We all have that picture in our head when our children are born of what they will grow up to be. By the time they reach school age we hope they make it to High School in one piece. With the teen years approaching my oldest two, I just hope they make it to 18, alive, not pregnant and with some sense of right and wrong. If I can get at least that, I have been successful. It's funny how you start out with "your kid is going to discover a cure for cancer: and wind up at, "as long as she doesn't get knocked up I'm happy". That is where I am now. So I sat up last night when I couldn't sleep and came up with a list of things that I hope they learn by the time the venture out into the world.
1. Respect For Yourself And Others.
Respect should start with yourself, especially for girls. Respect and have some self-worth so you don't fall for anything that comes along with a nice line. Respect for others so they in turn will respect you. Treat others with common courtesy because courtesy goes a long way. Say "please" and "thank you". Say "God Bless You" when someone sneezes, even though mom thinks it's funny to tell Dad "to get that Sh*t under control", when he sneezes more than two times in row. Boys, open the door for your mothers, your women, or anyone older than you. Give up your seat for a pregnant lady or an older person. If you leave my house with nothing else, please take this one with you.
2. Don't Lie.
I know this is a hard one. You don't want to get in trouble, I understand that. I try to reward you for taking responsibility for a wrong by not punishing you. Sometimes you still lie anyway. Liars aren't trustworthy people and they aren't respected. If you want people to respect you, don't lie. People will respect your honesty and the fact that you're not afraid to take responsibility for your actions. Being accountable goes a long way in world where not that many people are.
3. Dress Appropriately.
I know sometimes its fun to dress in a not so ladylike way. I've done it. I have the pictures from college to prove it. Doing it every day is another story. Save the skimpy outfits for Halloween. When you go to class dress like student, not a street walker. When you go to work, dress for the job you want not the job you have. If you're working in the mail room dress like an executive and people will notice you. Don't wear wrinkled clothes and make sure you do your laundry regularly.
4. Keep A Clean House.
I look at your rooms today and I think, God help you if you ever have to take care of a house. I really hope you grow out of this phase. I respect your right to keep your room the way you want it but you need to respect that fact that your room is in MY house. That said, you need to learn how to clean a house. The reason I give you chores is not so I don't have to do them. It's so you learn how to do it yourself. Consider it your life homework and not a chore if that makes you feel better but you're still doing it.
5. Be Nice.
I know sometimes it's hard to be nice especially when being mean to someone makes you feel better. Life isn't fair and more often than not, nice doesn't always win the race. People didn't coin the phrase, "nice guys finish last" for no reason. In the end, being the bad guy always comes back to you. I would rather have the good karma I put out into the world come back to me than all the bad. Be nice to your friends, play fair and when you grow up, don't be the boss that everyone hates.
6. Eat Well.
There are times in life when money is tight and you have to eat Ramen for a week until a payday. I know that, I've been there. Eating well and keeping your body healthy regularly will help you lead a long and happy life. Taking a multi-vitamin and getting exercise will help you fight colds, depression, anxiety and stress. Never turn down a good free meal and only offer to pay once. Oh, and remember to always use your silverware from the outside and work your way in.
7. Lose Gracefully.
You guys have a hard time with this one. I've to teach it to you but you're just too competitive. Being competitive is good. It will push you to try your best, to run faster and work harder. I'm going to be honest with you, you're not going to win them all. I know that's a hard pill to swallow but you won't. That's just life. You get up, dust yourself and start all over again. Then when you do win, you can savor the victory and still have friends left to celebrate with you.
8. Learn How To Cook.
Cooking takes discipline, planning and an attention span longer than 2 minutes. It also requires you to finish what you start. You need to realize that Rome wasn't built in a day and that you're not going to walk into the kitchen and whip up a meal that Bobby Flay would be jealous of. You're going to burn a lot of stuff, you're going to forget to put in a few ingredients or add too much. You're going to screw it up, you know how I know that. I did. Yes, the person who you think is the world's greatest cook screwed up more than a meal or two. You will too and that's how you learn.
9. Finish What You Start.
Everyone suffers from this at one time or another but don't be the person that comes up with a million great things to do, starts them and never finishes. Start something, finish it and be proud of yourself. Even if it didn't turn out how you wanted it to, at least you finished it.
