When my babies were little, I cuddled them.
I nurtured them. I wiped away their booger noses with my bare hands without thinking twice.
They were, after all, perfect little creations, innocent and angelic, and it was my role as their mother to care for their needs and cater to their every whim.
Flash forward a few years and things have changed.
If having infants and toddlers taught me to love unconditionally, having teens is a lesson in humility.
Ever since my boys hit double digits, I’ve been enlightened. I’ve learned that I have no idea what to wear, how to dance, how to sing, or basically how to function on the planet doing anything other than cooking or laundry without their kind assistance.
The very fact that I find my way out the front door each day without the help of their combined decades of wisdom is beyond comprehension, really.
When it comes down to it, though, I have realized along the way that my job is not to make my children happy—it’s to help them build character and integrity.
Through all the lessons I’ve learned, the single, most overarching idea I hope I’ve managed to instill in the brains of my progeny, despite my shortcomings, is this:
Don’t be an a**hole.
If they understand and live out this single concept, that’s it. My job’s complete.
Of course, that entails a lot.
Don’t be mean.
Don’t judge people based on what they look like, what they own, what they’ve been through or who they love.
Follow and support people because they are kind and worthy, not because they are powerful.
Every time someone is a victim of racism, sexism, xenophobia or any other form of hate, know it could have been you. Also know that, if you don’t stand up for that person, you are leaving the world broken for people you will one day know and love. Fix it. Stand up. Change begins with you.
Eat your vegetables. Not because I said so, but because you care enough about yourself to take care of what you’ve been given.
Challenges and painful experiences suck. We all face them. Don’t use them as an excuse to be a jerk.
Use your turn signals. How we do the small things is how we do the big things. Be considerate. Always.
Let other people worship who or what they want. It makes them happy. Unless someone is hurting others, it really is none of your business.
You are not a tree. If you find yourself in a situation that is not right, walk away.
Change happens, but the important things remain the same. Use them. Your kindness, your character and your laughter are among your greatest gifts. It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you have or what others think. These things will never change.
Not everyone is kind. Be kind to them anyway. You may be their only smile all day, even if they don’t show it.
Don’t pout. Ever. You have a right to dislike something or to be disappointed, but you do not have a right to ruin the experience for everyone else around you.
Surround yourself with people who share your happiness. It’s okay to have friends who need you, but make sure that the people who are closest to you build you up. It’s wonderful to help other people, but sometimes people who need the most can suck the life out of you. Don’t get stuck giving more than you have, and recognize the importance of healthy relationships.
Pick up your trash. It’s no one’s job but your own. And pick up trash for those who don’t know it’s their responsibility. They weren’t fortunate enough to have someone in their lives who taught them.
Don’t be afraid to take risks, and don’t judge others who risk and fail. You’re going to fall down too, and they’re going to be the ones who know how to pick you up.
We are all human, forging our paths the best we can. When we judge, treat others badly or don’t stand up for what is right, we are saying far more about our own integrity than about others.
So be nice.
And don’t be an a**hole.
Author: Amanda Christman
Editors: Ashleigh Hitchcock / Renée Picard