I never wanted to become Polonius: spouting off advice to Laertes and Ophelia when all they wanted was to receive his blessing so they could leave. All I can say is that it started as sort of a joke, but I’ve since realized that it’s much more than a joke to my little girl. And it’s much more than that to me.
Every morning I have the distinct honor of taking my children to school. It’s a blessing that, despite having to circumnavigate two school’s car lines, I would never give up. It gives me just a little more time with both of them in the morning to remind them that I love them and to remind me that there are far more important things in life than papers to grade and bills to pay. Other than tucking them in at night, it is my favorite time of the day. Strange what having kids will do to you; I used to hate the morning commute.
Anyway, each morning I drop the girl off about a block away from school so she can walk in. She LOVES doing this, and it gives me a few more stolen seconds to hug and watch her grow.
And it breaks my heart fresh each morning when she turns to walk away. It’s the reverse of all those stupid car commercials that show the dad talking to a five-year old as she waits, somewhat patiently, behind the wheel for the keys so she can go out. When my girl turns away and starts walking, my seven-year old is suddenly seventeen, complete with a toss of her hair over her shoulder. And I’m left wondering where the time went. (Yep, I was once told by my college Drama professor that if he were to do a production of Hamlet that he would have to cast me in the lead. I was the definition of melancholy. At the time, I took it as a compliment rather than a curse. Strange kid was I.)
Anyway, back to Polonius. I decided one morning to offer my Ophelia (minus the insanity, that is) a bit of advice as she walked away in hopes that she would wait a little longer to turn her back on me and transform into a teenager that I’m having trouble connecting with. As she walked backwards away from me, I looked her in the eye and said, “Learn everything you can.” To which she replied, “Okay.”
Not wanting her to turn, I added, “Have fun!” As she takes another step away from me, she shouts with a grin, “Okay!”
Desperate to keep her eyes on mine a little longer, I reminder her to “tell Mrs. Wrenn thank you and give her BIG HUGS (thank you teletubbies!).” She’s so far down the sidewalk now that she has to shout, “Okay, dad!”
“Be nice to your friends!” “Okay.”
“Be nicer to your not so friends!” “I will.”
Knowing now that I’ve got to cut the strings or I’ll be crying all the way to drop off the boy, I shout (to the great pleasure of those sleeping in the house we’re parked in front of I’m sure), “Always remember that I’m proud of you, and I love you!”
At this, she grins, and I die a little inside cause I know she’s about to turn, but before she does, she shouts, “I love you, too, Dad!”
And with that I climb back into the car with tears rolling down my cheeks anyway.
“Be nicer to your not so friends.” I came up with that, as with most things by my seat-pants flying, but other than our “I love yous,” I think it may be the most important of my proverbs. Yeah, I totally stole it from the Gospel of Matthew, but that’s okay, I always did think that Picasso was right about stealing. It’s the one thing that I try to remember myself through the day. And it’s the one thing that I forget the quickest. My memory really sucks.
Be nicer to your not so friends. If we love our children and our friends, what credit is that to us? Doesn’t everyone do the same? The truth is that if we really want to make the world a better place for our kids (and we do), then we’ve got to step up to the bullies and be nicer. We’ve got to step up to the despots and be nicer. We’ve got to reach across the aisle and be nicer. We’ve got to hold our arms open wide in one of my daughter’s patented “air hugs” and be nicer to those whom we don’t like, we don’t love, we can’t stand the sight of, we think even God hates.
We’ve got to be nicer to our not so friends in this world because it’s the only way that we’ll survive to see our little girls grow up into beautiful young women ready to change the world with their dreams. We have got to be nicer to the world.
To that young woman, my daughter, I have only this to add: No matter what people try to tell you, love will change the world.
And always remember that I’m proud to be your daddy.