Here in India there are a lot of competitions conducted for children in a healthy way. Our son recently took part in a competition in early November. You see, it is Children’s Day on the 14th of November and the kids who win are awarded on that day.
It was a fancy dress competition. He was all dressed up. He had reached the final round after clearing two intermediate rounds. He dressed up as a ‘Rockstar’ for the first round and then as ‘The Earth’ for the second round. For the finals, the topic was a bit tricky. We had to dress up depicting any opposite. So I was thinking of good and evil and hot and cold and such things. But he came with Indoor and Outdoor games. Maybe they are not really opposites, so I got a confirmation from the teacher-in-charge and then dressed him up to depict Indoor and Outdoor games.
And just when we were waiting for his chance to get on stage and perform, there was a mother, whose child’s only competition was my son. She came up to us, and tried to discourage my son and demotivate him. I tried to shield him away from her and her stinging words. She joked about it so that I wouldn’t take offense and complain…but tried to do the damage nevertheless.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S LETTER TO HIS SON’S TEACHER
He will have to learn, I know,
that all men are not just,
all men are not true.
But teach him also that
for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician,
there is a dedicated leader…
Teach him for every enemy there is a
I asked to be excused because our turn was coming up. No, she didn’t leave us alone. Another parent understood what was happening and tried to get us some peace, but no, it was not our day.
So, I said we needed some air and came out of the performance room. I could see that my son was beginning to get visibly affected by this lady.
Steer him away from envy,
if you can,
teach him the secret of
In the corridor I told him to forget that lady and tried to tell him he could perform better in spite of all this anyway. We talked about the glitter packs we purchased recently. And then I told him I had some candies and chocolates for him. We spoke about our impending trip to my ancestral home. We talked about all that we would do on reaching there. We talked about the places we visited the last time we went there. I distracted him and made him forget the lady and her words to the best of my ability.
And finally I told him again that when he was ready, we could go back in and perform.
Let him learn early that
the bullies are the easiest to lick… Teach him, if you can,
the wonder of books…
But also give him quiet time
to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun,
and the flowers on a green hillside.
He was not ready.
So I told him it was okay to not win the competition. But it would be great to win it too. I told him we would get him a surprise gift whether he won or not. So his reward (present) was assured anyway. I told him the next time someone comes and tries to bully him or demotivate him, he should ignore them or just get away from the place. Or if it gets unbearable, tell them to work on bettering their performance.
He asked me, “If I do not get a prize, won’t this all be a waste?”
And then I said, “Trust your efforts. Trust your confidence.” I don’t know how much he understood. But I spoke to him like I would speak to an adult.
“Maybe next time I should ask that lady to mind her business,” my son said at last.
In the school teach him
it is far honourable to fail
than to cheat…
Teach him to have faith
in his own ideas,
even if everyone tells him
they are wrong…
Teach him to be gentle
with gentle people,
and tough with the tough.
“So what if I have missed my turn now, he asked?” “That’s okay. Let’s go back and see what’s happening,” I said.
“But they won’t allow me if my turn is missed,” he said.
Try to give my son
the strength not to follow the crowd
when everyone is getting on the band wagon…
Teach him to listen to all men…
but teach him also to filter
all he hears on a screen of truth,
and take only the good
that comes through.
“We do not have to compete. We do not have to win. We can just chill out if we wish,” I told him. Some elder boys, maybe early teenagers came our way. They smiled and chatted with us for a while. And they asked him to perform in front of them. He did. They said he was awesome. Go on, go fast and get the first prize, they said. And they moved on. It must have been their break time, I believe.
Teach him if you can,
how to laugh when he is sad…
Teach him there is no shame in tears,
Teach him to scoff at cynics
and to beware of too much sweetness…
Teach him to sell his brawn
and brain to the highest bidders
but never to put a price-tag
on his heart and soul.
We went in only to be ushered in immediately on to the stage. One of the first grade teachers held the microphone for him. And he started performing, the star, that he was. And suddenly he faltered. I held my breath. Maybe he remembered that lady’s words? Her demotivation? Was her negativity was getting to him? I hoped not!
