I already teach you these “lessons” every time you get upset with each other, or with us, or with your friends at school. I also teach you them when you’re upset with yourselves. You’re all still little at the moment, but I hope one day all three of you will reach the stage in your lives when you’ll think, “ah, right that’s what Mammy’s been telling me all my life. Now I understand what she means!”
- 1. WE LOVE YOU AND WE ALWAYS WILL
As obvious as this one may be, it is the most important lesson of all and it has to sit right up here in number one spot just so you know how important it is!
There are going to be times when you are angry with us. There are going to be times when we will be angry with you. Remember that no matter how angry and upset we are with you, we love you, we will always love you and our love for you will never ever go away. There is nothing you can ever do that will come even a teeny-tiny bit close to breaking our love for you. Don’t test this out on us though! Just accept it’s the truth!
- 2. TRY HARD TO BE A GOOD FRIEND
All three of you will meet lots of people and make lots of friends during your lifetime, but it is the way of the world that friends come and go and only a few very special people will be with you for the long haul. Always try to be the best friend you can be. Being a good friend means making time for people, caring about them, helping them out when they need you and standing by their side through difficult times. Take pleasure in building your friends up, champion their victories, encourage them when they need a boost, support them, fight for them, defend them and find lots of things to laugh about together.
Understand that although some friendships don’t work out and that this will be sad, you will never lose a real friend. You only lose people who, through their own limitations, can’t be a friend to you. Let them go and never make their behaviour about you. When you’re older, don’t base your popularity on the number of people you have in your Facebook friends list or the number of people you can call up for a night out. Instead, base your popularity on the number of people who’ll stand by you when you need them.
- 3. NEVER CHANGE YOURSELF TO ‘FIT IN’
We already know that all three of you have such different little personalities and, whether you’re our determined one, our sensitive one or our inquisitive one, know that you are perfect to us just the way you are. No personality type is “better” than another, so you must never feel you have to change who you are to please anybody else. Don’t try to be somebody you aren’t in order to “fit in” with the crowd. If the popular kids don’t accept you, know that it is because they don’t believe in themselves enough to appreciate anybody who is different to them. If you end up being a “popular kid”, be kind to those who are different as different is always good. Any friendship offered by someone who doesn’t approve of the wonderful person you are is no friendship at all, so don’t chase it.
- 4. VALUE CHARACTER OVER PERSONALITY
Appreciate the difference between character and personality. Sometimes the most engaging, vibrant, funny and enigmatic people have bad character, whilst shy, awkward and quirky people can be the nicest, most generous and kindest people you will ever meet. Don’t automatically associate positive character with positive personality traits. Life rarely works this way. Don’t short change yourself by valuing fun people over good people.
- 5. YOU CAN’T CHANGE PEOPLE
Never expect people to behave the way you would and never make it “about you” if they don’t. Make sure your expectations about other people are realistic and try not to hold them to the rules of behaviour which you abide by. Sometimes you can be an excellent friend to somebody, but they won’t ever be able to be a good friend to you (or probably to anybody else) in return. This isn’t your problem so don’t dwell on it and don’t waste time trying to change things. Instead, be assured that as long as you’ve done your best for them it’s fine to let them go and move on.
- 6. BE YOUR BROTHER AND SISTER’S BEST FRIEND
Love your brother/s and/or your sister as they share your life with you and believe us when we tell you how lucky you are to have them. They will be walking alongside you for the rest of your lives so try and be a best friend to them even though you’ll definitely spend a lot of your life teasing and irritating each other! All three of you are different and all three of you are special in your own way, so don’t ever try to compete with each other. We’re not interested in who’s the smartest, who’s the most successful or who’s the most talented. Know that whatever you achieve in life, we will be most proud if you are kind to each other.
- 7. LEARN TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF
Learning to laugh at yourself is one of the greatest skills you can ever learn and you’ll go far in life if you can master it. Learn how to take a joke and don’t take offence at silly things. You don’t have any right in life not to be offended by people or what they say and it’s far worse to take offence than to give it (especially IF no offence was intended in the first place). Poke fun at yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Plus, if you can accept and laugh at your shortcomings, nobody can ever hurt you for having them.
- 8. LEARN WHAT REAL BEAUTY IS
You don’t have to be slim, curvy, muscly or athletic to be beautiful. We all come in lots of different shapes and sizes and beauty can be found in all of us. If you grow up to be what the world considers “beautiful”, then you’re lucky and you should be happy and confident about your appearance, but always remember that your worth comes from who you are and not what you look like. Remember we never ever use the word “fat” in our house. It is the worst of words to use about yourself, but especially about other people.
- 9. FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE
There are lots and lots of things in the world for you to form opinions on. Some of these things may become very important to you and, even if nobody around you shares your opinion, never be afraid to fight for what you believe in and fight passionately. Different opinions aren’t ever a threat, they’re a challenge. Debating is fun and discussing different thoughts and ideas is how we learn and grow as Human beings. Words are powerful so learn how to use them and, very importantly, learn how to spell them. Nobody will listen to you if you don’t know how to write well. Be somebody worth listening to!
- 10. QUESTION EVERYTHING AND THINK CRITICALLY
Don’t believe something just because your parents, family or friends tell you it is true. Don’t believe something because a teacher or other person in authority tells you it is true. Although clever people like teachers are more likely to be right about something, they can still sometimes be wrong. Ask yourself why you should believe in monsters, ghosts, gods, horoscopes, angels, fairies and all manner of wild and wonderful things. If you can’t think of a good reason why you should believe something, then don’t. Feelings, instincts, revelations, wishful thinking, anecdotes and what people say “they just know is true” is not evidence. Evidence is facts and information collected by people who are qualified through study and experience. Always have the courage to correct misinformation when you hear it, but correct it only with evidence.
