Dear Bowie • Here’s the deal. I’d originally planned to give your parents some advice when I sat down to write this column. Although you’re my sixth (count ’em!) grandchild, you are your father and mother’s first baby, and I figured they could use some pointers when it comes to taking care of a newborn.
But after watching them in action this weekend, I thought better of it. They’re smart — a lot smarter than your grandfather and I were, frankly — and they’re figuring it out on their own without any help from me. If they want my advice, I’ll let them ask for it.
You, though, you’re another story, Little Man. I’m full of advice for you as you begin your life’s journey, so buckle up, because here goes!
- Sure, life can be scary … but don’t let that stop you from living. When I was growing up, parents put their kids out with the dog first thing in the morning, then called everybody (including the dog) home at the end of the day for dinner. Parenting like that nowadays would land you in jail. We’re all about SAFETY FIRST as a society and while that’s not a bad thing, I worry that one of the subliminal messages we’re sending our kids is that (see above) life is really, really, really scary, so everybody should just wrap themselves up in cotton batting and stay inside. What I’m saying here is don’t be afraid to get out and try new things, Bowie. I promise it’ll be worth it.
- Speaking of getting out … spend as much time outdoors as humanly possible. In her book “The Nature Fix,” author Florence Williams argues that being outside makes us “happier, healthier, and more creative,” and she presents the scientific research to back it up. You won’t need her book, however, to tell you that hearing the flow of a river or noticing the morning sun on your neck or seeing the moon rise over a mountain or smelling sage after it rains will always make you feel better.
- Make sure your parents read to you. Knowing your parents, you won’t have to beg them to read you a story. When your grandfather and I were with your family last weekend, your dad was already reading you “The Little Prince.” In French, mon dieu! Still, there will be days when your parents are too tired to read to you. Adulting is hard work, don’t you know! So put a book in their hands and insist anyway. Meanwhile, when you learn how to read for yourself, return the favor and read to them, even when you’re tired.
- Hang out with people in real time. May I just say how glad I am your dad was pretty much all grown up before social media became a thing? (He wanted a pager when he was in high school. I told him only doctors and drug dealers had pagers. How quaint is that?) Anyway, your parents will be required to monitor your online activity in a way I didn’t have to with my own kids. You can help out your parents (and yourself) by spending time in the actual presence of others, which will have the added advantage of giving your emotional intelligence a real boost.
- Say thank you. A lot. Get into the habit early of expressing gratitude for all the big and little things other people do for you. Saying “thank you” shows you have good manners. And manners are important. They’re the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down when it comes to interacting with your fellow human beings. But more importantly, people who feel gratitude — really feel it in the marrow of the bones — are happier than people who don’t, even when things get tough. And because I already love everything about you from your fleecy hair to your big eyes to your tiny toes, I want you to be happy. So very happy.
Welcome to the world, Bowie.
P.S. I was also gonna tell you to make your parents get you a dog because — SURPRISE! — I think everyone needs a dog. But they already have one. Lucky you.
Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at email@example.com.