Bucket List Letter

I heard this article:  James K. Flanagan: A Grandfather’s Last Letter To His Grandkids on the radio yesterday, and knew that I had to present it in class to my students. Not only is it poignant and full of really great advice, it also fits right along with our This I Believe essays that we are writing. As I re-read this letter to my students in class, several of the pieces of advice stuck out to me:

Everyone in the world is just an ordinary person. Some people may wear fancy hats or have big titles or (temporarily) have power and want you to think they are above the rest. Don’t believe them. They have the same doubts, fears, and hopes; they eat, drink, sleep, and fart like everyone else. Question authority always but be wise and careful about the way you do it.

I’ve reasonably gotten the ‘question authority” bit down, however, it is more recently that I am learning to do so in a respectful way. As a teenager I would yell and scream or sulk or pout, all that showed a lack of maturity in my rebellious questioning. Though I would like to thank my dad for working in radio and showing me the truth behind the fact that everyone, even celebrities, are just normal folk.

Be kind and go out of your way to help people — especially the weak, the fearful, and children. Everyone is carrying a special sorrow, and they need our compassion.

While I don’t necessarily go out of my way to help people, like I’m “not looking for trouble,” I do find that I am surrounded in many ways by people who seek me out for advice or solace from life’s shitty storms. I loved how he put that everyone is carrying a “special sorrow” because it reminded me so well of my favorite quote:  “be kinder than necessary, everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” I don’t always do a good job of this, in fact, I’m struggling right now with 2 students from a very conservative and churchy background who seem to be very arrogant in their schoolwork, that I am finding it difficult to see how young and small and scared they probably really are.

Travel: always but especially when you are young. Don’t wait until you have “enough” money or until everything is “just right.” That never happens. Get your passport today.

While I long to go back to India, I am glad for the opportunity that I did have to travel when I was younger. And I’m happy that Boof and I travelled when we were newly married and dating. Because, while I like traveling, in theory, the process wears and stresses me out tremendously, now that we have a kid. Gone are the moments where I felt rested and energetic enough to get on a plane and fly to Delhi or Manhattan or Atlanta.

Pick your job or profession because you love to do it. Sure, there will be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy. Beware of taking a job for money alone — it will cripple your soul.

I do believe having a job that is a joy is a luxury for many, and is something that I have been striving for since I went to graduate school. While I don’t believe that my job will fulfill all of my heart’s desires, I do want to feel inspired and wake up every morning without fearing or dreading what’s to come.

Always keep promises to children. Don’t say “we’ll see” when you mean “no.” Children expect the truth; give it to them with love and kindness.

I think this one resonated with me the most. I remember hearing so many times “we’ll see,” or other vague parenty phrases, which left me confused. I know, now, that my mom/dad/grandma/uncle/etc. was probably trying to spare me the disappointment, putting it off or softening the blow, but the limbo-land was worse than just hearing the word “no” to begin with. It is almost worse than getting the answer “dinner” when I would ask, “what’s for dinner?” JUST TELL ME DAMNIT!, but I know that mom was trying to spare herself the whining that would have accompanied the answer.

What pieces of the list stuck out to you? If you were to write a letter to your children or future grandchildren, what lessons would you include?

Meyers-Briggs- What type of mother are YOU?

I love learning about myself. There was a period of time where I obsessively answered random questions on the cheesy site Quizilla (think: “What kind of mermaid flower fairy are you?” and “What kind of shape are you?”). I love all these silly and fun personality inventories/quizzes and find that they often provide a little bit of insight into my personality that is fun or quirky.

One of the personality inventories that I have enjoyed learning about, is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It’s a pretty common one used in classroom settings, and is actually something that I am using with my students this quarter! There are 16 distinct “types” of personalities, though of course it is important to remember that each of the types are on a continuum, and don’t always apply. They types can be found at the MBTI website (and other places online, too). While I won’t get into the description of all of them, I recently re-took the quiz to see if my type had changed much since graduate school, and found that, no, in fact, I was still an INFJ.

An INFJ can be characterized as:

Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions.
Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others.
Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about
how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their

In another description, an INFJ is:

Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they
are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings.
Well-developed value systems which they strictly adhere to. Well-respected for
their perserverence in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic,
rather than leading or following.

Whenever my type is linked to career, the encouragement to be a: teacher, counselor, psychologist, or writer always comes up. Hmm, funny that that’s in the field that I am!

But, all this talk of personality got me thinking about my personality as a mother and not as an individual or a worker. MUCH TO MY SURPRISE I answered the questions on this site and found that my mother-style is an ENFP:

Your type is: enfp —The “Kids R Fun” Mother 

“Whatever I enjoy—playing tag or singing in the car—I can do it with kids around. And it’s totally legitimate!”

  • Playful and energetic, the ENFP mother finds her children to be good company and enjoys being with them. In fact, she says being with children justifies her own “being a kid again.” And children say she’s fun to be with — spontaneous, hearty, and imaginative.
  • Naturally drawn to introducing her children to the joys of life, the ENFP is something of a free spirit. She is less concerned with rules, routines, and schedules, and more inclined to give her children plenty of free time to play, explore on their own or with her, and have fun together.
  • Tuned in to her children, the ENFP mother enthusiastically encourages each one’s individuality and unique potential through a great variety of experiences. She is also quick to identify with others’ feelings and thoughts, making her an empathetic supporter of her children, not to mention her mate and many, many friends.

Whoa! I was totally not prepared for that descriptions, however, at least with a 9 month old Potamus, I would have to say it fits me pretty well! Now, because I was curious, I “cheated” and answered the questions in a way that I knew would get me an INFJ answer, which also fit me pretty well, but what I liked about this whole experience was that I was surprised about new parts of myself. I have so long thought of myself as one type and found that perhaps things have changed inside myself or how I relate to being a mother or a teacher and THAT IS OKAY!

So tell me, do you know your type? What is it? How does it inform your parenting, and has it changed over your lifetime?