Tell them what you like about them

Last weekend in New York City, I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing two of my best friends from Kindergarten.

These women, now 40, are like home to me.  Although we did not interact between third grade and now, the level of comfort I felt being with them exceeded my expectations.

{Pretend I have inserted a photo of myself hugging each of them right here.}

We were bonded for life by a unique, small school experience in early childhood. Our elementary “school” consisted of thirty children, divided into three groups, doing hands-on multidisciplinary learning all day. If you are into labels for education styles, like Montessori or something, I can’t help you identify it.  This was in Santa Monica, CA in the late 70s.

You maybe guessed that from Sammy’s boldly printed romper.

Our school’s physical space was a residential house. What we called The Big Room was someone’s living room in the building’s past life. We did most of our learning on the floor.

Each year, before the school year came to a close, our teachers led us in a written exercise in which each child had his or her name written at the top of a piece of paper. The papers were placed on tables around The Big Room. The entire student body (all 30 of us!) circulated through the room, sitting down to write something nice about each of our classmates on their papers. The sentence we were asked to complete started with “I like the way you…”

Later that week, we each had the experience of sitting on stage (really the back deck of the house) and having our positive sentiments read aloud in front of our peers and parents. This is me, hearing the words of my friends read by my teacher, Joel.

It felt good not just to hear what others had written about us, but to hear our feelings read aloud to our peers.

Sammy, I like the way you give people a hug when they are crying.

Jessica, I like the way you dance.

Jon, I like the way you use adjectives in your stories.

This powerful ritual has always stayed with me as a favorite memory of childhood.

Jessica has her turn in the chair.

I want Joel to know that I have not forgotten any of these things; that we, his earliest alumnae, are all better people because of the education that we received as young children at his school. We are better people because were taught to tell our friends what we like about them.

Seeing Sammy and Jessica this weekend confirmed that for me. We were unafraid to tell one another how special we are to each other, because we had been given the opportunity to practice.


This reflection on what I would like tell someone from my past was sponsored by Hallmark, because they have a Facebook app dedicated to encouraging us to “tell them“! This series has been appearing monthly on Rookie Moms, and will continue through the end of the year.