At the risk of sounding like an elder statesman, I have learned some things over the years, and I thought I’d share them. The most important, overriding thing is: you shouldn’t judge other people. In this inaugural column, I will start at the beginning: the day when I learned this lesson the hard way. I have been reaping the benefits ever since. What should you take from this? Nothing. Everything. Whatever you want. I won’t judge.
I was five years old and in kindergarten. My mother was progressive and wanted me in full day kindergarten, even though the public school only had half-day, so she sent me to private kindergarten. Sound familiar? I was in my second year of this arrangement. Again, because my mom wanted me out of the house. I had already been going to school since I was three or two or something. She said it was because I was so smart, but I was onto her. She played a lot of Mah Jong.
Anyway, this kindergarten class was mixed, first and second year. So, I, a veteran kindergartener, had to attend school with the lowly newbies. As fate would have it, I befriended one of them. Go figure. She invited me to her home, which I happily accepted. But then, when I got there, an unbelievable thing occurred. We left our shoes at the door and went to her room, where she picked up her blankie and her pacifier. To make the scenario even more unimaginable, she popped the pacifier into her mouth and began sucking away on it. I was horrified. I, a seasoned kindergartener, could not believe my eyes. She was four years old and she was sucking on a pacifier.
I was polite enough to finish out my playdate (although of course no one called them that then). When I got home, I told my mom about the most ridiculous thing that I had seen. I have no idea what she said to me, but I do know that I announced that I would not play with her again. I am not proud of this, by the way, although I still blame my mom for not setting me straight. I was, after all, only five.
Fast forward a number of years. My daughter had a pacifier. Why? Because it was the one thing that would make her stop crying when she was a baby. But when she was three, she still had a pacifier. Why? Because when we tried to take it away, crazy things happened and a doctor told us to give it back to her. So, you guessed it: she still had it when she started kindergarten. And I don’t mean the preschool kindergarten when you’re four (although obviously she had it then too). I mean the public school, this is for real kindergarten--the friends you meet now you will know in high school--kindergarten. Obviously, like my friend from years ago, she did not bring it with her to school. When her first new friends came over after school, I suggested that she might not want to go and pop in a pacifier with them around. Do you know what she said to me? “Mommy, if they’re really my friends, they’re going to like me whether I have a ‘fafa’ or not. And if they don’t like me because I have one, then they’re not really my friends.”
Over the years, I learned a lot about who I was when I was five and I’ve obviously tried to be the friend my daughter would have wanted me to be back then. I’ve tried to raise my daughters to believe that you don’t judge others, but if you do, you learn from those mistakes, even if it takes years. Because we should all try to be the kind of friend that we would want to have. Or maybe, even more importantly, that we would want for our children.
Nancy Klingeman is married to Henry and the mom of two teenage daughters. She is a writer, a lawyer, and an observer of life's daily pageantry.