How do you instill values and knowledge in your children?

Feb 16, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Listen to Your Mothers is a space to come together with the ones who understand the maternal struggle and joy best -- in the hopes of turning the motherhood into one, strong sisterhood. In this installment of Listen to Your Mothers, Geralyn Broder Murray takes a step back from trying so hard to instill all the important things in her children -- only to find out that a lot of it's in there already.

mom talking to toddler

Wake-up Call

Normally it's Finn that wakes up first in the morning, padding down our hallway, his feet moving so fast toward our room you can barely hear them touch the floor. But this morning it was Reese that emerged first: slow, heavier steps, her freckled nose peeking around the door into our dimly lit room, bracing herself for the reality of being awake.

I always wonder about this with our kids -- they never seem to want to be awake. Why not just go back to sleep then, instead of this bleary-eyed forced march routine they fall into around 6 a.m.? I'm hungry, I'm tired, I need to go potty, can we watch a video? Their words all run together in a sleepy rant mumbled into my chest as they burrow under our sheets and onto me, reluctant victims of awakeness, I suppose.

"Well, actually," I say, "I was just about to check Facebook and then maybe do some work, maybe even just stare into space for a few minutes before I got in the shower, considering it's still dark outside."

Listen to your mother

Okay, I don't actually say that. Maybe in a dark part of my soul somewhere, I do. But in the real world of our dog and kid-filled bedroom -- once one is up, everyone is -- I am instead whipping around in a frenzy, rustling up Cheerios and encouraging everyone to get in a brighter happier mood. I am room service and Mary Poppins all rolled into one, collecting the day's clothing and getting the toothbrushes pasted and ready, because if I don't take the high road, we're all going to crash.

Or so I think, at least.

Mommy Mania?

I have to be honest with you, my dear new friends, of all the things motherhood has made me -- more tired, more compassionate, less patient, certainly more round -- a bit manic might be the most defining contribution. And I think that my mania, for lack of a better and more accurate word, is fueled by the distinct feeling that there is so very much to do. If I do not do every last thing on the good mother list that exists only in my head, somehow I am irrationally convinced my kids will not receive the appropriate amounts of nurturing, guidance, soccer coaching, healthy snacks or piano instruction, not to mention a very low-key lecture on the possible evils of strangers.

Plus, what about teaching them the value of money (but the nickel's bigger than the dime!) and the importance of equal rights and CPR and how to make good guacamole (add shredded cheddar and garlic salt) and how change a tire (I have no idea ) and what to do if there's no soap in the public bathroom (get to some sanitizer and quick!) and how to go before you leave home so you don't have to deal with all of that.

Really, I worry that if I relax for a moment -- or worse, get hit by a truck -- my kids won't know how to sew (not that I do, either) or dial 911 or set the table (is the fork on the left or the right?). So for seven years, I've been on hyper speed, lugging around a big, fat pitcher chock full of manners, knowledge and values, trying to fill up their hearts and brains at every opportunity, doing the mommy two-step, afraid of what will happen if I stop.


You know what's weird though?

When I do stop, it's then that I finally notice they know all the important stuff already. No, they don't know how to perform artificial respiration or Handel's Messiah but the vital, kind, good person stuff -- they've got that down.

Like this morning, when I put on the television and Finn shielded my eyes from the brightness -- "Too bright, Mama, that'll hurt your eyes" -- or when I hear Reese complimenting Finn's good behavior at the park this afternoon -- "Great job, Finnie, I'm going to have to make you a special picture when we get home." Or the other day when I peek outside and see Reese all wobbly on her new rollerblades reaching out for her little brother and him running to her lightening fast, saving her, pulling her in slowly toward home.

That's when I realize I can do less and these two will still be lovelier than I dreamed. Maybe I'll forget to teach them to drive a stick shift -- I don't know how -- or iron a shirt -- not sure I remember how -- but the most important lessons, they're in there alright.

What do you think are the most important things you want to instill in your children? How do you do it? What do you think is the best way to prepare your child for what life holds?

Read more about teaching values

About Listen to Your Mothers

Only another mother knows the truth about motherhood. The sleep deprivation. The preponderance of plastic, neon-colored toys that make horrible, repetitive noises in the middle of the night. The battles: just eat two more bites of your corndog for Mommy and you can have dessert.

The messiness and heart and complexity that is raising children: it's all so very humbling.

Listen to Your Mothers is a space to come together with the ones who understand the maternal struggle and joy best - in the hopes of turning the motherhood into one, strong sisterhood.

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