My eldest is 7. She is now, suddenly, discovering her place in the world. She gets upset when her friends laugh at her, she holds back tears when she is trying to be brave. She is certain she knows everything and she tells us that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
But now I realise my job as her mum has shifted from fundamental care and concern for her physical wellbeing to being a role model, to being a moral guide, to being a guidance counselor, mentor, psychologist, life-coach. I am entering new territory as a parent and I feel that the groundwork I have to very delicately establish now will set her up for the direction she travels (emotionally, mentally) throughout her childhood and maybe beyond.
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What I want for my children
And so I decided to start with a list. 10 things that, to me, are crucial values I want my children to live by. Things I wish I myself adhered to so completely. This is what I intend to remind them of, constantly, every second, every day of their lives in the hope it’ll make their navigation through life that much more meaningful:
1. Be kind. Above all else, be kind. You never know what other people are going through or when one kind word from you will be the best part of someone’s day. Be nice to people, even when they don’t deserve it - ESPECIALLY when they don’t deserve it.
2. Don’t be scared of yourself. Don’t be scared of what you can do, of your talents. Don’t be embarrassed by your achievements - stand at the front of the assembly and proudly hold up your certificate. Show the world what you are capable of.
3. But be humble. After all, no one likes a show off. Don’t flaunt your successes, nor discredit other people in your endeavour to be the best.
4. Be the best. The best that you can be. This might not mean the best in the class or the best in the team, but the absolute best that you are capable of. Your biggest competition should be yourself.
5. Be human. Don’t be afraid of the experience of it all. Cry, cry a lot if you want. Laugh your head off. Love, fight, hurt, smile, grieve - these things make you human. Relish that humanity, soak it up. So many people go through life barely scraping the surface; FEEL what it means to be alive. Put down your phone and talk face to face with someone. Cuddle.
6. Be grateful. It’s a cliche but someone, somewhere will always be worse off than you. Be grateful for what you have and who you are. Appreciate the small things, show people your gratitude, openly. Look them in the eyes when you say thanks. Mean it.
7. Use your manners. Please. Manners will mean doors are opened and people feel valued. You can never underestimate the power of good manners.
8. Don’t compare yourself to other people. This is a hard one, especially for a woman. Especially these days. There will always be someone prettier, skinnier, wealthier, taller, blonder, funnier, smarter… Don’t compare. Accept people on the merits they present you and accept yourself for who you are, who I made you to be. You are one of a kind kiddo, so enjoy it, embrace it.
9. Let yourself be loved. Compromise, sacrifice, open your heart up to someone. Do it more than once if you get hurt the first time. You will get hurt the first time. But always, always, let yourself be loved. Be lovable. Don’t get too snobby or fussy or complacent. Give them lots of reasons to love you; show them why I love you.
10. Let me pick you up from school. And kiss you goodnight. No one in this world will ever love you as I do - I don’t walk with you in the street to embarrass you; I do it because being next to you is the only place I want to be.
It is tough work being a parent. I once read a quote that parenting is 90% crocodile wrangling and 10% hostage negotiations. It does feel like that at times! All the time actually. We don’t have job descriptions, we don’t have learning outcomes or business targets or a manual; we are constantly learning on the job and I am nervous about this next stage of my parenting journey.
But then, at the end of the day, we are, all of us, doing the absolute best we can. I think that’s the most important thing of all xxx