Make good choices

By Jennifer M. Latzke

The new school supplies have been purchased. The tags are snipped off the new jeans and the new tennis shoes. The special backpacks are packed and the day is finally here that many of you have been looking forward to since Memorial Day.

School is back in session.

As your friendly auntie, let me offer up some advice for those of you heading to the bus stop this month.

• Be nice to the kids it’s especially difficult to be nice to. Maybe they’re the crabby kid, or the smelly kid, or the slow kid, or whatever label you give them. The point is you don’t know when a small gesture of kindness is actually a big thing in that person’s world.

I was in my 20s and ran into a classmate from school who had been one of those difficult kids. He had since made something of himself and was no longer the challenging meanie I thought he was when we were younger. He told me that while my smile in the hallway between classes was a tiny gesture, it meant a lot to him.

Be that person who crosses the clique boundaries and makes friends.

• Share. Share your crayons. Take turns on the playground. Participate in group projects as much as the rest of your group members. Be the kid who pulls his or her own weight and you’ll grow up to be an adult others can rely upon.

But feel free to hoard pudding cups. Those things are magic.

• Put forth your very best effort. Try, even if you think it’s hopeless to try. Even if you fail, you can still walk away with a lesson and motivation to try again.

I am the least athletic person on the planet, but I tried out for cheerleading and made the freshman squad. It was a complete whim, but being a part of that group of girls taught me a lot about myself, and it expanded my athleticism. It pulled me out of my shell.

• Gym class is not fun, but it’s important to develop a healthy body as much as a healthy mind. So, participate to the best of your abilities and find an activity away from your screen and doing something other than Fortnite.

But do us all a favor, shower and use deodorant when you’re done. Axe Body Spray is not a substitute, no matter how clever the commercials seem.

• Know when the joke has gone too far, and don’t hit that point. There is a line between just kidding around and playful banter, and outright awful behavior. Know that line and toe that line.

I like a joke. But a joke at an innocent person’s expense is no longer a joke. It’s bullying. I played pranks on my friends, but I never wantonly destroyed property or crossed into criminal behavior.

Ask yourself this: Am I making a choice that would make my family proud? Or am I disappointing them?

• Do the assigned reading. Do your homework. Sit up and pay attention in class. If you don’t, you’re only hurting yourself. If you’re struggling, ask the teacher for help. If you don’t get a response there, then go to another teacher or a trusted adult.

If you don’t put forth the effort, the only person you’re hurting in the end is yourself.

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Finally—and I want you to pay very close attention to this—if you get confused about what’s the right thing to do, or you feel like you aren’t loved or worthy, promise me you’ll find a trusted adult and talk to him or her about those feelings.

Because, my dears, you are loved. Loved with all of your perfect imperfections. Loved even when you’re difficult. Loved even when you don’t try. Loved even when you maybe don’t feel loveable.

You have a brand new year ahead of you. You can choose to make it better. This is all in your hands. I believe you can make good choices.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].