Author and astrophysicist Carl Sagan wrote, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister, simplified what we really need to know in his successful 1988 book, ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things.
The book grew out of Fulghum’s speech at a primary school celebration where Senator Dan Evans happened to be in the audience. Evans was so moved by the basic truths in the speech that it was eventually read into the Congressional Record. Major newspapers picked it up, and the rest was history.
Fulghum’s basic premise is that the wise rules needed to develop successful children and adults (and politicians, too, obviously) are found not in hallowed halls…but in sandboxes and on the playgrounds of life. Here are a few of Fulghum’s short, simple and honest rules: Clean up your own mess…Don’t take things that aren’t yours…Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody…Wash your hands before you eat…Flush.
I bought Fulghum’s book for you when it first came out, Mom. As a former kindergarten teacher, you applauded the basic life truths, and you told me stories from the classroom, from teaching Sunday school and substituting in elementary classrooms…and also funny (and sometimes embarrassing) stories from when David and I were children.
That was many years ago. Now, as you lie in your bed after hip surgery, you don’t remember your stories or the successes you had raising your own children and helping other children. But I remember many of the stories, which is why I write this blog, so your great-grandchildren (and others) will know some of the many good things you did that made a difference.
It’s October now, Mom, and I remember one of your basic rules from this time of year: When someone has raked a pile of leaves and you jump in it, afterwards be sure you rake it up again. (Remember how we used to burn our piles of leaves–with you and Dad supervising, of course– and how wonderful the scent was on chilly autumn evenings?)
Here are some of your other “Basic Wisdom” rules I remember: Eat an apple—or at least some slices—every day… When someone says mean things to you, the best way to get over it is to say nice things to someone else… When you borrow something, return it in better condition than it was… It’s better to take birthday treats for the whole class than to have a full birthday party and invite only some of the class but leave out others.
Mom, thanks to you and Robert Fulghum for teaching us the basic rules that everyone should follow to make the world a better place.
Maybe our blog friends will share some basic rules they learned!
58 responses to “ALL WE REALLY NEED TO KNOW”
Oh Marylin, I love this post! Fulghum’s book is such a treasure, obviously never read by some of our current politicians. 🙂 Your mother’s “Basic Wisdom” rules reveal her kind and loving heart. One of my mother’s many words of wisdom was, “never take offense when someone is rude to you because you never know what trials they’re experiencing.” Praying for your mom’s hip to continue to heal. xo
Jill, your mother’s advice about not taking offense because you never know what trial someone else is experiencing is excellent, a more mature approach than my mother’s advice when I was young. It was easy for me to remember to just turn away and then later say something nice to someone else so I’d forget what was said to me. But yours is more advanced, and good advice for the rudeness we encounter today; maybe it isn’t personal, but just something the other person is struggling with at the moment.
Thanks for your prayers for my mom, Jill.
One of my most favourite books – and passed on to younger generations! I hope you mother recovers well from her hip op (not that she’ll be doing hiphop!) without any pain.Blessings
I agree, Catterel. I still pick up this book and read a chapter for smiles and inspiration, and I also like Fulghum’s FROM BEGINNING TO END: The Rituals of Our Lives.
But if I were going to read things for fun and inspiration, hands down I would recommend your blog about decorating “the bag.” It’s an amazing, honest and touching post, and very well done.
Blog friends, “Happy Birthday, Winnie” is a must-read. Go to
Yup. A good set of rules to live by.
Thanks, Julia. It certainly is.
Thanks for introducing me to Robert Fulghum – he and your mom have some great rules! While Oklahoma doesn’t lend itself to piles of colorful oak and maple leaves the way my native Michigan does, I still go out of my way to enjoy the crunch of stepping on fallen leaves that have congregated on steps and other surfaces. And speaking of crunch, I’m off to get my daily apple – I picked up a new (to me) variety today to try – it’s called ‘Jazz.’
Oh, I think you’ll really like the Jazz apple, Shel. Our grocery store had samples–plain or dipped in caramel as an October treat–which was a smart ploy as everyone who tried the crisp apples then bought some.
I really like your common sense approach on your blog, especially the wise ways to avoid or diffuse fights. Well done!
Thanks, Marylin! And you were right about the Jazz apple – loved it! Crisp and not too sweet.
I wish your Mum was able to read this blog Marylin. Not only would it remind her of her time in the classroom and the lessons she taught and helped others learn but she’d glow whilst telling you how incredibly proud of you she is. Of course she might be a little embarrassed at being the subject of such warm posts but she’d feel the fantastic love you have for her whenever you write.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
David, thank you for such kind words. I hope she does still feel the love I have for her when I write…and always. Huge Hugs back to you!
