No one is a perfect parent—thank goodness.
We raise our voices, slam doors and let them go to bed without a bath sometimes.
Luckily, our children need us to set an example of being real, not perfect—in order to grow up into the person they were born to be.
I don’t hide my imperfections and sad days from my two girls, instead I let them see it all, so that as they grow up they will learn that they are no less amazing because of their tears and grumpiness.
Ever since my girls were born, I never thought I was raising children, but instead young women.
I look at my girls as two amazing souls, who are going to change the world somehow.
I only get to take care of them for a little bit of time and there are qualities that I want to make sure to instill in them, so that they can lead the most amazing, free-from-conformity lives that they can. Not because I know it all, but because I do know with a certainty, that goes deep in my bones, that there are certain qualities that will let them soar with their dreams through this amazing life.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.“
~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Empathy and awareness.
When my oldest daughter was about three-years-old, The Gulf Oil Spill took place, and when she asked me questions about it, I answered her.
She knew that it was killing thousands of sea creatures and that it was devastating for the environment, and she would even talk to adults about it when the opportunity arose. Most were shocked to hear a toddler talk about how the oil company shouldn’t have done that and how she wished she could help save the animals, but I was proud to be raising a daughter who was becoming socially conscience.
I have no desire to raise my children pretending they are growing up in a different world than the one they are—one where unicorns dance about. I want them instead, to be aware and to feel empowered to make a difference in this world.
I am acutely aware of them being exposed to stories about violence, especially towards children, because I don’t think anyone is honestly ever ready to hear those types of stories. But current events and natural disasters are all topics that we discuss and that she is interested in.
Whenever we visit the shore during the summer we collect the trash that has washed up, especially plastic bags, as they are extremely deadly for sea turtles, which she can tell you all about. We collect toys and household items to donate to a shelter during the holiday season; we rescue injured animals that we find and foster cats and kittens from the local animal shelter.
We talk about death, not as something to fear, but instead as a fact of life.
We may dance in the moonlight and have a fairy door set up to another dimension in our home, but we also discuss real world events.
Just yesterday I shared with her the Lane Bryant video campaign #Iamnoangel. My daughter has talked to me before about the size difference of her in comparison to the other girls in her ballet class, and rather than pretend it isn’t a reality, I am choosing instead to embrace the opportunities for discussion.
I fully believe that all of these small moments will add up some day to her taking on the world as a socially conscience and empowered (and pretty amazing) young woman.
Confidence and respect.
Respect is a huge word–and while I want her to respect others, I want her to respect herself, her body and her own individual voice as well.
I want her to do more than just listen to rules and walk the line—in fact, I will support and defend her until the bitter end even if she doesn’t. I want her to have confidence in her voice as she shouts from the rooftops.
Children can’t grow up to be adults who make a difference, unless they have respect for the world they are living in, confidence and belief in themselves to know that they can.
Respecting others doesn’t mean blindly doing everything they are supposed too,but instead teaching them that respecting others means to treat others how they desire to be treated. To respect the journey we are all on and that all of us are just doing the best we can on any given day. That it’s okay to disagree with someone, because we are all entitled to our own opinion and way of doing things.
Neither my girls nor I attend church on a regular basis, and I don’t identify with any one type of religion. I don’t condemn those who do, nor do I think I am superior because I don’t. My girls and I believe in divine power, in the Universe, in gods and goddesses, in reincarnation, karma and ultimately treating each and every living thing how we want to be treated.
All we do positive or negative, will come back to us three fold.
They are growing up with a respect for life and the world around them.
Last night my daughter was even crying because she was faced with her own ending, one of the many things in her life she won’t quite understand and has to learn to just let go. I hugged her and told that that it was okay to feel these feelings, but that no matter how much an ending hurts, we should believe life always rewards us with a new beginning, if we let it.
I don’t sugar coat life for my children, but instead give them the tools to handle all that they may encounter in this lifetime.
Independence and curiosity.
Curiosity never really did kill the cat, but it did lead to some fantastic adventures.
In this day and age, when parents get arrested because they let their children walk to the park alone, I think this one is especially crucial.
How many young adults do we know who grew up so sheltered that when they did finally leave home for college, they returned home only after a semester or two? They didn’t know how to function in this world without someone directing their every move, as if they were a chess game waiting to be played.
I may be stepping out onto a limb here, but let our kids be kids.
There is no more violence in the world now than there was ten years ago, we just have every breaking story at our fingertips, so it is now inspiring a sense of fear in our communities. Not only are many of us living in fear, but we are raising our children to do the same.
If kids aren’t taught that independence and curiosity are the very same qualities that will enable them to go far in this life, then they will suffer as a result.
When my girls are outside with the neighborhood kids, I tell them that they are their own tribe; the older kids are in charge, to look out for the littler ones, and that I don’t want to hear about anything unless it involves blood or a broken bone. They have to figure it out—and you know what? They do!
They learn to express their ideas, compromise, work together and help others.
When I let my older daughter walk alone down the street to her friend’s house, she learns the practical lesson of watching out for cars and how to cross the street.
But she is also gaining confidence in her new independence and freedom.
She is slowly gaining autonomy, and while I may wish with all that I am that I could keep her safe her whole life, I know that I can’t.
To live this life is to take risks, to hurt, to fall and how to get back up again.
Raising children that can change the world does not, in fact, include wrapping them in bubble wrap and not letting them get their hands dirty in this amazing life.
It does require that we, as parents, are as honest and authentic as we can be, because they will learn from each and every example that we set.
I think we have to stop being so concerned with raising perfect children and instead decide to raise amazing adults—young adults who have confidence in their voice and know that they can do anything that they put their mind too.
Compassionate and empathetic adults—who genuinely care about others and want to make this world a better place—do not include perfection in their reality.
Let kids be kids.
And at the end of day, let them go to bed with mud streaked toes, and chocolate ice cream hanging on the corners of their lips, for there will always be tomorrow to worry about the small things.
But today, let them live, laugh, roll in the dirt, run breathless in the exhilarating air—this is all they need.
They are simply kids.
“Remember you are not managing an inconvenience. You are raising a human being.” ~ Kittie Franz
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
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