I have read a lot of articles lately about the right way and the wrong way to raise a child. Unfortunately, no one can agree on which way is the right way or the wrong way. So many folks are upset and angry about this. I'm not. Do you know why I'm not jumping on the "my way is better" bandwagon? Love. Love and well... I don't really give a damn what other people think of my parenting techniques. When I look at you, I see smart, talented, kind little people. You both have an eagerness to learn and a Curious George like curiosity about everything. You are funny. The kind of funny that takes astute observation and a quick wit. I'm not sure where you got all these great traits from, but I think it's fair to say your dad and I had something to do with that. I didn't learn how to raise you from a book or using a popular method. I tend to just wing it a lot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I've found that no two children are alike so if one thing works for one, it probably won't work for the other... at least that's how it goes with you kids.
Getting back to love.
I try to teach you all that you need to know about life. I remind you to use your manners. I hover over you while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. I put education at the top of your list. Someday, I'll teach you how to drive a car. But, for now, the most important thing I am teaching you is how to love. Not hearts and roses love. That comes later. Way later. Like when you are 30. This love is soulful love. Compassionate and selfless (well, sometimes a little selfish) love. It is kind love. It is tough love. It is respectful love. It is the kind of love that is really hard to act out but even harder to feel sometimes. I'll break it down.
Act in Love:
Everything you do impacts someone else. Everything. It's kinda like that whole butterfly in Asia that causes rain in Ohio (or something like that) theory. Look it up kids. The same thing goes for your actions. If you act in love, other people will feel love. Love begets love. If you act without love, other people will not feel love. No love begets no love. It can be the most grand act of love or a small act of love. For now, I'm just focusing on the small acts. For example:
While brushing your teeth, if you spit toothpaste all over the sink and then do not wipe it up, you are not acting in love. By taking a moment and cleaning up your mess, you are being considerate to your mom and showing her love. I see that you took my time and energy into consideration and saved me from having to chisel dried toothpaste off the sink the next day. In return, I will have more time to laugh and play with you.
Hitting your sister with a Barbie doll is not acting in love. Not to mention, it hurts. After you strike her with a Barbie doll, what does she do? She kicks you out of her room and now you are alone. If you are loving and not so violent, she will allow you to join her in her room. The flip side to that is if you are bossy to your sister, you are not acting in love. She will hit you with a Barbie.
Do little acts of love as much as possible. Help your sister tie her shoe. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Be good in school. Don't use your hands in anger. Compliment someone. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper.
You can go bigger, too! You can work at an animal shelter or volunteer at a hospital. Give time. Give money. Give effort. Clean up a beach. Raise money for a good cause. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Listen to someone. Take care of someone who is ill. Make someone laugh when they are sad. Get involved in your community. Donate blood.
See? Butterflies make rain... or something.
When I was growing up with my younger sisters, we fought a lot. We didn't just hit, we eviscerated each other with hateful words. I remember a time or two when blood was drawn. We used each other as scapegoats. Just watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon and you'll get the picture. But, heaven forbid someone outside of the family hurt one of us. We were taught to watch over, protect, and defend each other. I expect you to do the same and not just for your family. Defend other people, animals, and the Earth. I expect you to speak up when you see someone or something being harmed. I don't want you to turn your head if you see any kind of abuse or wrong doing. If you can't stop the situation, tell someone who can. I promise, I will stand behind you every time.
It is not your job to judge others. It doesn't matter if they don't look like you or talk like you. Some people don't believe in what you believe in. Some people don't think about what you think about. Some people just don't think. Some people don't like sushi or hummus as much as you do. (I know that's hard to believe, but it's true.) People may like different kinds of music, art, sports, or books. People have different ways of learning, playing, praying and loving. Instead of judging, ask questions and learn about some one's "something different." Remember to live and let live... love and let love.
P.S. There are a lot of people out there who point out other people's differences and tell them they are bad for being different from them. Don't listen to those people. Don't take what they say into your heart. They are scared of "different." Be loving and don't judge them either... just don't become one of them, okay?
This is always the hardest love for me. Love yourself. There is a fine line between loving yourself and being selfish. Over the years, I've decided that loving yourself is all about honoring the gift that is you.
Love your body. Breathe deep and use your lungs. Play. Use your body. Bend and stretch. Feed it the good stuff. Let it rest. Take the time to maintain your body. It's the only one you have. There are people out there who would love to fully use their bodies but cannot due to illness or birth defect or injury. You have been blessed with your body. Love yourself by taking care of yourself.
Love your mind. Learn as much as you can. Read, read, read, and read some more. Read everything. Read about your history and then read the book that contradicts everything you've just read. Read non-fiction. Read fiction. Read poetry. Read comic books. Read cookbooks. Have as many art books on your coffee table as possible. Never stop collecting children's picture books. Ask questions. Never stop asking questions. Look at everything. Listen closely. Take the time to think about things... anything. EVERYTHING! Take things apart and put them back together again. Don't be afraid to change your mind. You're never too old to learn something new.
Love you as a person. You have every right to be here. You have every right to be you. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your right to live, love, and learn. If anyone tries to take that away from you, fight like hell. No one on this earth owns you. We are all flesh and bone. We are all made up of the same materials. The only reason powerful people exist is because other people have let them be powerful. We all entered this world the same way and we will all eventually die. Don't let anyone dictate who you are in the time between. You will always find people who want to tell you how to live. But let me be clear. This in no way means you should be disrespectful to people in authority like your parents, teachers, your elders, your future employer, or law enforcement. We are not always right, but we are here to help you learn and keep you safe. If you feel we are wrong, speak up. You have that right. Fight with respect. Fight with love and honor. If you live in love always, you will never be wrong ever. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
I try to be love. I try to act in love. I try to practice what I preach. It is not easy. You kids drive me nuts quite often. You challenge my ability to think straight. You make simple errands difficult with tantrums and not listening to me when I tell you to stop hiding in the clothing racks or running through the store. You do ask questions.... a lot. And I don't always have the answer or the patience to explain my answer after the 5th "why?" But, I try. I try to be a good role model for you. You teach me every day what it means to love. You love me even when I make mistakes. I hope you learn from my mistakes, too. The whole point of being a parent is to raise a better, stronger, smarter, more loving person than you. We should always strive to be better. Be stronger. Be smarter. Be more loving. If you can do that, I have done my job.