Absolutely, we learn everything we need to know in kindergarten! I still remember the action song we sang before our hand-washing time “If my hands are dirty, what should I do? I will wash them very clean and show them both to you.” And, my mother, who was the kindergarten(pre-school) teacher would always cut up the apples for the little ones who couldn’t manage a whole apple on their own. Jazz apples are gorgeous and very popular in New Zealand. Finally, I can’t believe we both mentioned Carl Sagan in our latest posts!
Great minds think alike, right? Plus the Sagan quote is one of my favorites.
I love the hand-washing song! Now, if we could just share some Jazz apple slices and share stories of our mothers, we’d be set!
Indeed we would. And paint happy bird houses too!
I remember when the book came out, Marylin, however I never read it though. Solid basic rules! Always reach out with an open outstretched hand, and always share your last dime because another might need it even more than you , my dad would often say..
I love what your dad said about sharing your last dime, Francina. He was a wise man who raised a generous daughter. Thanks for your comments.
The advice we had from our parents when we were children was ‘never go to sleep on an argument’ and also to ‘look for the funny side.’ This last one works in all but the most tragic of circumstances – I can remember Dad saying, when faced with minor disasters, that we’d be laughing about this in the morning. Generally, he’d be right.
Oh, yes, Jenny–look on the funny side! And you do; I love some of the surprising and humorous things you write about in your posts. You brighten my day!
I love the pictures! Especially the one of you and your brother.
And I bought the same book for my mother…. What a lovely post. Enjoy the autumn leaves (Ken remarked while we were walking the other day that he, too, misses the smell of leaves burning.)
My brother would say I was annoying even then, but it’s one of my favorite pictures of us. Ken and I probably both were say when towns made it illegal to burn leaves. When they did it in Fort Scott and there were no more whiffs of burning leaves on chilly evenings, I really missed it, even though it was safer and cleaner without burning leaves.
It’s true about the learning that happens in the play yard. My nephew (who is not a 48 year old minister) was especially hard to potty train. If he was having fun he didn’t want to stop. One day the little girl next door told him that he stunk and he never ever went in his pants again. She accomplished something his mother couldn’t.
Oh, Kate, that’s the cutest story! Since he’s a minister, maybe you should suggest he turn this into a sermon of some kind. It’s always good for the congregation to see the little-boy, personal-lessons side of their minister, plus the little girl actually helped him.
That’s lovely post, Marylin! Your post reminded me some of my mother’s “basic wisdom” rules.
This post has shown me how many of us were given very similar advice from our mothers, Amy! I’m loving this, and it feels like I’m getting to know you better. Thanks to all our moms!
My mother had so many rules, I think I matured a little fast… I definitely have learned a lot about mother and daughter from your blog. Thank you so much, Marylin!
You’re very welcome, Amy.
Your comments give me a new perspective about my stories with my mother, and I’m glad if they help you.
I love this post Marylin and I wish your Mum a speedy recovery with her hip. Such simplicity in these wise words and I think of all the lives your Mum’s loving touch enhanced. The photograph of you and your brother is very special, as is the little ones captured playing their musical instruments. Your posts evoke such lovely memories for us all. Thank you. Xxx
I’m glad you enjoyed them, Jane, because they brought back wonderful memories for me, too. Sometimes we forget the strength in little gems of wisdom, and it’s a good nudge to remember them.
Your mother’s wise guidance sounds much like it came from my mother’s lips. I am familiar with Fulghum’s book. Wonderful! Thanks again for sharing.
Oh, I know, Diana. As I mentioned on Amy’s comment, too, I can’t believe how similar all our mothers were with some of these lessons. I like it!
That picture of your mother’s class is from the one time I visited your mother’s kindergarten class. I did not attend kindergarten in our town and did not have the advantage of K-experience. It was picture day, so I was included even though I wasn’t part of the actual class. I’m the second from the left edge, front row. I have the distinct memory of a somewhat heated argument with a little boy who insisted that the teacher’s name was Mrs. Shepherd. I KNEW her name was Aunt Mary! She intervened in her gentle manner and explained that she had a different name at school.
When we had our Girl Cousins reunion last month, this story came up, but it was a fast-paced time, and we did not get around to looking up the picture I have. Imagine my surprise to find this very familiar photograph from 60-some years ago on your blog this week.
