Dear Leo and Miller,
Since I started writing these letters, I am now constantly thinking about advice or words of guidance that I want to tell you. There are lots, of course, or this blog wouldn’t last very long. Every day I hear or read things that I want to pass on to you both. But if there was one lesson above others I would ask you to hold on to it would be this “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about: so always be kind.” It more or less sums up everything that is important, everything you need to know about life is in there – it is the To Kill a Mocking Bird of advice. I can’t remember who said it to me or where I read it but if you only follow one instruction from me, let it be that.
A close second, and one I have been conjuring up a lot recently, came from the most unlikely of sources. It was stuck up on a wall in a conference room at a business seminar I attended last week. (The very last place I thought would provide inspiration for these letters.) However, it said “If everyone likes what you’re doing they’re probably lying.” I think it was aimed at employers trying to manage their staff effectively in the work place but it has become my current favourite mantra. It suggests the time to worry is when you aren’t getting any criticism and is much better than something similar “You can’t please all the people all the time” which just sounds vague and defeatist.
You will encounter criticism in your life, it’s unavoidable. And people will show a lack of encouragement towards what you’re doing that puts doubt in your mind. But you don’t need everyone to think you’re brilliant: you don’t even need many people to think your brilliant. What other people think isn’t that important: only your attitude towards it. So ignore the negative and don’t buy into the positive too much either. You just need to battle on regardless with whatever it is you think is worthwhile.
Dear Leo and Miller,
I am writing this on my new Mac Book and for some reason the letters are tiny and I can’t make them any bigger which is quite appropriate as JS used to write in very small hand-writing. A throw back from when he was too poor to afford paper so every square millimetre was utilised.
Miller, you went off to nursery in a dreadful mood today. You were crying and wailing in the house and terribly clingy with me when I tried to leave you. Leo, you were never like that – you couldn’t get away from me fast enough.
But then every day is different and the only thing consistent in your behaviour is its inconsistency. Tennis is usually one of your favourite activities Leo, but yesterday, about two minutes into your class, you looked up at the balcony where I was watching you from, and your face just crumbled. I had to drag Miller downstairs with me and come onto the court and try and reason with you to carry on. I think you were cold and that was the problem but you were adamant that we go. Which was a shame because I enjoy watching you play tennis. By play tennis, I mean swing a racket around at a ball that is thrown at you: the two elements are yet to make contact. I can’t decide whether you have any natural ability for the sport but you certainly look the best in your class. I put you in all whites because I want you to look like Roger Federer. White polo-shirt or t-shirt, white shorts, white socks with a blue stripe and proper white trainers. I said to your teacher – “Leo may not turn out to be any good at tennis but he definitely looks the part.” I think he appreciates the effort: I always think it’s a mark of respect to your host to dress up for every occasion. Miller – I cannot wait for you to start ballet.