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Some Wisdom for an 8 Year Old

August 22, 2013


As has become my annual August tradition, it’s time once again to turn towards sharing a bit of wisdom with our oldest, Emily (links here in case you missed my wisdom for a five, six and seven year old).

More than ever before, I’ve found crafting my thoughts very difficult this year. I think, this is because I’m mindful that, at the age of eight, Emily could actually read them. It’s easier to dispense advice to a child who has no hope of actually processing or adopting it. Now, as in so many other areas of life as a parent, the stakes seem to be higher. I feel more accountable for my actions and more responsible for the influence I’m having on this rapidly growing person.

As I searched my heart for things that I wanted to say, I realized a theme emerging. I want to guard the heart of my little girl for just a little bit longer, even as I know that we’re about to send her into another school year of challenges.

Regardless of these challenges, I once again tackle the task at hand. I do hope you enjoy and thank you for reading.


Dear Emily,

Seriously, you’re eight now? How did that happen?

It wasn’t that long ago when I was walking your mom around the Fort Worth Zoo in 105 degree heat, trying to make you come out. Ok, it was that long ago, but I have a tough time believing it.

On the occasion of your eighth birthday I endeavor to share a little bit more wisdom – some gleaned from another year as your parent and some things I still need to learn.

You are different in the best kind of ways
You’re an odd duck, and mom and I love that about you. We love your strange obsession with cats and penchant for picking out the most ridiculous clothes in any store. There are few things more amazing than your ostrich impression. But those personality quirks that make you Emily are not the kind of “different” that I’m talking about.

You’re different because you already have a beautiful and bold faith. Last year you wrestled with the weight of your own failings and faced them with bravery in confession. I’m still learning the lesson you taught me about the joy that comes from a new realization of love and grace.

You stood up and recognized Christ in the Eucharist at your first communion and every week thereafter.

As time goes on, you’ll be amazed to find out how much this faith makes you stand apart as fundamentally different. This being different doesn’t always feel very good, but the deeper you dig into this faith, the more inexhaustible you’ll find its gifts to be. Mom and I have dug deeper than some, but we still only scratch the surface of all that is to be offered. For you, we pray the greatest gifts of sainthood. Don’t give up the gifts of faith for the oh-so-empty substitute of not feeling different.

There is nothing worse than a bully. Don’t be one and don’t be friends with one. Love them, pray for them and be nice to them, but never be a part of the chorus that urges them on.

Winning and Losing
It’s often said, “there’s a whole lot more to life than winning.” To me, that seems to say, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. So I’ll say it a different way – there’s a whole lot more to life than determining who is the winner and who is the loser, or whether there is even a winner or a loser. We tend to see everything as a competition, like every human interaction is centered on getting the most out of someone else or beating them at some invisible game.

Nothing is more harmful to human relationships, unity or the common good than our unhealthy obsession with competition.

The success of someone else does not mean your failure. The praise given to someone else is not a slight against you.

As far as I can tell, there is no limited amount of success or acclaim. This is not an economy that must be conquered. Throughout your life I believe you’ll find that your own success is dependent on the success of others. Even more, you’ll find yourself most successful and happy when you’re helping others achieve their own success. The only people who see it otherwise are people who whine and say, “thats not fair,” or like a toddler, “mine, mine, mine.” Avoid them at all costs.

I really hoped you’d outgrow this staying up reading late into the night thing. Seriously, why don’t you go to sleep? One day you’ll wish you had slept when you could. You’ll find yourself at thirty-one years old and realize that the only time you have to do anything for yourself is between 4:00 and 6:00 in the morning and you’ll wish there was more time in the day to sleep. If not for yourself, then for me and mom… sleep!

You are the oldest Williston kid and there are certain responsibilities and expectations that come with that. In some ways, having three younger siblings makes you grow up a little faster, and that’s not always fun. But there are also good things that come with that position (like being the only one for whom Dad writes these notes).

By virtue of your position in the family you’re in a natural place of leadership. For whatever reason, God crafted an Emily to be the oldest kid and the de facto leader of the kids in our household. This is just one part of who you’re called to be. It won’t always feel good, but don’t let this responsibility chafe you as much as it could. It, like so many other things, is a gift that you have been given which can help shape who you will become.

Who you will become is beautiful, my dear. You already are and you’ve only just begun to take shape.

Until next year my not-so-little love.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2013 2:35 pm

    Such a lovely post Chris. God has gifted you with an amazing person in Emily. Thanks for sharing that gift with us. As another eldest child, I also echo your plea for sleep. Habits developed so young are hard to change, and at 58 I wish I had also developed better sleep habits. Father Paul Walsh, CSB

    • Chris permalink*
      August 22, 2013 2:51 pm

      Thank you Father! Glad to have you along for the ride. Please remember us (and all parents) in your prayers!

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