My children are restless, literally wrestling out their excess energy on the floor. They pop out to the backyard, only to burst back through the door after five minutes, faces red and tongues hanging out. So, what do you do when it’s too hot to play? Drink hot tea, of course. My daughter decided to “host” a tea party, dressing up (in a winter dress, no less) and making zucchini bread…and naturally, hot tea. The boys go along with the show, even donning British accents while inquiring after “your mother” and “your work” to everyone at the table. They laugh and pretend to be fashion designers and chefs and people of prestige. My six-year-old boy asks, “So, Kristin, what do you do?” [FYI: Pretend play is the only time I permit them to call me by my first name].
My daughter leans over and whispers to her brother, “Don’t you know? She’s the author of Navigating a Sea of Emotions.” I want to laugh; it’s okay, Bud, not many people know that. He nods and smiles, “Yes, yes. Very good.” On with the charade.
I watched a video about a 92-year-old retired doctor, Audrey Evans. Despite the numerous research achievements and advancements in children’s recovery, she said she wanted to be remembered as a woman who cared. Isn’t that the epitome of importance? Prestige is about being remembered. And what more should a person want to be remembered for than being a person who loved well–a person who took the time to care?
A few weeks back, my family had the opportunity to visit my alma mater, and I bumped into a dear English professor of mine. Even though I haven’t sat in one of his classes since 2003, he remembered my name and asked me if I’d ever gotten a children’s story published (I’d written one for a Tolkein/Lewis course I took with him). He’s retiring now and has said hello and goodbye to countless students, but he recalled my story and my dreams. In truth, his encouragement fueled me to pursue graduate school and publication. Having a gifted professor tell you, “you can” made this dreamer hope. Toward the end of the conversation, I wished him well, using his title and last name, by which he replied, “Please call me Hayden. You know, the Dr. stuff is just for the 4-year window you are here. It’s just a little piece of time.” Without trying to be too sentimental, I told him he’d always carry that special title in my mind for his impact reached far beyond 4 years, influencing the course of my life. He remembered who I was and had encouraged me toward the future.
Back to the kids: sometimes I’m tempted to squelch those grand ideas. “Sweetheart, opening a bakery requires more know-how than just baking. You’d need capital, marketing strategies, a good location, etc.” She will just look at me and smile, “OK, Mom.” [As if to say, “let’s make it happen.”] The hurdles don’t seem insurmountable to her.
From one dreamer to another, I know what it to hold onto those clouds and float away with a vision. I also know what it to see those clouds turn dark and heavy with rain, disappearing into a whirlwind storm. I know what it is, tired and discouraged, to keep looking to the sky…hoping.
So, as I endeavor to balance the tension between practical sensibility and daydreaming idealism, I tiptoe on the teeter-totter, encouraging my kids to pursue some of those dreams, but remember that the highest mark of status centers in your heart: how well you treated people. Did you love well? Did you make the needs of others more important than your own?
The power of prestige comes from the power of relinquishing importance to another person.