Monday, March 17, 2014

Dear Zaire: Lessons for my seven-year-old brother

My brother heard that I had started a blog and of course wanted to check it out. I promised I would write a post just for him but had been racking my brain over the past month about what I would say.

Now, my brother and I are 17 years apart (yes 17), so the competition, fights, and drama most siblings closer in age grow up with, we didn't. I was practically an adult when he was born so I have also been, in my mind, another figure of guidance and support. While we are so far apart in age (and now location as well) I still think it is important to impart on him all that I have learned growing up, I mean that is my role as a big sister right? I have done all that he is getting ready to do and hopefully he will not have to learn on his own some of the things that I did (joys of being the oldest child right!?). So this is for you Zaire, hold onto it as you get older, remember these things and you will do just fine. Your big sister loves you now and forever.

Dear Zaire,

Lesson 1. jiddah is always right (99.9% of the time) 

Our grandmother is pretty amazing. I had the wonderful privilege of living with her for as long as I can remember and while we butted heads sometimes I can say with all the conviction in the world that 99.9% of the time, she was right. She can read people: personalities, behaviors, ambitions she recognized the friends who would help make me great and be a positive influence and those who I probably shouldn't hang around. Now, I took it upon myself to get to know people and make my own judgements but I learned to approach most relationships (friendships and otherwise) with a side of caution.

Lesson 2. your friends today will not be your friends tomorrow

Now you are growing up in the age of social media where you will be able to follow all your friends in your first grade class probably through high school on Facebook and Twitter. I got my first social media account when I was maybe a junior in high school, this thing called Myspace (which you will probably never use or ever hear of). Facebook hit the scene for most people right when I was heading to college (you actually needed a college email at the time to even sign up for Facebook). Using Facebook was a great tool in finding people I hadn't seen or heard from in years (it was also a great way for family to be in my business so if you ever do get a social media account be very aware of your privacy settings). While I connected with people online and can creepily go to their profile pages and see what they have been up to, these once friends are no longer. My point: your friends today, while they may remain acquaintances or you will see updates on their lives a few times a week, may not necessarily be your friends in the future. NO WORRIES! you will make new friends, best friends, and you may have tons or just one, but you will cherish those friendships, especially as you get older and you figure out how hard it is to make friends when you are no longer in school.

Lesson 3. know your history

one of my favorite things to do when I was in elementary and middle school was to research our family history. Learn where we are from and what life was like for our parents, grandparents, their parents, etc. We are so blessed to have our great-grandmother Nana still alive with us so when you can spend as much time with her as possible and learn all that you can from her and all of your grandmothers. We have a rich history and a beautiful family and we never want that to get lost.

Lesson 4. understand the meaning of your name and live by it

Our father is a very intentional man. When you get older ask about your name, first middle and last. Understand its meaning, why it was given to you, and work to live by it. We have amazing stories behind our names. They are unique and they are ours to share with the world (or to not share because a lot of people will ask you about your name as you get older and where you got it from and sometimes you won't want to share and that's okay too.) 

Lesson 5. teach people about your disease 

You have sickle cell anemia. Not a lot of people know what that is or what that means for you. Teach them. You have the great opportunity to be whatever you want in life and one of those things might be an advocate for young children like you who have sickle cell and other diseases. But! You don't only have sickle cell. You have a great sense of humor, athletic ability, some awesome dance moves, and the smartest biggest brain on any seven-year-old so don't ever let your sickle cell be all that you are. 

Lesson 6. respect people until you don't anymore

In one of dad's lengthy cards to me where he wrote a list of lessons for me he said "Respect people even when it seems they don't deserve your respect" I have to agree it is important to respect all people for the simple fact that we share the Earth with them but... at the same time, there are people who will do things to you, or your family, or in the world that you will not like or agree with and its okay to not respect people sometime. (as long as you always respect your parents... and on that note..)

Lesson 7. always respect your elders but challenge them

Now, you may or may not know this about me but your big sister is a tad bit outspoken and maybe a little liberal. I have some fundamental ideals that don't necessarily match up with what I was taught by our family growing up and I often challenge our parents and grandparents on a few of those topics (we can talk in detail when you get older). The lesson here though is while you always respect your elders don't be afraid to share your thoughts and opinions. Challenge them to think outside of what they know as well. You are growing up in a different generation so what is normal for you might be new to them, be patient.

I have a meeting now and 7 is a lucky number so I will stop there but know, there are more lessons coming, more for me to share and for you to learn. 

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