25 Lessons for my Children

As I expected I would, I got a bit of constructive (and some not-so-constructive) criticism over 20 Things This Mother Will Probably Never Tell Her Son, Actually. One of those pieces of criticism that I took to heart was that I was merely being critical of another's work without adding anything useful. While I don't necessarily agree; (I did, after all, explain why I found so many of the items on the list problematic, rather than just saying "this is dumb, yo") it got me thinking about the lessons I do hope to impart to my children.

Photo by Nicole Aarstad

Since I don't typically think that lessons to children are gender specific, either on the part of the parent or the child, this list is not specifically from a mother to her daughter or to her son. These are lessons that my husband and I will both strive to teach both of our children.

Without further ado:

25 Lessons for my Children

1. You have worth. You were created in love and are honored and loved in all that you do. You are a unique individual; there is a not a better you in this world. You are powerful and strong and capable of doing great things in your life, if you desire to.

2. Never stop learning. The world is your classroom, both in and out of structured learning settings. Always seek to know more; always embrace opportunities to increase your knowledge and expand your skills.

3. Enjoy the outdoors. Fresh air, sunshine, and moving your body are nourishing and healing in ways that modern medicine cannot replicate. Whether it is camping, snowboarding, swimming, hiking, golf, kayaking, bird-watching  baseball, gardening, frisbee, or any other number of options, fall in love with an outdoor activity and make it part of your life.

4. Develop an awareness of your privilege. You don't need to feel guilty or ashamed, simply be aware of the privilege that you enjoy through no virtue of your own. When those who do not share your privilege discuss such matters, listen and learn. To my son, this means that when women discuss issues of feminism, you don't speak over them; you listen and learn. To both of you, this means that when people of color discuss issues of race, you don't speak over them; you listen and learn.

5. Be kind. Be kind to all you encounter. Most people are suffering in one way or another, and most of these ways are not visible. Live by the golden rule, and do not allow others' mistreatment of you to justify your mistreatment of them. Instead, avoid those who mistreat you.

6. Eat to nourish your body and soul. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. As a rule, avoid eating to cope with emotions. Enjoy a variety of real, whole, healthy foods. Indulge in occasional treats.

7. Learn how to cook and bake. It will make Number 6 a lot easier, and you can't depend on others to do it for you.

8. Clean up after yourself. Again, you can't depend on anyone else to do it for you, and a relatively clean and clutter-free environment tends to be more comfortable than a dirty, messy one.

9. Your body is beautiful. So is everyone else's. Bodies are amazing things; appreciate the one you are blessed with and take good care of it. Neither beauty nor health can be measured in pounds, inches, or clothing sizes. Practice good self-care and your body will serve you well.

10. Be respectful. You will encounter many people from many walks of life. There are many people who look differently than you do, who believe differently than you do, who eat differently than you do, who love differently than you do, who speak differently than you do, who do just about everything differently than you do. Live in peace and harmony with those around you. Embrace and celebrate diversity.

11. The world doesn't owe you anything. You must work for what you want and need in life. You will likely be fortunate enough to receive things you want and need without having to work for them. This is an opportunity to practice gratitude, not to develop an entitlement complex.

12. Give. Give your time, effort, knowledge, skills, and if you have it to give, money, to causes that are important to you and to those less fortunate than you.

13. Learn to both lead and follow. By learning to be a good, effective leader, you'll learn to recognize good, effective leadership in others. Lead when you are inspired to do so. Follow good leaders. Live your truth and let your life be your example to others.

14. Enjoy the arts. Allow the beauty in a song, a painting, a film, a dance, a sculpture, or a play to fill your heart and drive you to tears. Be inspired by creativity.

15. Move your body. Play a sport, dance, do yoga, ride a bike, lift a weight, take a walk, do gymnastics, go for a swim, climb a mountain, just move your body. It will help keep you healthy and strong in mind, body, and spirit.

16. Have compassion for all living things. Life is valuable and sacred. This includes not only your fellow humans, but the animals, plants, and even insects that share this earth with us. Have a reverence and respect for everything from the tiniest bug to the greatest beast, from the smallest sprout to the tallest tree. If you choose to eat meat, limit your consumption to that which is ethically raised and butchered as humanely as possible, and give thanks for the life of the animal that feeds you.

17. Take care of the planet. Follow the three "R's"-Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Make conservation a way of life. Before you throw something away, consider whether it could be donated for someone else's use, or whether it could be re-purposed. Embrace conservation. Tread lightly. Eating and shopping locally serve to help not only the environment, but our local economy.

18. Use your voice. Speak out for what you believe in. Speak out against wrong. Speak your truth. Speak your mind. Remember that if no one disagrees with you, you haven't said anything important.

19. Laugh. It really is the best medicine. A healthy sense of humor is a stress reliever, an ice breaker, a tension reducer. Laugh loud, laugh often.

20. Say you're sorry. You are growing up with many examples of people making mistakes, apologizing for them, and working to make them right, being raised by imperfect parents and all. Do not allow pride to get in the away of giving an apology when an apology is due. Learn to apologize with grace and humility. None of this "I'm sorry if your feelings got hurt" or "I'm sorry, but" stuff. Take ownership of your mistakes and transgressions and learn from them.

21. Your body is your own. No one has the right to your body. No one should touch you without your permission. It doesn't matter what you do or say (or wear or drink), you do not deserve to be harmed or taken advantage of. Everyone else's body is also their own. You should not touch anyone without their permission. It doesn't matter what they do or say (or wear or drink), they do not deserve to be harmed or taken advantage of.

22. Work hard and play hard. It is important to work hard and to take pride in what you do. Do the best you can in all things. Finish what you start and go above and beyond. Don't, however, become consumed by work. Play as hard as you work. Make time for the things you enjoy, for socializing, and for yourself. Life is meant to be enjoyed! Have fun!

23. Nourish your soul. Take care of your higher self, in whatever form that manifests for you. Meditate, or pray, or practice rituals, or worship, or sing, or read books of a spiritual or religious nature. Learn about the many religious and spiritual paths of the world and find the one (or ones) that make sense for you.

24. Take nothing personally. When others attack you or call you names, it is more about them than it is about you. Accept constructive criticism and allow it to propel you to grow and change, but do not allow yourself to be defined by the opinions of others.

25. Your mother is always right. 'Nuff said.  

     

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