Your cousin, Beth
Beth, this is wonderful! Thank you for sharing this. I can still imagine you arguing with the little boy, saying that my mother’s name was Aunt Mary and NOT Mrs. Shepherd. When I posted this picture, I had no idea that this was the one taken when you visited my mom’s class. I never would have identified you as the little girl next to the end on the front row, so I’m very glad you pointed it out! Thanks, Beth. Marylin
That kindergarten class was blessed to have your mother as the teacher. I would add “Take a nap” to the list. Did you have nap time or quiet time in Kindergarten? We’d each have a towel or blanket. And that was when K was only half day. Here’s one my mom would tell us: If you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all.
My mother and dad BOTH said, again and again, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Too bad that doesn’t seem to be the guidance given to all children today. “Take a nap every afternoon” is one of Fulghum’s in ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN, too. Kind of makes me wonder if things in Washington, D.C. would improve if everyone had to stop fighting and take a nap…alone…
Ha! Now that would be nice!
Hi Marylin, Wonderful post. Many blessings, Ellen
Thank you, Ellen.
Wonderful common sense rules from Robert Fulghum and your Mom, Marilyn. The best advice I got when I was young was the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have to unto you.(Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.) Simple. It’s too bad that some view it as ‘I got mine. Get your own.’ 🙂
I’m sometimes surprised at how we’ve taken the simplest, wisest statements and twist them around. And then it’s reflected in the music and attitudes of the next generation, Judy. I think that’s why I keep reading and smiling at Fulghum’s books, including his FROM BEGINNING TO END; The Rituals of Our Lives.
Great post – I feel like Winnie the Pooh – think think think, and can’t think of anything worth adding. Maybe ‘if you have nothing worth saying just keep quiet would be good advice’ 🙂
Oh, Rod, I was told that more times than I care to admit! But still I chattered on as a kid, trying to keep things moving.
Marylin, I shared this on my Facebook page. Lovely words! xo Joanne
Thank you, Joanne. I appreciate that.
At a time of huge reflection for me, I had been thinking about how much of life’s values had been taught to me by the age of about 12. Those subtle little messages from my grandmother, my mother, father, some of my teachers and also simply by life itself. I think to myself now, if only I had known all along (as I travelled through life) that those guidelines were within me from the beginning and I did not have to look anywhere else.
That is an amazing insight, Elizabeth. Like, you, I have moments when the “answer” comes to me suddenly, and later I recognize it as something my mom, dad, grandmother, or a teacher had said…I’d known it for a long time. Maybe we recall when we need it?
I think that is correct. And it is great that it brings back memories of those people in our past.
Ah, rules. I like the golden rule, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Hope your mom’s hip continues to heal nicely, Marylin. 🙂
There’s a reason that Rule is Golden, Tracy. It was one of my dad’s favorites, a the basic philosophy of how he ran his businesses…and his life.
I loved how you tied Fulghum’s book to your mom’s profession. So well done. What a treasure this blog is.
Thank you, L. Marie. He was a Unitarian Minister; she was a Kindergarten teacher. They both knew the basic rules of children and faith, and together the rules made a terrific blueprint.
I love the blog this week……….it is very fitting that EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW WE LEARN IN KINDERGARTEN and that Grandma taught Kindergarten…..hence why I feel that the most important things I needed to learn – I learned from Grandma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, let’s rethink that…just a bit, Mookie. I taught high schoolers, who actually were just a couple of steps removed from kindergarten most of the time, and the same truths would have kept them out of a lot of trouble if they’d just followed them. HENCE…why I feel the most important thing you needed to learn, you also learned from your high school teaching parents!!!
Ohhhhhhhhhh MOMMA!!! This is blog TO GRANDMA, for her Great Grand Children to read…….we are painting a wonderful picture of Grandma here…………….Of course you know that A LOT of what I learned, I learned from you and Dad, and Abra, Solomon, Paige, Chelsea, Calla….and Grandma and Grandpa and Oma…..it really does take a village!!!
And what a busy, funny, loving village it’s taken to raise you! And yes, Grandma is a wonderful, very important part of that village!
Hi, Marylin–just wanted to let you know that the pumpkin party is open today. Thanks for sharing your mom’s recipe with us! http://tracyleekarner.com/2013/10/18/its-october-join-our-pumpkin-party/
You’re very welcome, Tracy. It’s one of my favorite cold-weather dishes!
You did a great job on this, Marylin! I had written my little grandkids’ little “rules of etiquette” that were random thoughts taken over the whole weekend. I think I posted it on Oct. 15th or so,…I promise it was in my head all weekend from Oct. 13th on, isn’t that weird? Great minds think alike!
Absolutely! I read your post, and it was wonderful how “on the same page” we were together. Your post covered two of mine, actually, this one and also “Yelling At Trees,” but yours dealt more specifically with texting and taking/making cell phone calls. So much of what parents do makes a big difference…for better or worse.