- 11. BE POLITE, EVEN TO RUDE PEOPLE
Always be polite to people, even if they’re rude or mean to you. We have taught you all good manners, so always use them. There’s never any need to raise your voice, name-call, hurl accusations or be aggressive towards anybody. There is no virtue in being confrontational and having a big mouth won’t get you half as far in life as having a big brain. In times of conflict, smart people know how to reason and always behave reasonably. Don’t try to reason with someone who is unreasonable as it isn’t much fun and it’s a battle you’ll never win.
- 12. DEAL WITH REJECTION
At numerous times in your life you will hear “no”. It may be that you aren’t picked for a team at school or you aren’t considered gifted at a particular subject. Later on you may be told you aren’t suitable for a job or something you’ve created or worked hard at isn’t “good enough”. If you want to be good at something and you’re told “no”, take it as a challenge. Don’t ever be deterred by rejection as more often than not you will be able to do whatever you want to do well in time and with help, experience or knowledge.
- 13. MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR WEAKNESSES
We can’t all be the best at sports. We can’t all be the best at dancing. We can’t all be the best at science or French or history. Whatever you excel at, there will be somebody who does it better than you, but never let this put you off. Competition is good as it teaches us to grow and be better than we currently are. Believe in yourself and believe you can do amazing things that are special for you.
By the same token, there will be some things in life you are absolutely rubbish at. If these are important things like maths and spelling, then unfortunately you still have to try very hard to learn how to do them well, but it really doesn’t matter if you can’t kick a ball, ride a bike or sing in tune. Be proud of the things you do well, do them as often as you can and enjoy yourself.
- 14. LEARNING IS LIFELONG
Always try your hardest in school, but don’t worry about tests and grades and assessments and numbers and rankings. These things really don’t matter and don’t make you who you are. You have your entire life to learn interesting things and achieve success. You’re only as good as your last job and learning is far more than school and lessons and exams. You will learn throughout your life. Whatever it is you choose to do when you’re bigger, the trick is to believe in yourself, have confidence in your abilities, accept your weaknesses and have fun discovering the things you are good at. Whatever you are told, there is no set timescale for learning and you are never too old to try something new.
- 15. YOUR FREE TIME BELONGS TO YOU!
We want you to be happy. We want you to enjoy yourself and we particularly want you to enjoy your childhood as it is brief and it is the only time in your life when you should have no worries or pressures. If you don’t want to learn how to ride a bike, go to drama classes, take-up rugby or practice the flute then you don’t have to. If you want to play Xbox, watch TV or read comics, then you can. Mammy and Daddy have lots of achievements of their own to be proud of so we do not need to relive our lives through you and your siblings. Your kindness is a reflection on us, your ability to kick a ball is not.
- 16. DON’T COMPARE YOUR LIFE WITH OTHERS
There is little you can do if people are envious of who you are or what you have achieved. Unfortunately this sometimes means they can’t be happy for you or be your friend, which is sad, but there’s nothing you can do to change this. There will always be somebody who appears to have a better lot in life than the next person, but you can’t ever really know other people’s lives. Don’t try to “keep up with the Jones” and, when you’re bigger, never ever use loans or credit cards as a means to get the life you want. If you can’t afford it (with cash) then you can’t have it! Focus on what you have, not on what others appear to have that is better. (There’ll be more on this topic when you all have jobs!)
- 17. DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM NEGATIVE PEOPLE
People who are easily offended, quick to judge and unable to forgive are draining and you have to distance yourself from them. Negative people will always exist in the world and you’re unfortunately going to encounter dozens of them in your lifetime. Don’t have “friends” in your life who belittle you and don’t have “friends” who don’t appreciate you. One of the hardest things in life is having to come to terms with the realisation that a friend you invested in isn’t a true friend at all, but know that their negativity is a telling of their own life’s story, not yours.
- 18. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH UPLIFTING PEOPLE
It has been said that you’re only as good as the people you choose to surround yourself with, so choose your friends very wisely. Try to surround yourself with people who lift you up and enrich your life. Seek out clever people, inspirational people, happy people, compassionate people and, most of all, seek out kind people. Everyone needs people in their lives who build them up and make them feel good about themselves. You’ll find it very hard to succeed unless you can find one or two of them (at least!).
- 19. DON’T LET OTHERS BRING YOU DOWN
Most of the things I’ve written in this letter are meant as advice, but this is an outright ORDER! Never let anybody bring you down! You won’t be able to avoid being judged and it is a fact that you will be judged negatively at some point in your lives. Take the criticism of others only if it will better you in the process, however, love yourself enough not to be hurt by opinions which are unjust. You can’t control what people think of you and not everyone will like you all of the time. Force yourself not to care about the opinions of people who don’t matter.
Instead, embrace your true friends who see past your flaws and accept the wonderful, fabulous people you are. You are all good people – good people with normal human failings – but, I repeat very loudly and forcefully … GOOD people! Your true friends will see you for who you are. Embrace them, invest in them, love them and stay loyal to them.
- 20. WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES
Realise that there will be times in your life when even though all three of you are gorgeous and scrumptious and lovely, you will say or do bad things. You are not perfect, but neither is anybody else. Don’t fret over it. Make your apologies, know you’re a good person, forgive yourself and move on.
Now comes the hardest bit to write … here goes … “sometimes Mammy and Daddy make mistakes”. We are not perfect either and we are learning continuously throughout our lives just as you are. Tell us when you are upset and tell us if you think it is our fault. We will never make you feel guilty for reproaching us and we will always apologise if we’re in the wrong. We are a work in progress too and there’s so much that we have already learned from you. We’re already amazed by your kindness, your gentleness and your love for us and for each other. We have already become better people through what we have learned from you.