I have been inspired by two favorite bloggers today: magic cookie and R. I’ll answer magic cookie’s question first, and maybe steal R’s idea tomorrow, because I like them both, and it makes a change from talking about potty training!
Magic Cookie is reading a book about thoughtful parenting. It’s a book with which I am not familiar, but I like the exercise she pulled from it, which is to think of seven qualities you most want to see in your children when they grow up. Having this clarity is meant help you parent them more purposefully.
My first thought about this is – I wonder if my husband and I would have the same list? Professor, if you read this, go make your own list and then come back and check mine. I’m curious.
Anyway, here’s my list – written hastily at 7 am with frequent pauses to redirect Liam from falling on something sharp or eating broken glass or whatever his latest suicide mission is.
1. Compassion. I believe compassion and empathy are the keys to changing the world. The way we talk to each other in America right now (perhaps always), about breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding and spanking vs. timeouts, about Republican fiscal and social policy vs. Democratic, gay marriage, our immigration problems, poverty, healthcare, race, abortions and religion and love, and all of the horrible ways that people behave toward each other online – so much of this would cause less strife and emotional pain if people had the discipline and inclination to feel empathy for others before every word or act. I hope I instill in my kids that discipline.
2. Joy. Again, I think it takes some discipline to feel joy. To smile instead of complain. Joy is not always called for, but whenever there is room for it, I hope my boys choose it instead of misery.
3. Class. I don’t want them to be uptight or prudish, but I do want them to know how to converse appropriately with various groups of people, and to have impeccable manners. (This actually ties in with the empathy, I think.) An example: someone I know attended a funeral, and then at the wake decided (on a dare) to try to swallow a full teaspoon of cinnamon. She threw up all over the floor, hacked and coughed loudly, screamed and laughed and called attention to herself, and then fake-apologized. I want THE OPPOSITE OF THAT.
4. A Work Ethic. We deserve nothing in this life. We aren’t even guaranteed to get rewards we feel we’ve earned. I hope they work hard anyway. I cannot abide lazy people.
5. Responsibility. For their finances, for the environment, for their elderly neighbors, for the poor, for stray animals and public radio and libraries and public schools, for any children they father, for any hearts they capture, I pray that my boys keenly feel their responsibility and act with the understanding that what they do has consequences in the world for people other than themselves.
6. An Open Mind. I am pretty firmly a progressive Democrat, but it doesn’t matter to me if they are Democrat or Republican. What does matter to me is that they keep an open mind, and think critically about the positions they take on any issue, be able to argue well, and be willing to change their minds.
7. A Sense of Adventure. Before their father and I settled down to become a professor and a lawyer with two kids, a dog, a cat, and a mortgage (well, one day we’ll have a mortgage again), the both of us traveled the world. I drove across the Australian Outback. The Professor rode camels in Morocco. I defended small children from bears – he did extended backpacking trips in the mountains. Even now, though it’s harder, we try to keep that sense of adventure about us (see, for example, moving to New Orleans for law school in my thirties!) I hope my kids seize the day, take risks, do crazy things – without losing that sense of class and responsibility for themselves, of course! It’s a tricky line to walk, but I hope they can do it.
That’s my list. I’ve linked to magic cookie’s list above. What’s yours? (If you are not a parent, and don’t intend to be, what would you like us parents to instill in our children, who will one day be our leaders and nurses and educators and etc.?)