Children learn a lot more by what they see us doing than what we tell them. I can tell Cole all day long the things he shouldn’t do, but it’s my example he’s watching. I don’t want him to follow my example, but to be better than I am at this game of life. I started thinking of the things I would want for his guidelines.
My list of things he shouldn’t do is pretty long and full of no’s that hinder more than they help. After much reflection, I decided that is not a fun way to live your life.
So I started to think of how I wanted my child to live his life, things that I wished for him to understand that may make life richer. Or, at the least, the life I want him to lead.
• Be kind to everyone. Those that are particularly hard to be kind to, be even more so. They are usually the ones that need the kindness the most.
• Some days, you need to just goof off and not worry about the ‘to-do’ list. We have things that we have to do – some days, we should do what we want to do.
When we leave this world we aren’t going to think we wished we had done more laundry, but will have wished we had ice cream in the park with our children more.
• Appreciate your family. They may be crazy, and you may wonder what karmic wrong you are paying for by being related to them, but in the end sometimes family is all you have.
And on the other hand, just because someone’s related to you doesn’t mean you will like them.
Chances are, your family will contain a few of the people you will dislike the most. Refer back to the first tenet. They probably need it more than the rest.
• If you have one friend that you can count on, hold on to them.
Friendship is just like any other relationship. You both have to put something into it. You may not always see eye to eye but having a true friend is priceless.
If you have more than one, then you are blessed and if you have more than two you are luckier than you deserve. I am humbly honored to be far luckier than I deserve to be.
• Don’t tell lies. It’s exhausting and you usually get caught. Be honest and be sincere. People may not know when you lie to them, but they will know when you are genuine. And you’ll know when you do both.
• Don’t forget your raisin’ – ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are necessities in life, as are all genteel manners. Doesn’t matter where you’re from, manners will help get you where you are going.
• Eat dessert first. My uncle Bobby used to tell me to eat my hot fudge sundae that came with my kids meal from Dairy Queen before I ate my cheeseburger. He was the first adult that told me to do that.
I asked him why once. His answer, like my uncle, was uncomplicated. “It will melt if you wait and it won’t taste good when it’s melted. Besides, you’re going to eat it anyway so go ahead and eat it first. That way you won’t be full up on the other food.” No wiser man has ever lived.
• Buy the shoes. Or the toy, or whatever it is that you think you absolutely have to have. Seriously. I have regretted not buying a pair of shoes more than I have ever regretted buying a pair. In fact, I don’t think I have ever really regretted buying a pair of shoes - even if they didn’t fit, I have always been able to give them to someone who enjoyed them.
My sister-friend Sara Jean exemplified this recently, buying a pair of ruby red heels. They were gifted to me a few weeks later.
“They had Sudie Mae written all over them and I knew they would be yours when I bought them, but I had to wear me a pair of red heels for a day.”
• Last but not least, turn off the T.V. and just talk. You can learn more about life and what’s affecting your child in a 30 minute conversation than you can in a whole day of watching the news or the History channel. Play card games. Listen to music – all different kinds of music from classical to show tunes. But tune into your child and find out what’s going on in their world. If you talk to them when they are young, those teenage conversations will flow a little easier.
I know there’s times I mess up. I know there’s times I lose my patience, and forget the very things I vow I would never do or say. There’s times I even think I am a failure as a parent. But I remind myself of what my lifelong friend Jane told me the day Cole was born: ‘‘Whatever you do, do it out of love and you’ll never go wrong.”
Love has been what has guided me as a parent and maybe if I can pass that on to Cole, the other tenets will all fall into place.
Because maybe, just maybe, love is what it’s all about anyway.