Seven Things I Want My Kids to Know

“Seven things I want my kids to know”? Surely there are millions… but maybe those millions are just variations on a theme.

Marry your best friend. Or don’t marry. But know this: Sex and marriage don’t ruin friendship. Why would you vow to spend your life with anyone you loved less?

Only have children if, and when, you very much want to be a parent. Being a parent is awesome, but so is being a loving aunt, an uncle, or a family friend who doesn’t bear the lifelong, 24-hour-a-day responsibility of guiding a nascent human being through infancy, childhood, and well into adulthood. Do not feel obligated to “give me grandchildren.” I will love them, if you do – and enjoy the right of every grandparent to spoil them rotten and send them home to you all hyped on sugar. But make no mistake: I will be sending them back home to you.

Whatever you believe or don’t believe about the origins of Man, the concept of a soul, or what comes after death – if anything – this is the only life you are guaranteed to have. Live it fully, making a conscious effort not to deprive anyone else of the right and ability to do the same. Again, before you marry, make sure that you and your chosen partner have similar visions of how to enjoy life – and make a vow not to hold each other back, where they diverge. Nowhere in the marriage vows do you agree to be surgically joined at the hip, and your dreams have as much value as anyone else’s, whether they want to share the actual experience of those same dreams or not. I’ve never dreamed of space travel, but if your father got a chance to go, I not only wouldn’t hold him back, I’d be thrilled for him. I’d wish him a safe and amazing journey. Insist on the same, and be prepared to give it.

Choose wisely; choose joy. There’s misery enough in the world without your adding to it. Happiness and a positive attitude are something we can choose to embrace, even in the worst of times. Especially in the worst of times. Frown, cry, kick the dog, bemoan the unfairness of it all – and people who might relieve your misery or make it easier to bear will run faster than light to escape your orbit. Smile, laugh, insist on finding the good in everything – and people will be drawn to you like a magnet. It’s entirely your choice, and every passing minute offers you another chance to make a better choice.

Never stop learning. Read. Often, and broadly. Read newspapers, blogs, ancient philosophers, great literature, trashy novels, technology mags – let your mind synthesize bits and pieces from a wide variety of topics. Focus on the ones that resonate within, energizing and inspiring you to learn more and to act. The main thing you should have learned in school, by now, is that there is a great, huge body of knowledge and human experience, largely documented in books and stored within our DNA, and that you will never, ever “know it all.” But you should have the ability to question, to find answers, and to weigh evidence critically – to know that facts sometimes change with new discoveries and are rarely written in indelible ink, but also that some sources of information are more credible than others at any given point in history. Be open minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out.

Know that I love you – fiercely, ferociously, and forever. And that unless you do choose to have children, some day, you cannot possibly know the depth and quality of that love – but that that’s okay. If you choose not to have children, this love is not something you’re “missing out on” – it’s just vastly different from other kinds of love. For a small glimpse into this, see the video that’s gone viral this week of a father in Syria, reunited with his child whom he thought had been killed in a chemical attack.

Do something good in the world. At the very least, be kind. Don’t let others’ selfishness or lack of kindness be your excuse for bitterness, mean-spiritedness, and disconnectedness. Because odds are good, that’s how they got that way, too. Break that cycle. Be more like Mother Theresa, whose quiet courage and determination – whose actions, which should not have been “heroic” in the fist place, but merely the compassionate and right thing to do, inspired nations, leaders, and generations. Earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, and made her a candidate for sainthood. No – I’m not suggesting you give up all your worldly possessions, move to India, and touch the untouchables – but that you value and reach for ideals that ensure human rights and human dignity, protect the environment, and increase the happiness of your little corner of the world. If that sounds lofty and insurmountable, it’s because not enough people have joined together, yet. I only ask you to do your little part and inspire at least one other person – not to try to compensate for everyone who won’t.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013, and the theme is “seven.” There are so many more things I want my kids to know, but these seven encompass most of them.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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25 thoughts on “Seven Things I Want My Kids to Know”

    1. That’s why it’s so important to communicate very clearly and not assume things. Maybe that should’ve been on the list, too. πŸ™‚

      My kids were both surprised to learn that they were not EXPECTED to give us grandchildren, wouldn’t DISAPPOINT us if they chose not to, and that in fact I’d much rather they didn’t unless and until THEY wanted very much to be parents. A lot of people feel pressured by their parents into marrying and having children – even if they don’t particularly like and enjoy children. There’s a good way to make at least two, and probably three or more, people miserable! That’s not what any parent wants for their child, I’m sure.

      I love being married and having kids. Naturally, I want my kids to be as happy in life as I have been. The logical flaw here is that their path to happiness may be very different than mine. I want them to know that that’s okay by me – it’s about finding the right path, being happy, surrounding yourself with people you love and who love you. It’s not about one particular way to get there.

      That said, I also don’t want them finding their happiness at the expense of anyone else’s – that’s not their right, nor is it mine.
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    1. I can imagine feeling as thought you’ve been shackled, somehow, by having a child. It’s not true, really – not if you choose to see all the positive things in parenthood and not just focus on the negative. There are lots of good, loving parents out there who weren’t ready, hadn’t even really thought it through, and probably would have said they had no interest in having kids – YET.

