tell me that even if the kids teased me about being smart, that it would benefit me more in the end. You need that kind of hope from time to time.
Two weekends ago, I went up to Olathe to see my cousin and his children. Sydney, 8, and Carter, 5, will be in school together this year. Cole, 1, won’t be in school for awhile, but he’ll get there in a few years. I know they will both look after each other, but even I know they can only do so much. Kids are brutal, not by default, but because they don’t know any better yet. And Sydo is about to hit the age where girls stop liking you just to like you and start liking you for more superficial reasons: mainly, the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, whether you are “cool” or not. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth, and I would know, seeing as I lived through it myself.
When thinking about this, I always come back to the idea of telling them how to survive this time. I really wish I had had someone in my life to do the same for me. So here are a few tips and tricks for my baby cousins and anyone else who needs them on how to get through your adolescence in one piece.
Don’t worry about being cool.
It’s okay not to be cool in someone else’s eyes. I know that in middle school and especially in high school, you will want to be “cool.” The problem with this is that there is no such thing as being universally cool. It’s subjective. You are only as cool as other people perceive you to be. You should just worry about being cool to yourself. If you love the way you are, then so will others. If someone doesn’t think your clothes are cool but you do, then they are. Don’t let other people’s perceptions of you make you feel down about yourself.
Always be kind.
I can’t stress this enough to you. I was a person who could have been kinder to others, and I wish I had been. There was no excuse for me, and there isn’t one for you either. There will always be people fighting battles that are harder than the ones you face. There are also going to be times when you are fighting a battle that is harder than someone else’s. Always treat those people like you would want to be treated. Don’t let people mistake your kindness for weakness, though. There is a difference.
Newspapers, books, magazines, papers. If it has words on it, read it. If it is assigned to you in class, read it. You may not like it, and that is okay, but read it. You will gain things from the words of others. Learning about the experience of the writers will make you think about your own. Read, read, read.
Don’t let anyone tell you that being smart is silly. Being smart is a good thing. You should never laugh at intelligence. We need more of it in the world. I know you kids are smarter than a whip, so don’t try and act like you aren’t. Get good grades. Pay attention in class. Be respectful to your teachers. They are going to help you down the road.
It’s okay to fail.
I learned this lesson way later in life than I should have. You are going to fail. Get that through your mind now. It might not happen in elementary school, or middle school, or even high school, but at some point in your academic career and in life, you will fail. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you are worthless. It means you are human. Learn from your mistakes and do better the next time. Bad decisions and failure are just a part of life. Learn to deal with it early. It makes it easier down the line when you become an adult.
Love your parents.
Your family will always be there for you. You will fight and get annoyed with each other, but they will be there when other people won’t. I realized later in my 20s that my parents only wanted the best for me and that’s why they were the way they were. Once you realize that, it gets easier to see why they get mad at you sometimes. But always love them. I’m sure I’ll think of more advice as time goes along. I can’t save you three from everything. Nor do I think you will always think my advice is sound. But I hope these tips can help you a little bit in the turbulent waters of growing up. Either way, I’ll always be there for you, no matter what problems or achievements you go through.