He went silent. My heart cried. I willed him to continue. He spoke one more sentence…and went still again. This wonderful teacher told him to conclude it if his performance was over. He stared blankly at her…5 seconds…10 seconds. She directed him to thank the guests and leave. He did that.
Teach him to close his ears
to a howling mob
and to stand and fight
if he thinks he’s right.
Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him,
because only the test
of fire makes fine steel.
She later asked him what went wrong. He did not confide in her. And another teacher told him she expected more from him because he was her star.
Let him have the courage
to be impatient…
let him have the patience to be brave.
Teach him always
to have sublime faith in himself,
because then he will have
sublime faith in mankind.
“Amma, I will get a prize, I am sure,” he told me that evening when I took him to the school cafeteria.
I said, “Ok.”
“I know I faltered. But I will still get a prize,” he said once more.
Is that confidence or over confidence? Or dreaming on?
I waited for the results. A few teachers came to the cafeteria for a cup of tea. “Hey, aren’t you the guy who was amazing on the stage up there?”
“Yes, I am that amazing guy,” he said in all his innocence. And they all laughed. I kept nodding and looked away. I did not know what to say because I thought they must have mistaken him for someone else.
“You talked about indoor games and outdoor games, didn’t you?” the other teacher asked. Ok, that was us. No mistaken identity here. We were ‘amazing’, huh? I thought we faltered.
This is a big order,
but see what you can do…
He is such a fine fellow,
The results were announced that evening on the website. That lady’s child, whose sole competition was my son, got a prize. We got a prize too! There were seven prizes given away and we were somewhere in the middle. No, not the rock bottom like I anticipated. I know his real capabilities, so I know he is capable of more, but this was still sufficient enough for a first grader to get a prize.
We came home and spoke at length about this experience.
The world is not a beautiful place. It is not an ugly place either. It has evil men (and women). And some great people too. I do my best to give him a good mental and emotional balance. And then this world he grows up in is going to be his best teacher. He has to learn from his experience.
And I know next time, he will be careful with people. He will also know whom to trust. He will also know to shut his heart out to unnecessary elements. He will also know to open up to people whom he can trust and love. Life is a bed of roses along with some thorns.
And I hope you also read Abraham Lincoln’s poignant letter to his son’s teacher … AND TO ME.
What lessons have your young children learned from their personal experiences in this beautiful and harsh world?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Purnima, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.
Photo credit to the author.
It was a wonderful narration.Abraham Lincoln’s letter can be read and re read again.All the parents and teachers should read this.
Thank you for visiting and commenting.
Thank you for nudging me to look up Abraham Lincoln’s letter on that fateful day.
wonderfully written as usual… all that is mentioned is to be remembered not only for children but by every person and to draw strength and hope from …
Hello Purushotham. Yes, you rightly said it. I think this letter is not for just parents and teachers in child upbringing, but in every aspect of life for an adult to read and re-read every time, a necessity arises.
Purnima, thank you so much for this beautiful post and for sharing Abraham Lincoln’s letter. I am crying right now … it’s impossible for me to explain why these words touched me so deeply … except to say that your son is fortunate indeed to have you for a mother!!
I, myself, I’m still trying to learn many of the lessons like ” …filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.” and “Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. ” and “to have sublime faith in himself”.
Earlier this morning my heart was broken again. Thank you for reminding me that I must not take certain things to heart!
Congratulations on the wonderful way in which you’re raising your son and the amazing young man he is! Namaste <3
Oh Simona, I hope to be half as great a mother as you think I am. I am doing my best and constantly improving on the way. Like Ruth posted some days back… Motherhood is not a competition and we all keep on improving and continue being happy (that is one post I can never forget).
There are some things I am filled with awe about. For instance it requires patience to be brave, and courage to be imaptient… – “Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave.”
Almost paradoxial, but not really…
I read this letter many times. I am sure I will read it many more times too.
