I was listening to Pandora on Friday and an ad came on for Chris Rock’s new special. They played a clip of him yelling in his famous voice –“STOP TELLIN YOUR KIDS THEY SPECIAL!!”
I laughed and then actually started thinking about it. My kids aren’t special. Sure, they are special to me, their mother, and they each have certain characteristics that make them unique, but as the term has evolved over the years, they aren’t special. They are average: average intelligence, average athletic ability, etc. Sure, my eldest is gifted with hockey knowledge, my middle is faster than some and my youngest has a wit beyond her age, but for all intents and purposes, they are average, and that’s OK.
I started thinking about Millennials and how they’ve been generalized into this entitled generation. They were allegedly the generation where every kid got a trophy, even if they were in last place. The first generation that had to navigate adolescence in the harsh waters of social media. The generation where parents wanted to be their kids’ friends more than their parents. They were the generation whose parents wanted them to feel special; achieve success in everything they did. Fight back against the teachers, the coaches, the judges…”not my kid,” “but what about my kid??”
In all of this focus on the individual, our country has lost sight of the bigger picture. It’s not about being special; being the best, the fastest, the smartest. I don’t care if my kid has the best test scores, has the most friends, sits first chair in the orchestra, or scores the most goals. It shouldn’t be about forcing this ideal of being special upon our kids…it should be about teaching them to make others feel special.
In church this weekend, the priest spoke of the terrifying and senseless tragedy in Parkland, Florida. I had hoped to shield my three from the event, but, alas, there was a myriad of questions on the car ride home. The best way I could explain it was to say that there are a lot of kids in life who feel lonely. Maybe they were bullied, maybe they did not have a supportive family. Maybe they were struggling with some issues and they were not able to get help. But they were lonely kids; kids that probably were not made to feel special by other kids. And, in some cases, those lonely and sad kids become angry adults who take out their anger on innocent people in violent and horrific ways.
That same night, we re-watched the movie, “Wonder.” There are so many amazing messages in this film about making someone else feel loved, making someone else feel special. I couldn’t help but think how the trajectory of this country could be different if some of these violent murderers were meant to feel special by their peers. Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho, Adam Lanza, and Nikolas Cruz, to name a few. Do our citizens need better access to behavioral health services? Yes. Do we need drastic gun law reform? Absolutely. But the only way our society will heal and change is if we move away from the self and move towards empathy and compassion, and that has to come from the top, from the inside out…from us. Teach our children to look for the lonely person; invite her to play at recess, sit with him at lunch, stand up to the bully and defend the defenseless.
Then, my loves, you are truly special.
“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”
“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind”
“It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.”