Pride and Positivity
Several years ago I was working a welcome day table at the college I was working at. This is the type of table where during the first few days of school, volunteers are there to answer questions, direct students, sometimes there are computers so people can look at their schedules to find their classes. You answer a lot of questions about how to get a parking permit.
One afternoon a woman came by and asked a question, after she got her answer we started conversing. During the conversation she started telling me about something her daughter had achieved, a scholarship or award, she kept talking about how proud she was and suddenly stopped and apologized for being rude by bragging about her child. I told her I didn’t believe it was ever rude to brag about your child’s achievements, unless it was done to purposefully make someone else feel bad. I really disagree with this idea in our society that you’re a jerk if you talk about your or your friend’s or families successes. If it’s done to show how proud you are and not to make someone else feel bad I think it’s great.
And tonight I’m going to brag about my oldest niece, I call her The Night Ninja. If you know me well, you know I often give people nicknames, some of them have stuck to people for decades, right Bubbles? My niece got this moniker while I was staying with my sister’s family a couple of years ago. My niece is a night person, she doesn’t sleep much and stays up way too late watching Youtube videos. One morning while I was staying at the house everyone woke up with little sweet notes on their pillows next to their heads. I know, aaaaahhhhh, that’s the first reaction, how sweet. The second thought that hits you a couple of minutes later is wait, she slipped into every bedroom, put a note next to people’s heads and slipped out without waking anyone up. That’s when I realized my niece was a Ninja, and thus The Night Ninja was born. She love/hates the name in only the way someone can with a name that they don’t particularly like, but is still a term of endearment from a loved one. And let there be no doubt, I absolutely love my oldest niece.
My oldest niece has not had it easy. She is, as they say, on the spectrum. This is a way to say that my niece has autistic tendencies but isn’t autistic. She’s never been categorized. She’s been tested genetically and other ways many times. Every time they are sure she fits this or that diagnosis, but if there are four markers she has three, if there are three she has two. Quite simply my niece defies categorization, well to everyone else, I know, she’s a Night Ninja and Night Ninja’s defy definition and categorization.
My niece is a lucky girl, she has two extremely loving and supportive parents. She’s also lucky that one of them, my sister, is a teacher. So she knows the education system, how to fight for an Individualized Education Plan, how to beat the system, who to go to in order to get my niece the services she needs. It was this support and knowledge that got my niece into the vocational education program for her last two years of high school. However, growing up different is tough, I know, I was different. If you felt, not occasionally odd, but truly alien as a child you know what I’m talking about. When she was young, this difference frustrated with her, she would get angry sometimes but more often would shutdown. She would get quiet and withdrawn and that further led to her feeling isolated. At any family gathering, you can count on at some point, that The Night Ninja will slip off to her bedroom alone. I get it, I used to do the exact same thing as a kid.
So the other night I had to work late, I finally got a big project done and got around to checking my messages. There was one from my sister, it was a video that looked like a graduation video, she’d indicated some time stamps on the video. I fired up the video and went to the first time stamp, it was a teacher talking about a student, who had been shy and withdrawn but after her first work experience, had come out of her shell. She was gregarious and interactive, this only expanded after her second work experience and for that reason she was being awarded the most improved student. Yup, that award was for The Night Ninja, I was beaming with pride. I saw the other time stamps and expected they would be the standard student bios or short videos. The next was about The Night Ninja’s best friend, a really sweet kid I’d gotten to know a little bit. The third time stamp was another teacher talking about the highest award they give each year, their fellowship award. This is an award that is given to the student who does the most to bring the class together, who shows kindness and compassion at a high level and it was given to my niece. I’ve never been so damn proud, I was hooting and hollering and I messaged my sister to have my niece call me. It was 10PM Eastern Time, but she’s a Night Ninja, I knew she’d be awake. I was exuberant with the praise I gave her and she was quiet. Her new found confidence hasn’t quite extended to accepting praise but she’ll get there.
I’ve been flying since this happened, I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished. There’s a huge lesson here my friends. We have to remember to praise the people we love, make them know how proud of them that we are. Especially with kids, you have to attend their games, plays, read their poems and listen to their stories. You have to show them that what they do is something to be proud of. Please understand how incredibly important this is to them.
And this doesn’t stop when people get older. That friend who’s juggling ten things and pulling it off, the person who makes it all look so easy, they need your praise as well. We often find time to praise those who are struggling, we also need to praise those who are pulling it off. Sometimes success and achievement can also be a very lonely place. Showing someone else that you’re proud of what they have accomplished will help them have a happy day. It is my sincere hope that this post has helped The Night Ninja, my oldest niece and my big ball of love, have a happy day. And this last bit will make no sense to anyone but her, but more than anything else I want her to remember, I’m Batman. Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane