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Boys Message In Bottle:

Let’s Think Differently

To the Editor:

I have always considered myself a logical thinker and have tried to teach my children to be realistic:

Pay your bills on time, keep your things tidy, go to bed on time, eat healthy and above all show respect to others. I have been known to be a bit overbearing, and I am certain my husband and children can attest to that.

When I was younger, I prided myself of on being tough and worked hard to make sure my peers saw me as such. I grew up with a hard-working father, who labored to make a living.

My father was uneducated – as the dictionary states, unschooled – vulgar (often) and simple. However, his perseverance and motivation inspired my work ethic and has kept me strong even during the greatest challenges in my life.

My mother, different than my father, was created purely on kindness, patience and understanding. She too understood the value of hard work, but never pursued more than she felt necessary to remain happy.

Thankfully, I managed to adopt kindness as a personality trait from my mother; admittedly, I have had to work to acquire patience and understanding.

Growing up, I don’t recall ever being a very vivacious thinker or someone who veered from the conventional path, although I wish I had been.

As an adult, I have been blessed to have two wonderful children who have taught me and continue to teach me the true meaning of life, albeit challenging for a contentious person like me. I have grown to believe in the value of compromise, patience (a work in progress) and kindness.

My children have challenged me to pursue an education in understanding and I am forever indebted to them for this. They are different in many ways and both have traits that I struggle to understand and that I envy.

There is a certain art that comes from connecting the dots between different personalities that can be truly inspiring. And isn’t this how conflicting ideas become valuable compromise and criticism becomes constructive: When two differing opinions become a lesson of trust and understanding? This has become my perception and aspiration I desire for my children and all children.

As I was putting in yet another load of laundry, my son came to me almost in tears and explained his resistance in sharing his “Personal Declaration of Independence” during his, now normal, online seventh-grade history class.

His hesitation, as he explained it, was that he knew his friends would disagree with his writing, which shared his concerns regarding his personal fondness of playing video games, plan for limiting game time and the need for focus on other activities. He said to me that his idea was different than “everyone” else and felt that that made it “wrong.”

The very idea that my son, who has a heart of gold and an enormous amount of concern and caring for others, would feel ashamed of his opinion simply because it was not the same as others, was heart wrenching.

So, as my education in understanding has taught me, I said to him this: “There once was a very wise 4-year-old who, during a developmental assessment, was asked: ‘What cuts?’ And his answer was: not a knife but a chainsaw. ‘What blows?’ His answer: not the wind, but a light bulb. And finally, ‘What comes in a bottle?’ His answer: not juice or milk or anything liquid at all. He answered: ‘A MESSAGE.’”

That incredibly wise 4-year-old, who answered those questions so courageously and without hesitation, was my own seventh-grade son, who stood before me unsure and afraid to provide an answer that was “different.”

So, for those of us who grew up to think logically, act realistic and expect to only find a bottle containing liquid, I encourage you all to think differently, believe in the value of compromise and constructive criticism. Educate yourself by trying to understand personalities different than your own, stop expecting things to be how they have always been and find, instead, the message in the bottle.



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