“Be Yourself” and Other Life Lessons from The Story of Ferdinand

As much as I love reading to my kids, they love being read to much more. I read to them almost every night. They can't get enough of it. (I've read Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? countless times.)

There are a lot of benefits in doing this. One, you get to spend time with your kid and create memories. Two, you get to promote literacy and a love of literature.

Quite honestly, one of the best parts about this is reading books that teach life lessons to them. Hands down, one of my favorite books for this is The Story of Ferdinand.

This story that teaches kids (and even adults too) that being yourself is deeply valuable in a way that I've never seen before. My wife and I absolutely love this book. It even inspired the title of Fall Out Boy's album From Under the Cork Tree.

Here are some lessons I continually teach my kids when we read The Story of Ferdinand:

Be Yourself

Ferdinand is no ordinary bull. His favorite thing to do is sit under his favorite cork tree and smell flowers. That's what he does. When you feel pressure from society, be like Ferdinand.

This book teaches my kids to learn the value of being themselves. My four year old son carries around his toy baby because he wants to be like his parents. What he sees me do with his little brother he replicates with his toy baby. It's a total compliment. Just because he's a boy doesn't mean that he can't play with dolls. He just wants to be like mom and dad.

You Don't Always Have To Fit In

Ferdinand is the biggest and strongest bull in Spain. The banderilleros (type of bullfighters) want him to fight like all the other bulls, but he has no interest in that. Even though he has the physical makeup to be the best bull in bullfighting, he would rather just sit under the cork tree and smell flowers.

Along with being themselves, I want my kids to understand that they don't have to be like everyone else. My kids are of mixed race and that's one factor that will make them stand out, and that's perfectly okay. They will also have their unique personalities, interests, and skills, which is awesome. 

Don't Always Try to Change Others

As much as the banderilleros try to change peaceful Ferdinand into a fierce and fearsome fighting bull, they fail to.

My kids need to learn to accept other people for who they are. They may be able to be a positive influence on others, but they can't necessarily change them. Other people have their own minds and make their own decisions. Ultimately, they are in charge of their own lives whether they realize it or not.

Find Happiness in the Simple Things

Ferdinand doesn't need to be rich with a mansion or fancy cars to be happy (he's a bull after all). Simple smelling flowers under the cork tree makes him the happiest.

I'm a big believer that the happiest people in the world find happiness in the simple things. For me, it's as simple as spending time with my family, going for a walk, reading a good book, or savoring a hot cup of coffee in the morning. As a parent, I want my kids to grow up to be happy (along with healthy and successful). I want them to be able to find happiness in simple things, not luxurious material possessions, even if they just want to relax under a cork tree and smell some flowers. 

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