I’m always up for a list. I find they make me feel organized and focused on the task at hand. I tend to make lists for almost everything. Grocery lists, to-do lists, and even lists of books I’d like to read. More often than not, I write them out, and lose them. I usually find them months later, mashed and crumpled in the junk drawer or on the floor of my car. Today I’m going to write a list of things I want my kids to know before they turn 18. You see, I was inspired this morning by one of the most amazing women I know. I met her while working at the library, and I instantly loved her. She was there for the birth of Natalie, and was the positive person I needed when I scaled the gigantic wall that is childbirth for the first time. I love this woman. She is a great mother, and an awesome person in general. This morning she posted a Facebook status about her daughter turning 18. It was lovely, and sweet and made me teary. I believe that if every child born had a mother as dedicated and loving as this woman, the world would be a much better place.
So, here is my list. Things I want my kids to know in their minds and hearts as they blow out the candles on their 18th birthday.
1. That the world is a very big place, filled with all sorts of different people and ideas. We live in a small town. An area where everyone is either related or has known each other since kindergarten. I don’t think this is bad, but I want my kids to know that this isn’t IT. This isn’t the world. While I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that people stay in one place, I do hope that my kids venture out and see that there are other options. I would love to travel with my kids. I don’t mean family trips to Florida or 5 star resorts with all the comforts of home. I’d love to take them to see other parts of the world, where people actually live and show them that our way of life isn’t the only way. That there are good people and bad, people who live with much more, and much less than we do. People who have different beliefs and thoughts, and that while some of them don’t fit for us, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong. I want them to be open to the big world they live in.
2. I want my kids to have an appreciation of music and art, as I believe it is one of the most important aspects of life. Without art our world would be a very sad and lonely place. Almost every theatrical production, art show or musical event I’ve ever attended has brought tears to my eyes. When I see people pouring their hearts and souls into their expressions I become an immediate believer that the world is good, regardless of what I watched on the news that morning. I want my kids to understand that too. I want them to have something themselves that makes them believe in the good, even in bad times. Music, dance, art, gardening, cooking. Whatever it is, I want them to be passionate about it.
3. I want them to be able to walk into any room, anywhere and be comfortable with themselves enough to find a place there. I know this is a big one, and maybe 18 is a tad too young for this lofty wish. That said, I believe it is the one thing that makes or breaks a person. Self confidence (or the ability to fake it until you make it). I want them to be able to hold their head high, and be confident with who they are.
4. I want them to be open to new opportunities, and change. Nothing in this world is more detrimental to a person than an inability to change. My parents moved us around a lot as kids. I went to several schools, and had to make new friends before I even had a chance to secure old ones. My parents got a lot of criticism for this. From a positive point of view, all I can say is: It helped me to learn how to change, often and without hesitation. I want all of my kids to understand that they need to be able to adapt because our world is ever-changing, and opportunities come and go everyday. Being fearful of change might hold them back from achieving their goals and dreams.
5. Everyone says they want their kids to be happy. I get that. Of course I want my kids to be happy. Who wouldn’t? More realistically though, I’d say I want my kids to be good. In my opinion, happiness comes and goes. I know that in my life, I haven’t always been happy, but I’ve always been good. I want my kids to understand that sometimes they will be unhappy, and that’s OK. We teach our kids that they need to be happy all the time and that if they aren’t, they need to quit and find something new. I don’t think that’s a very good thing to teach our kids at all. Life isn’t always pure blue skies and sunshine. Sometimes things are hard and feel really bad. But more often than not, if you give it time, and a little bit of thought, you can usually figure out how to make the unhappy happy again. If not, then of course, make a change. I want my kids to know that it isn’t always about their own personal happiness. Sometimes they will be unhappy. Hopefully not often and not for very long, but it will happen, and it will pass. I guess what I really want them to know is that just because it is hard, or doesn’t feel wonderful, doesn’t mean you should give up on it. So much is lost when we give up before we even start. In education, careers, marriage and family. In all things.
6. I want my kids to be generous. I believe that whatever you put out into the world, comes back to you ten-fold. I want them to give to others, to be kind and willing to accept people for who they are. I don’t want them to believe that they are better than anyone in this world. My mother always told me that everyone has a story to tell, and that I should always be open and willing to listen. She was right. I want my kids to understand that too.
7. I want my kids to understand hard work. I’d hope that at some point prior to their 18th birthday, all of my kids will understand what it means to have a job, and work for the things they want. I would like all of my children to work in the service industry at some point. I think that important things can be learned while flipping burgers or making lattes. I want them to come face to face with mean and evil bosses, customers and co-workers, and deal with it all with dignity and respect. I want them to face strenuous, back-breaking work. I want them to understand that nothing in this world comes without a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice.
8. Most of all, I want my kids to know that they are loved always. No matter what they end up doing, or where they end up in the world, we will always be cheering for them. At 18 I hope they are blowing out candles on their birthday cake with huge smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts. At 18 I want them to know that good things are coming to them, if they work hard and always believe in themselves.