I studied political science in college. My last few semesters, as classes became more select and difficult, classroom sizes were smaller and the discussions that couldn't really work in large lecture halls were the stuff of life for us poli-sci kids in class sizes of ten or fifteen. I loved discussions. I loved the different view points, the open text books, neon yellow with highlighted passages here and there. And more than anything, I loved the banter.
The back-and-forth, the quoting of famous leaders throughout history, the facts from the CIA Factbook that we all had open on our laptops. At the time, I didn't mind, in fact, I probably encouraged the belief that the person with the funniest, sharpest, often meanest comment was supreme. Intelligence was the ultimate currency in those classes and while intelligence is something I value very much, becoming a parent has made me re-think some things.
I haven't been in a situation like that for years, where manners and kindness take a backseat to intelligence and wit. But I have watched the preschool-aged equivalent where it isn't political banter, but the coolest toys and popularity that seem to be far more important than anything else.
"Who did you play with today?"
"Well, I played with Andy. But Dalton brought a superman toy so everybody wanted to be his friend."
"Did you want to be his friend?"
"Yeah, but he didn't want to play with me because I didn't have any cool toys with me."
Poor Gage has a mom that sticks to the "no toys from home" rule at preschool and as such, has never been included in the cool circle of his class.
I have been so tempted to just let him bring his light saber or Lego Batman to school with him, in an effort to generate more friendships for my little dude. But something keeps telling me, let him learn. Let him decide. Let him realize what actually matters.
What matters, in all circles of life, is not wit or good looks. It's not muscle mass or skeletal thinness or perfect hair. It's not book smarts or money or prestige. We allow these things to give those who have them in abundance a get-out-of-jail free card when it comes to exhibiting good manners and kindness toward others. We allow a funny-mean comment to get by as long as it generates laughs. We let movie stars treat people like dirt. Side note, as an example, Steven and I had a conversation with some other people a while ago about Christian Bale (the guys from Newsies, if you, like me, are celebrity illiterate), who freaked out on one of his assistants. Like, super freaked out. And I was so surprised that everyone was in his defense! He's famous, he's under lots of pressure, he was probably justified, etc. What?! Are you kidding me? The more famous you are, the louder you can yell at your underlings?
Kindness is a much higher mark of good breeding and success in life than any degree of wealth or wit.
When Gage was in tears, utterly brokenhearted that he had been punched by a cool Ninja Boy at school, I was painfully proud of him that he told me that no, he hadn't punched him back. Or hit or kicked or yelled or anything like that. Not because he's a pansy or a ninny or afraid of defending himself. Quite the opposite, I don't know anyone who can defend themselves better than my little boy. But he made a decision. He ruled against retribution, against giving into the primal desire of every one who has been mocked or teased and treated unkindly and he chose to turn the other cheek.
I like to think it's because of good parenting? But let's be real. It's because he's young and innocent and can easily discern right and wrong and act with true courage. I'm taking a page out of his book and I'm going to work real hard on being kind. Always, no matter what.