It really gets to me when an adult is trying to psyche out a child. Disgraceful.
I hope this experience is a big learning step for him and, I know, it will make him even more amazing. Without these experiences, how can we improve?
Way to keep your cool, Purnima, and lovely use of Abraham Lincoln’s letter!
Thank you Jen. I think as you said this is a wonderful experience to tell children that there is always some learning that we can take away and become stronger when thrown into such situations. This indeed is a nature sent gift, if I may think so.
I love this post, Purnima! Thanks for introducing Abraham Lincoln’s letter, it’s the first time I’ve read it and as a mom of a son, it’s a great message I want to pass on.
Honestly, I’m really shocked by what the other mom did, it only speaks of her poor character.
Your son is blessed to have you as a mom and I believe he will grow up to be a fine young man! I so love his confidence and the faith he displayed – so sure that he will get a prize. I love that spirit! Hope to meet him one day!
Even I came across this letter only recently. And I am intending to make it a poster and stick it somewhere so that my son get familiar with it.
This is very true. We must learn how to deal with the world. The world is never fair, and there is no set of rules that one can follow in the hope that everybody around us will adhere to these. Because there are bound to be people who don’t mind climbing by stepping on our necks, people who don’t mind being dishonest to win, people who don’t mind hurting others if it helped their case.
There are people who would do things we could never dream of, just so they get it their way.
And if we are going to sit and say “Hey, how can you do that ? It’s wrong!!” , well, we’re the idiots who haven’t learnt after years of experience.
Yes, well, that’s the general tendency of the world. But I want you to also look at the brighter side.
“But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician, there is a dedicated leader…
Teach him for every enemy there is a friend, ”
Please don’t be harsh on yourself and yours.
I want children to be safe and learn the ways of the world. I also want them to know that it is filled with great people and great deeds done by these great people.
I want kids to know, understand and be careful of the negativity. But I want them to follow and do only what is correct, not by the standards of the world, but by their own standards.
I hoped to pass on that message.
What a wonderful story to share…. And so true! My son (who is now 6), sometimes does not speak very nicely to people. His tone can be harsh or bossy, even if he does not mean to be. One of the boys in his class didn’t show up for his 6th birthday party, even though he said that he would. So the following school day, my son asked his friend why he didn’t come “because you weren’t nice to me and I was nervous to come” was his response. No matter how many times I may have told him that his tone is not right, or that he has to understand that speaking that way can hurt someone’s feelings, he did not believe it until his friend was honest with him. Since then he has been slightly better, and all I have to remind him of what his friend said to get him to change the tone in his voice.
Maman Aya, that indeed is a very good lesson though a bit harsh for his age. But such practical lessons are what makes the character stronger.
Thank you for sharing this letter.
This part has really reminded me many things.
” Teach him if you can, how to laugh when he is sad…
Teach him there is no shame in tears,
Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much
Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest
bidders but never to put a price-tag on his heart and
It is so hard to be a good mother.
You are welcome Beady. This letter is precious in so many ways, isn’t it?!
I am glad I came across it and shared it here. It reaches across to so many..
Thanks for introducing me to Abraham Lincoln’s letter Purnima – I had not read it! Those are the very lessons we are trying to teach our oldest daughter now that she is in elementary school. It’s hard since she is very sensitive and her feelings get hurt easily, but we keep at it…one experience at a time.
And kudos to your son for being so brave and persevering! He couldn’t have done it without your love and support 🙂
Thank you Eva.
Parenting is so simple, but not easy, huh?! Same here.
I have read the letter and it is very inspiring but i have some question .can you please answer it .
1. Why Abraham Lincoln writes a letter to his son’s headmaster?
2. Reading books is important for students, but it is equally important to …..
3. Students must understand the it is honorable to fail then to cheat. Why
4. Everyone is getting on the bandwagon. Here ‘getting on the bandwagon’ means what?
5. Abraham Lincoln does not want the headmaster to cuddle his son. Why?