This morning, like many, I woke thinking about the many nuggets of wisdom I still need to share with my kids. I find that if I’m not consciously thinking about this, I can look up and a whole year will have passed before I remember something I should have taught them a long time ago. It’s usually the little, sometimes silly, things like how to put on socks properly so that the grey area around the toe is in front, or how to floss properly (teeth, not the dance). But sometimes, it’s the bigger stuff like what to do if a stranger knows their names or why they should be cautious of some police.
The “heavy” stuff makes me procrastinate–I want to delay sharing anything that could lead to bursting their bubble of nonstop joy. When I first started teaching my youngest our phone number, for example, I created a song out of it to make it easier to remember (I do know how to do some things right). It led to more questions. “Mommy, why do I need to know your phone number when you’re always with me and when you’re not, I’m with an adult you trust?” he asked. Then, he continued, “Will I ever be separated from you?” The fun song shifted to five-year old, eyebrow-frowning concern. He continued, “Is someone going to take me away from you?” Bam! Joy bubble bursts. A little bit of his innocence melts away. My heart saddens as I’m literally watching my baby mature.
But I do feel horrible when I’ve overlooked something important to teach them. Fortunately, I inevitably get reminded when I hear another mom tell her kids something. It goes like this: my neighbor tells her kid not to stand in front of the microwave. I make a mental note: talk to my kids about why they shouldn’t stand in front of the microwave. Then I make another mental note: get rid of the microwave because, well, it’s just not the healthiest way to heat things up. Then all the mental notes get shelved and I wonder, isn’t the microwave thing just a myth? Final note: research microwave safety before I teach my kids something that’s simply not true.
Not only do I often forget to share important tidbits with my children and I am perplexed by the notion of what, when and how much to share, I wonder, is what I’m teaching them even true? And, if it is true for me, will it be true for them too? Am I telling them what something should be instead of allowing them to define it, or learn it, for themselves? Will my “truths” be theirs? Am I totally messing all of this up?
This Mommy-ing thing is exhausting and the truth is, being a parent is a weird dichotomy–protect and teach children and yet let them fail and learn on their own. Um, which is it?
Until I figure that out concretely, I’m going to keep focusing on protecting and teaching as best I can. I’m sure to overlook something and that will be their opportunity to fail or learn on their own. So, here are my latest nuggets of wisdom to share with my kids:
- You are not perfect which is why you are enough: That thing that you don’t like about yourself is possibly one of the things that makes you very special. In time, if you learn to love that thing, it will help create a source of pride and give you a certain self-confidence that isn’t easy to harness. Being different is good and this notion of wanting something you don’t already have, getting something that’s “better,” is baloney. “Better” is a mental construct that can lead us down wrong paths and everything but our best selves.
- Set boundaries: Be cautious of people who don’t have any boundaries, who don’t know the line in the sand around friendship, around love, around communication, around using technology, around how to dress and more. Boundaries are needed, from an early age in life, and that doesn’t stop as you age. To that point, if someone crosses a boundary, accept that this is a character trait that will create challenges. Understand what that might mean and make decisions with that knowledge.
- Find your calm: Nature has a way of soothing and resetting things for me in a way that can’t be properly articulated or replicated. It is the way I reconnect with my faith and gain perspective—there’s nothing like looking up to the vast sky and being reminded of just how small and insignificant things are in the grand scheme of things. Figure out what brings you calm and helps re-center your perspective because life will do everything to distract you.
- Learn about yourself and be honest with yourself about what you learn: Do you get easily addicted to things? Do you have a great sense of direction? Are your instincts strong about certain things? Do people gravitate towards you for any reason? If you figure these things out about yourself, own them and use them to serve you better throughout life. These nuances of who you are, make you who you are and it is a gift to know and accept these things so that you can use them wisely.
- Communicating well is underrated: Communication is an anchor in life and yet few people consciously examine their own communication habits, styles, preferences, etc. We almost take it for granted and grow up assuming that everyone knows how to communicate, more or less. But that more or less is everything and not everyone can communicate effectively. Don’t be that person that assumes you’re being clear, or listening and responding appropriately–be self-aware about your communication style and to the previous point, own it.