Wise Words: Don’t eat anything bigger than your head

Even in a lightning fast digital world, the tradition of passing down wisdom from older to younger is just as important as ever. Which is why we’ve spent the last several months dreaming about the answer to the question: What advice do you wish you could give to your 10-year-old self?

You’re reading the first in a series of four short personal stories (here’s the second and third), each inspired by a page in our new book, Wise Words For Kids.

Don’t eat anything bigger than your head.

That’s my family’s diet rule. I remember it recited like poetry before Thanksgiving spreads, Christmas dinners, and general gatherings around food with aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins: the whole fam-damly.

Further wisdom from my extended family includes:

  • Listen to the little voice in your head.
  • You have to go so you can get back.
  • Eat now so you’ll be hungry later.


Throughout my childhood, it was common to get together over big meals, for gaming tournaments (yup… my family was a close-knit bunch of nerds), or just to pop down to the local German pub for a pint. Seemed like every vacation I got from school was spent at my grandparents’ place in Indiana, usually with my grandfather outside grilling something exaggeratedly large.

The world’s gotten a heck of a lot faster in the decades since I was a kid. In some ways, it’s gotten smaller – it’s significantly easier to get around than it used to be – but that also means it’s much more common for people to live far away from those they love.

Sure, it’s easier than ever to get in touch these days – but digital contact just doesn’t have the same weight. When’s the last time you went back to re-read an old, beloved text message? Have you ever printed out a Whatsapp and stuck it on your fridge?


When I was in college, in the years just prior to the widespread advent of smartphones, I sent out physical mail almost daily. I even had a little box where I kept cuttings from magazines, weird stickers that I’d found here and there, dried leaves from around campus, and further mail-able knickknacks.

As an adult person, I live in Barcelona, and my parents are an ocean away. I think the last time I sent a snail-mail letter, it was because I needed to file for overseas voter registration.

And it’s not just me. In 1987, the average US household received a personal letter once every two weeks. In 2016, that’s dropped to once every two MONTHS.

If I have kids (I know. I know. I’m 29, it’s impossible for me not to think about the big family question), what kind of relationship are they going to have with their grandparents? How are we going to generate connections and memories that won’t float away into the digital ether?


These are the questions on my mind as of late. Along with everyone else at The Book of Everyone, I’ve been pouring hours (and heart, and soul) into Wise Words For Kids, our newest book, and the first specifically focused on the relationship between kids and the adults in their lives that have hard-earned wisdom to offer. I’ve pestered people who have already bought our books, plus my own friends, family, and just about anyone else who would listen: what do you wish someone had told you when you were ten years old?

And everyone has an answer, from “Just be yourself” to “Who cares if your socks don’t match?” The question that remains, then, is how we’re going to pass on what we know to young people in a world that doesn’t look like it’s about to slow down anytime soon.


  1. Steven Hanson Reply

    Love this blog piece, well written and heartfelt. Nice work Janel. Did you every eat something bigger than your own head?

    • Are we talking circumference or volume? If the former, I’ve definitely devoured an entire pizza. With pineapple. I’m one of those people.

  2. I could totally identify with you Janel! The blog took me down the member lane 🙂

    I used to do the same stuff; save magazine cuttings, hand made greeting cards alongside my ‘diary’ in a secret little drawer in my almirah.

    I doubt if we would ever go back to writing the same way. May be we should start printing a wise words book every month and give a set of 12 to our (future) kids as their yearly wisdom bonus! What say you?

    P.S. I don’t print my what’s app messages but do take a screen shot of the memorable ones and then save them in the secret folder on my computer!

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