5. Treat Everybody Like the Kids of Your Parents' Friends
When it comes to weekends, you will frequently be forced to play with people you don't pick. These are the children of your parents' friends. You will be tossed in a basement with them. You will be shy or confused or have significantly shorter hair or the less-cool jeans. The sound of your parents and theirs laughing will drift down. One of the kids may ignore you and go on watching TV. You may freeze or stutter or even pray. Ultimately, however, you will have to pick up the Lego set and start building a rocket or bounce on the trampoline. Because the point is, you may not like these children, and they may not be your best friends, but you must and will find a way to get along until dessert and coffee. The same holds true for later in life—in the workplace, school or otherwise. There is no one you can't play with for six hours.
6. The Talent Parade
Everybody has something they can do. Soon enough, the prizes come out. Some kids start winning things. Some kids don't. Many kids stop doing what they don't win at and stick only with the things they do well. There will be the kid at school who draws, the kid who does experiments, the kid who jokes, the kid who lends money, the kid who eats the paper off a straw if you pay him a quarter. You can be these things. Or you can just be the kid who loves his family and his friends. You can be that kid. Nobody will give you a ribbon for it or ask you to stand up so they clap for you at an assembly. But it's enough.
7. Stuffed Animals Are Too Alive
Yes, they will protect you in the dark. Yes, they will get jealous and hurt if you snub them for Barbie or a robot that shoots real lasers. Hold them tight. Especially on days when the grown-ups decide to throw a yard sale.
8. Read Out Loud Once a Day
It is an interesting thing. For most of your life, the adults in your house read to you before bed. The ones at school make you sit on the carpet and read to you in class. Then suddenly one day, a teacher shows you how to read. For a year or two, you read out loud to your mom or dad or brother or neighbor or babysitter or anybody you can because the sound of the word—that magical process during which letters become noises and songs and stories—is amazing. Do not lose this. Do not hold the story inside your head where it is only a parade of silent sentences. Read it out loud.
9. Not Everybody Is Going to Love You
Nobody wants to tell you this because it's basically a flaw in the universe. Everybody is supposed to love you. But sometimes a few people don't. Sometimes these people are kids, and sometimes they are grown-ups or even teachers. You might think that this lack of love is a problem. But the problem comes up only if you run around like a ding-dong trying to make them love you or trying to be what you think they will like in order to get them to love you. This is exhausting and painful. Instead, give up on them. Find the people that do love you—like me. I know I don't count because you don't know me. But, if you are under age 16, I love you. Ask the kids in my Sunday school class.
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