10. Don't Follow The Herd.
Sometimes I know it's easier to just go along with everyone, especially in High School and College. There were times when I went along with things I knew were wrong and there were times when I put my foot down and walked away. What I learned from the experiences where I put my foot down and walked away was that your real friends will stay your friends. All the fake people will make fun of you and push you aside. These are not the people you want to hang around with anyway. They may be cool or desirable now but where will they be in 10 years? Soccer moms and dads like the rest of us. Totally uncool. So keep that in mind the next time you're asked to smoke pot, do a keg stand or any of the other things I opted out of in College because I knew they weren't for me.
11. Remember You Have A Family.
Once you get to High School and later College, it's easy to forget that there are people at home that care about you and that love you. You get wrapped up in your own life and you forget all the people that got you there. Your little brothers that thought you were the coolest guy on the planet when you felt like a dork. The little sister who thinks you're the Fashionista in the family even though your school friends make fun of your clothes. When you get out in the world don't forget them. Nourish your relationships with your siblings because one day, mom and dad will be gone and all you will have is each other. Don't alienate yourself to the point that when you need family the most, they avoid you.
12. Help Others.
Every now and again, it's good to get out in the world and help a stranger. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Go out in the world and do something for someone other than yourself. I'm not asking you to save seals or build a school in Belize. All I'm asking is that you, at least once a year, take time to spread the love.
13. Don't Marry Or Be In A Relationship For The Wrong Reasons.
The only reason you should get married is because you want to share your life with that person and that's the only person you could see yourself sharing your life with. It should have nothing to do with attraction, lust, financial stability, a wedding, or because you share a child. You can have a child with someone and not marry them. Some people are incompatible. You shouldn't get married because all your friends have started getting married and you feel like you have to. You shouldn't stay in a relationship because you feel you have to. Or get into one because you don't want to be alone. Learn to survive on your own and enjoy being single. Once you start down the road to marriage and family you will never get those days back.
14. Learn The Difference Between "Want" and "Need".
There are many things in life that I have wanted but I didn't need. Learning to tell the difference between the two will make your life easier and put more money in the bank. A "want" is something that fulfills a desire or a wish. You don't need it to survive. "Needs" are things that you have to have. A roof over your head; 7 days' worth of underwear, pants, shirts, a coat to keep you warm in the winter and food on the table, those are needs. A $100 pair of jeans in a want. Even if you make $200,000 a year, it's still a want. People who make good money, keep their money by not spending it on frivolous items. If you need a car, buy a reliable one. You don't need a Jaguar. You see where I'm going. Learning the difference between wants and needs will serve you well in life.
15. Treat Your Significant Other Well.
This goes for both the boys and the girls. People concentrate too much on boys growing up and treating their girlfriends and wives well. My daughters need to learn to grow up and treat their boyfriends and husbands well also. This goes back to respect. If you respect someone and you love them then as a byproduct you will treat them well. All your actions will respect them, you won't cheat, you won't lie and you won't be abusive. Treat them as you would want to be treated. That said, if they don't treat you well, run for the hills.
16. Never Miss An Opportunity.
There are a lot of things in life I wish I did when I was younger. Most of them I didn't do because I was scared or I didn't know how to go about doing it. I was afraid to ask for help. Never miss an opportunity because of fear. You will regret it later and always wonder what might have been. If you have the opportunity to travel, take it. If a job promotion will have you living in another country, do it. Never say no to an opportunity. You never know where it may lead or how it might change your life.
17. Keep The Faith.
I really don't care what faith you grow to be. I don't care if you're Taoist, Catholic or Baptist. All I ask is that you believe in something higher than you. Without some sort of faith where will you turn when you have no one? Who will be there when you feel most alone? What will give you strength in times of struggle? I won't be there forever to be in your corner. Who is going to have your back when I am gone? I don't care what you believe, just believe in something that gives you strength and fills your spirit with hope.
This is the one thing that if you don't have it, you will never make it in this world. I can't teach it to you. You have to learn it. Every time you get knocked down and you get back up, you learn it. When you struggle to learn something and keep failing until that one day you finally pass, you learn it. I can't do it for you. You have to struggle and fail all on your own. But every time you fail, your family and your friends will still be cheering for you. We still have your back and we will be there to celebrate when you finally pull it off. You'll have to fail multiple times to learn this one, I'm sorry in advance but deems the breaks kid.
Please take these things out into the world with you when you go and don't let the door hit you on the way out. : )
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