Growing Up

Kids, we have a few things to tell you about growing up.

Babies are not yet children like you. They are surprisingly resilient, but that’s not for you to prove. Support a baby’s head when you hold it. Let it breathe when you feed it from a bottle. Pink is a healthy color, blue is not. When done feeding, hold the baby up against you with its head over your shoulder; cover the shoulder with a clean cloth. There is no need to tap the baby’s back. The baby will burp without help, but you can tap if makes you feel better. Boys’ diapers have to be changed more often than girls’ your mother doesn’t think so but she isn’t a boy. Always check the bath-water temperature with your hand, the Spanish Inquisition circulated the notion that the elbow is a better thermometer.

Learning to read is easy. You do not have to read a book from start to finish in one day. You can continue where you left off without having to go back to the beginning. You learn to write by reading. ‘Ko okaburra’ is spelled with a double ‘o’ and a double ‘r’, twice the number you find in ‘Aborigine.’ ‘Humpback Whales’ sift water through ‘baleen’ and feed on ‘plankton.’ A teacher that chooses these words for a first grade spelling test is as dumb as bird but it is not wise to tell her that. Until you graduate, bad teachers will be the bane of your existence. Unfortunately they are not as rare as Kookaburras. These teachers do everything in their power to add you to the people who do not understand the subject matter. Therefore if you find long division confusing rest assured that so does the math teacher; ask us.

Do remember that fish have bones, be careful when you eat them, roll each bite in your mouth, let your tongue feel the spikes and remove them gently with your fingers. Breaking an egg with one hand is possible but it can take quite a few eggs to master. Remove the broken eggshells from the bowl before adding the eggs to the batter. Chew with your mouth closed and your ears open. If you can hear your own chewing so can everyone else. Asking them too many questions while they are trying to eat can starve a polite person. Knifes go on the right, forks on the left. Mold is good for antibiotics, not for serving food – check that the silverware is clean before you set it on the table.

Every now and then stop to reflect on who you are, where you came from and where you are headed. Your Bar-Mitvah is such a checkpoint in your lives. At the time it used to be the right of passage from childhood to adolescence nowadays you get an extension of six to twelve years, but listen anyway. As you grow up you have to make more independent choices. How do you know what the right choices are? You all have the gift to be able to distinguish right from wrong so do what you think is right. Every once in a while you will make mistakes, but you will learn to correct them. Many of your teenage friends do not yet have such a keen ability, some will never h a ve. When torn between doing what is right and doing what is popular – follow your conscience even if it scares you. Keep an open mind; accept that other people are entitled to opinions and beliefs that are different than yours. Learn where to draw the line; when to stand firm and when to back down. Tolerance and the right to defend yourself go hand in hand. Be tolerant but know that the other side is wrong when its beliefs aim to deprive you of the same rights that you extend to them. Learning is the key to making the right decisions and becoming successful. Make the best of the opportunities at school; not withstanding that some teachers are complete idiots. Learn as many languages as you can there is no better tool to get to know people and come to understand them. Learn to play a third instrument.

Not everything that shines is a gem. Save your money for things that are better rather than newer. Shakespeare and Plato are forever getting older, as are the works or Rembrandt and M o za rt and Picasso and Bach. ‘Pop-Culture’ is an oxymoron it has presence without essence like the ‘Spice Girls’. A new iPod is the same as your old one with ever more memory that you will never use. If you were born in the nineties you are exempt from knowing what ‘counter-clockwise’ means.

GPSs cannot find lost children. When on night marches, count the children in your Scouts troop frequently. Cover the top of your shoes with your socks when you sleep outside and shake them well before putting them on in the morning. You cannot see stars when you are in the woods. Counseling in a youth movement is the most challenging form of leadership you will ever experience. You have all the responsibilities of an adult with no sanctions to apply. Remember how you won the trust of younger adolescents. It will serve you well later in life. Put your military experiences in perspe ctive: people obey orders but work much better without them. Any monkey with a rank can give commands, but it takes a great leader to nurture creativity and rally people to a cause.

Life is long. Do not rush into marriage it is the biggest commitment you will ever make by choice. One out of twenty or fifty or one hundred people will be right for you – experiment until you find such a person. Take your time, it is better to throw away a few good apples then eat a rotten one. Walk away from cruelty and selfishness these cannot be cured. Intelligence counts – unless you want to be bored stiff for the rest of your life. Opposites can match if they are generous and kind. Disagreements are not always bad. Harmony exists only in fairy tales. A wise man once said: If you see a couple living in harmony like a pair of doves know that one of them is suffering quietly.  Argue but listen. Apologize when wrong but learn from mistrakes. Use contraceptives – expecting a child to be born rich is not sound financial planning.

These are building blocks. How you use these blocks to build your life is up t o you. A parent’s love and selflessness is granted so use it. Do not hesitate to ask for help or advice. Your heart, your common sense, your family, your education and childhood friends are your greatest assets as you face life. Embrace them all and live it to its fullest.