As a parent, my primary job is to prepare my kids for life as an adult.
The most important thing I can do is teach them how to get along in the world, to survive and thrive despite disabilities, past hurts and any annoying and debilitating habits I’ve inadvertently passed on through osmosis.
I try to tune out most modern-era parenting anxieties, remembering that my parents didn’t worry about organic vegetables or sleep training. The parents I know are highly educated and apt to get worked up about things that didn’t exist ten or twenty years ago. Education and advancement are wonderful things, but they’re often accompanied by a whole host of manufactured concerns that distract us from the basics of raising good humans.
I know it’s not as simple as saying “my parents did X and I turned out fine,” and assessing parenting anxiety as simply a generational phenomenon isn’t helpful either. Every parent since the beginning of time has had to decide what’s truly important to them.
I’m a big proponent of tuning out the unnecessary noise of motherhood
I find it difficult to function in the modern world without putting up hard barriers between myself and everything there is to worry about, especially when it comes to raising my kids. (And yes, I realize the irony of writing about this on a website dedicated to parenting information and advice).
My natural inclination is to be pretty laissez-faire as a parent, and there have been times when I realize, too late, that I didn’t give an issue enough attention, and I’m sure that will happen again, especially as the issues get more complex as the kids get older.
Would I like to move out of an urban environment so my daughters can grow up foraging for berries wearing only undershirts and rubber boots? Some days. Would I like to implant tracking devices under their skin before encasing them in bubble wrap whenever they leave the house? Hell yes. But neither option is particularly feasible so I’m back to the barriers.
I always come back to the importance of raising good humans
In deciding what to tune out and where to put my energy I always come back to the importance of raising good—and functional—humans. My parenting energy, therefore, is focused on teaching my kids the following:
Cooperation. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how good you are at your job, you’ll never reach your full potential without knowing how to get along with others. Teaching my kids to be kind, tolerant and empathetic is one of the best things I can do for them.
Self-esteem. I wish I could go back in time and refocus all the worrying about my weight, my looks, my clothes, my grades and my social status into embracing what I actually was. The confidence that comes from being happy with who you are is what’s really meaningful and beautiful. Good self-esteem is critical because it leads to better choices, better relationships and a healthier outlook on life.
Financial literacy. Math was never my strength, but money management is about so much more than simply adding and subtracting. I want my kids to grow up understanding the perils of credit card debt, how interest rates work and the importance of saving for retirement. And since I am unqualified to speak on any of these topics, the most important thing is developing comfort and confidence in talking about money so they can be proactive and find expert help if and when they need it.
Mental health. Sometimes depression is situational, sometimes it’s chronic. Never be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling and ask for help. This is the best gift you can give yourself. And while you’re at it, take care of your body too. Develop a healthy relationship with food. Don’t deprive yourself, indulge in what you love. Understand how what you consume affects you. Know what you’re putting in your body and where it comes from.
Find work you enjoy. You’re going to be working for a long time, so figure out what you like to do and how to earn a living from it. When it comes to post-secondary education and careers, finding your “passion” is rare. I hope it happens for my kids but developing good habits and emotional IQ will set them apart and help them be successful no matter what they do or where they do it.
How to be resilient. If you can learn how to recover from a setback, process those lessons and thrive in the aftermath you are miles ahead of the rest of humanity. Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from each mistake. It’s okay to take time out to lick your wounds, lie low and reinvent yourself but always get back up. Be self-aware and own your shit.
Embrace your sexuality. Sex is natural, healthy and amazing. Don’t ever be ashamed to enjoy it or talk about it. (Thank you Salt n’ Pepa!) You’re not weird if you love it, or weird if you hate it because everyone is different. Choose a partner who celebrates your body, respects your choices and loves your mind. Educate yourself on the not-so-fun stuff too, like consent, sexually-transmitted diseases and contraception.
The importance of making yourself happy. Not too long ago, people like me grew up looking outward to find happiness, but now we’re learning that it starts from within. Figure out what makes you happy, then look for people and things who complement you. Be comfortable in your own skin, embrace being alone and love yourself first.
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