If you are familiar with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at all, you may recall the lengthy list of advice Polonius gives his son Laertes upon his departure to France. In layman’s terms, such advice includes …
Don’t always say what you’re thinking.
Once a friend has proven himself loyal, keep him close and value that rare friendship.
Hear everyone’s opinion, and reserve your own judgement.
Buy nice clothes.
Don’t borrow or lend money.
And the list of advice continues … While some of the advice Polonius provides might be questionable, when I consider the ONE piece of advice I would give to my own children (and to my students), I can’t help but think back to my own childhood, and the one thing I regret the most.
If I could change only ONE thing about myself growing up, it wouldn’t be the clothes I wore in my grade eight photo, partying too late before a volleyball tournament, or that pitiful mark I got in accounting. It would be this …
If I could go back, I would NEVER fall into the trap of excluding or mistreating others. I have horrible memories of chants and songs some of my peers and I made up about one of our classmates, comparing her to a pig, a dog, and a cow. I recall teasing others or making sure certain people were “left out.” I remember ridiculing some of my classmates for their “strange” family practices. We made fun of people for the way they dressed, for how they wore their hair, for what they did, for what they didn’t do … it WAS awful! And I truly regret being a part of that.
Let me clarify, in no way was I raised in a way that this type of behaviour would have been advocated or tolerated. I never heard my parents say anything bad about anyone. The reasons why I was part of such intolerable treatment towards others is probably obvious (but still inexcusable) … to ensure I wasn’t the one to be teased, ridiculed, or picked on. And I was on occasion … Too bad my fear of being mistreated didn’t limit my foul treatment towards others … (you know, the whole golden rule idea), but apparently it didn’t. I can’t believe it didn’t …
Being a part of such pathetic treatment of others is undoubtedly my single biggest regret in life … So through this, I offer just ONE piece of advice to my children (and to my students) … DON’T EVER be a part of making someone else feel small. There is absolutely no reason for this in life … in fact, when I really think about it, it boggles my mind that any human feels they have the right to insult another human. Isn’t it odd that we pick out people’s imperfections and ridicule them? We feel we have the right to comment upon someone else’s height or someone’s weight or the size of their nose or the length of their hair … doesn’t this seem just a bit odd? Why do we do that … ESPECIALLY in high school?
Since Little M and Big M are just four and (almost) two, I have tried hard to instill in them in the most neutral way possible that people come in all shapes and sizes. Different families do different things. Different mommies have different rules. Different people celebrate different things in different ways. For now, this is the best that I can do. I will do my best to ensure my children don’t hear insults exit my mouth.
Polonius had it right in a lot of ways with his advice to Laertes, but his best piece of advice is undoubtedly “to thine own self be true.” Too bad I couldn’t have followed such advice growing up; instead, I got trapped in a world of cruelty and mistreatment towards others. I am sorry dear classmates … I will never be able to make it up to you. All I can do is my best to raise my own children in a more honourable way.