Parents Know Best: The Contest WinnersNew York Times
April 17, 2008, 12:50 pm
The Well blog was packed with parental wisdom last week as readers submitted their entries for our “What Kids Need to Know” contest. The contest was based on the story of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor with terminal cancer who became a media sensation after giving a last lecture about achieving childhood dreams. Dr. Pausch says the lecture and a best-selling book based on the talk are his effort to distill a lifetime of fatherly advice for his kids since he won’t be around to raise them.
I asked readers to share their own examples of great parental advice, either dispensed or received. If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, what advice would you leave with your kids? Nearly 500 readers responded with their own amazing pearls of wisdom.
Some of it was practical:
- Always wear sunscreen.
- Turn off the light when you leave a room.
- Don’t do dumb things.
- No good goes on after midnight.
- Do not sell any of your old rock concert T-shirts on eBay until you are over 40. (266)
- Respect the nap.
- Do not let your bottom grow into the shape of your chair.
Caring for appearance was a common theme:
- Always look in the mirror before you leave, first impressions are everything.
- Better to be overdressed than under-dressed.
As was motivation:
- Just say yes. You miss out on a lot by saying no.
While some tips reminded us that it is O.K. to count on others:
- Don’t deny people the pleasure of doing something nice for you.
Others were wisely self-serving:
- Don’t forget your parents.
- Your parents are actually pretty cool people, no matter how many times you’re embarrassed by them.
There were examples of tough love:
- That should be the worst thing that ever happens to you.
- Get over it.
There were several fascinating nuggets about food:
- Teach your kids how to bake bread.
- Pick the table with the fattest waitress. She will give you the largest scoop of ice cream.
- Always make sure your mouth is fully closed before biting down on a cherry tomato.
- Be wary of women carrying soup.
- The secret to salad dressing is always more mustard.
- Don’t put peas in your nose.
- Learn how to cook.
- Eating is serious business.
Some advice had a Hallmark-card quality:
- Happiness is a choice.
- Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.
- Life is not about surviving the storm, it is about dancing in the rain.
There were a surprising number of entries that dealt with the scatological and bodily functions:
- Be thankful for minor things, like being able to pee without pain.
- If you have to pee really badly and the phone is ringing, go pee first.
- Advice mom always gave when we weren’t feeling well for any reason: “Go poop.'’
Others were whimsical:
- Find a favorite song to whistle; whistle it every day of your life.
- To heck with the housework, let’s go to the beach.
- Breathe deeply when it’s your turn at bat.
And some were even cosmic:
- The power of the universe lies inside you.
Several entries were about treating others well, staying out of trouble or doing the right thing:
- There are three important things in dealing with other people. The first is kindness, the second is kindness and the third is kindness.
- Be good. If you can’t be good, be careful. If you can’t be careful and are in trouble, call me.
- If you go through every day acting as if your momma is right there with you, then you’ll always stay out of trouble.
- Never make fun of anyone, ever. Several parents offered advice on relationships:
- Be good. Remember your manners. And don’t let the silly boys bother you.
- I don’t think you should marry him.
- All boys want is to see you naked.
- If you find yourself talking about your relationship more than having it, maybe it’s time to get out.
- Don’t get married until you have a college degree.
- No nookie.
- There is never just one man, or just one job or just one dress.
- The longer you keep them waiting, the more they’ll like the meal. With so much good advice to choose from, it was tough to pick the winners. But we narrowed it down to five,
who will each receive a signed copy of Dr. Pausch’s book, “The Last Lecture.”
The top five things kids need to know are:
- Don’t be rude to the wait staff.
- If you need help, ask for help.
- It’s okay to go up the slide, even though the rules say you may only go down.
- Learn the words “Thank You.” How to say it. How to receive it.
- Always go outside when the sun is out.
Someone once said to me “Sean, don’t be an idiot.” He was right, I was being an idiot. Now before doing anything I ask “Is this something an idiot would do?” If it is, I don’t do it.
Another golden nugget: “Hands don’t get herpes.” and its variation “Nobody’s hand has ever gotten pregnant.”
From Your Mom:
Here is something I will always remember from this guy I worked with at the restaurant. I asked him whether he was afraid - he came from China to start his life all by himself. He had very little money, knew no one and simply came. He told me "what is there to be afraid of, if the sky should fall down, just pull it over and use it as a blanket". I wish I have that gong-ho attitude.