Kiddo, in many ways, it must be hard to be you right now. People probably expect you to be older than your ten years. Your dad just became President of the United States, which complicates every part of your life. Your mom is taking heat for wanting to let you finish the year at your own school before transitioning to the White House. I understand that completely, and change is hard for most of us, let alone moving from the home in NY you’ve known your whole life to a different kind of house in our nation’s capital. You’ve got Chelsea Clinton reminding the world that you are just a young boy trying to navigate the challenges of childhood on top of having a very important role now within the First Family.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the adults who have forgotten your kiddo status and said less than kind words about you in the media. That’s not fair. Grown ups especially ought to know better regardless of their party affiliation. You should not need to deal with that, and I hope your parents tell you every day that these are people who just don’t know any better. I hope your parents protect your privacy– your right to grow up as normally as possible– as did former presidents and first ladies: George W. and Laura Bush, Bill and Hilary Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama.
I have some advice for you, which you may or may not read or understand right now. But one day you will. Sometimes our parents drive us crazy; we love them to pieces, but they say the wrong thing at the wrong time even when their intentions are good and pure. They want to protect us from the bad people of the world, and in doing so, they sometimes make bizarre or complex decisions we disagree with.
Kids your age are difficult to read because you can behave like a teenager and a toddler within minutes of one another. But when my students, who are a little older than you, are stressed out about life, I share my favorite three strategies, the same ones I use when life gets tough– I’ve survived 42 years pretty happily so I must know a thing or two.
- Play outdoors as much as possible. I always wonder how city kids do this in places like the Big Apple, but trees make great listeners when the rest of the world is too noisy or complicated. Fresh air and deep breaths and chirpy birds and babbling brooks are all very good unprescribed medicine for people of all ages, genders, backgrounds. DC will be excellent although a little hot in the summer for my liking, but with so many beautiful places to explore. Hiking mountains also helps us to set individual goals which may or not be the same as those our family sets for us. Something to consider as you enter middle school shortly. These are the years you are really developing into your own person, learning to think critically about what you believe.
- Read a great book, one that allows you to escape real life for just a little while. Not that I’m assuming your life needs escaping, but we all need to check out for a hour or two and enter an alternate reality. Perhaps you read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? If you haven’t yet, this is a classic, teeming with lessons in adventure, friendship, loyalty, and good vs. evil. You’ve probably read the Harry Potter Series, and these are worth the effort even when 700 pages feels like an eternity. We all need a little magic, wands, powerful spells, and brave friends. At home right now, we are reading a kids’ version of the Greek myths filled with flawed heroes and villains and powerful gods and goddesses, which maybe feel a little violent for my 5 and 7 year old, but they’ve been around for literally thousands of years– that’s is some serious staying power.
- Check out an awesome “classic” movie, preferably from the 1980’s. For example, two for your age demographic which immediately jump to mind are The Sandlot and Stand By Me. When I first saw that movie, I was 12, and I probably watched it once a year until I became an adult. It was on TV the other night, and I couldn’t help but reconnect with those prepubescent boys all over again. They made it okay to be a boy and cry when life got complicated. They stood up for each other, displaying loyalty, bravery, and compassion, which are traits we as parents want our kiddos to develop in their own time. They use their words to defend those who are powerless to use their own. Seriously, one of the greatest films of all time. You will love it.
So, Barron, I hope the move to Washington, DC is easy on you. You will do a lot of growing up in the four years your dad is president and mom the first lady. Getting outdoors, reading great books, watching classic 80’s films, and developing 2 or 3 solid friendships will sustain you with the changes in your world. Trust me, I’m a teacher, and a mom, and I did not vote for your dad– but I am rooting for you all the way.
Heather Ehrman Krill