spare the rod, change the world

My sweet boy,

A hundred million years ago, I was in the 6th grade and my friend received a detention. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed over that slip, rotating it in our hands as if we'd just been handed our first pass to adulthood. That night, I asked my mother if she would be mad if I got a detention. "Not really," she said. "It depends on for what. It's normal to make mistakes. It would be abnormal if you never made them and never got a detention." Two weeks later, I purposefully neglected to turn in a project in hopes I would receive a detention. I did. We sat in a portable and did homework while the teacher read a book at the desk at the head of the class. It wasn't exactly the stuff The Breakfast Club was made out of, but it felt completely magical. I felt so validated. I felt so human.

I'm not telling you to mess up on purpose, of course. But the truth is: you will make mistakes. We all do. It's what people do. We make mistakes, bad judgment calls; we do things that, if given time to think about it again, we probably wouldn't do. Purity is a fallacy; the quest for perfection is boring.

I don't expect you to be the best. I simply expect you to do your best. Sometimes your best is doing or saying something that, given a second chance, you realize you shouldn't have done or said. Realizing that, learning that lesson, that's the best thing for you. What's in your heart is what is best.

People remark often how sweet you are, how kind. I like to think I have had a big hand in that. From the moment you were two pink lines on a pee stick, your father and I were committed to raising you gently and peacefully. I mean, we have access to the internet. We see what a huge chunk of the world thinks about kids who are raised gently and peacefully ("spare the rod, spoil the child," the internet trolls will bark behind their computer screens). Still, we knew in our hearts that it was what was best for you. If it were up to me, you would always only know kindness and warmth. All I can do is my best to ensure that my arms, our home, your world are filled to the brim with kindness and warmth. All I can do is prepare your heart to be the kindness and warmth that the world needs. Spare the rod, save the child; spare the rod, save the world. Spare the rod, change the world.

You, my love, have the power to change the world. You can step out into the big world and paint it with kindness, love and warmth. You can charge hearts and minds. Your best could very well be the best thing that happened to the world. In a world where we limit our children in fear of what the bullies may say or do, I want you to be the warmth and goodness that eradicates the idea of bullies.

I want you to argue with me, even when it's hot and we're trying to leave Target and the 78 year old woman in the Buick keeps honking over and over in hopes to get our spot. I want you to challenge me. I want you to take what you know and teach me something new. I never want you to be in a place where you think you know everything and have nothing else to possibly learn. And, more than that, I never want to be in that place, either. I want you to use your heart and conscience and know that respect begets respect. I want you to know that fear is not respect, that love is not fear. If I have done my best as a parent, you will never fear me but simply respect me as I do you. I want you to do your best when presented with any of life's challenges. I want someone to see you as disobedient if it means taking the path that your heart beat out for you and not the one they've set out in an etiquette blog somewhere. I want you to know that it's okay to fail. It's okay to forget how to spell cat, it's okay to do a science experiment that doesn't pan out, it's okay to fail a test or not be accepted into the college your best friend got accepted into. It's even okay to get a detention one day, in the sixth grade, with visions of Molly Ringwald dancing in your head.

Your best will always be my favorite draft that your life has written.


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