      But then there are those who have no interest in having kids EVER, and they shouldn’t be pressured into becoming parents because someone else thinks that’s the highest goal in life. You cannot let someone else live their dreams through you – they have their life, you have yours. And there’s nothing more tragic than an unloved, neglected, or abused child. I truly admire the people who, knowing they don’t want to be parents, choose not to have kids. And I know that isn’t the same thing AT ALL as not liking children. I like my own children best; I know others who prefer to be around other people’s children and send them home at the end of the day. And I appreciate the teachers and neighbors who have been part of the village that’s helped me to raise my kids. The ones who haven’t been village idiots, anyway. πŸ™‚
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    1. People in power have a vested interest in pushing fear, guilt, and suffering on others. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes the very people who ought to be teaching kids to choose joy – their parents, their church, their teachers, their friends and neighbors. We don’t always have the words to express what it is we really want for them – to pursue happiness, to find it by being open and receptive to the small moments and manifestations of it, and to understand that joy begets joy, and kindness begets joy, and to share it generously with the world is always better than spreading the misery. It’s so much harder, you see, to control people who are joyful and free in their own minds.
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  1. This is just wonderful philosophy and something that I truly believe in! We all have only one life; we should live it to the fullest doing something we want and also helping out others! And, I want my kids to know that we as parents will support them in whatever they wish to do!

  2. Lovely seven but the child when she/he grows up will get to know things by experience and so all advice falls on deaf ears. I loved loved your take on life – One cool person you are!

    Joy always,
    Susan

    PostScript: Loved your second name – quite regal!

  3. These are just the things I would want my daughter to know! Absolutely loved this post. I think I will be taking a print out of it and keeping it safe πŸ™‚

  4. Tweeted and facebooked. Had to. Good stuff.
    Your Chinese Fortune:
    “A woman in a wine colored MAY approve of your actions. IF not, you will enter the “Witless Protection Programme.”

    1. Yes!! As I just said to Peter, this is the point at which you realize your relationship with your parents has changed – and that’s okay. I see people my age who are still “stuck” in this role of “child” (e.g., 60 year olds still “sneaking a smoke” where they think their parents can’t see/smell) or rebelling (refusing to come home for a holiday visit because they can’t stand the family “drama”) – but I think a healthy adult relationship with your parents means recognizing that you are now an autonomous adult who gets to choose things like where to live, what kind of work to do, how to create your own family, what recreational activities to engage in – and how to relate to your parents. Maybe some parents get kind of “stuck” in an authoritative role, because their kids haven’t yet convinced them that they are strong, independent, and no longer in NEED of a parental safety net or discipline or “rescuing” from their mistakes. I’m sure there are cultural aspects to this, too. But I certainly did not have children just so they could spend the best years of their lives “taking care of me.” (I’d like to think they would want to, if I NEEDED the help very badly – but I wouldn’t want them putting their lives on hold in anticipation of that day coming, or feeling resentful about it if it does come.) I didn’t have children to live vicariously through them – to steer them down some narrow path that leads to them living out MY dreams. I can see where the urge to do that might spring from feeling a lack of choice or ability to live my own – and I’m grateful to MY parents for not steering me down that path, either.
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    1. I never got to deliver a commencement address; maybe all that repressed energy is coming out in this post. πŸ˜‰ I think – I HOPE – that my kids knew all this before they left school, but I remember how it was with me, and I watch the same playing out with my daughter – there comes this point where it dawns on you (as a young adult) that you ARE a young ADULT, and that your relationship to your parents has changed. Until you realize that your parents have known this all along – that they were young, once, too, and they “get it,” you’re kind of stuck in a role that doesn’t quite fit anyone.
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  5. Great lessons, Holly πŸ™‚

    I especially love the last one; if only everyone in the world was like that, the world would be a much better place to live, wouldn’t it?

    I sometimes wonder, what would happen if we conduct the grand experiment (you know the one about raising a child outside of human contact)? Would he/she have an idea of selfishness? Would he/she have fear?

    Many of these ideas are taught to us, so what would happen if they aren’t?

    I wonder. It’s sad that we can’t conduct this experiment (Ethical reasons, of course).

    But, maybe in the future, we can run simulations – on robots perhaps? Robots that think they are human (But, we all know what would happen eventually; They will take over πŸ˜€ Lol).

    Only agree with your points on learning and about enjoying life. Never stop learning πŸ˜€ Learn to enjoy learning πŸ™‚

    As for enjoying life, sure we may all have different beliefs about what happens after die; that doesn’t matter here. Like you mentioned, this is the only life we are guaranteed to have, take it, enjoy it.

    1. Jeevan – the part of “raising a child outside of human contact” you’re forgetting is, “Would he know love? Would he feel compassion for other living creatures? Would he be lonely? Would he be a spiritual void or invent a whole new god?” (Did you ever read the story I wrote over on race2hugo.net? I’m exploring that – to some degree – but with the presumption that it wouldn’t be a very good idea at all.) They did run experiments on monkeys – I think surely you’re familiar with those: http://youtu.be/OrNBEhzjg8I
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      1. Ah, indeed, those are questions to ask. Perhaps? Until we conduct such an experiment, we will never know for sure.

        But, there are other things to consider: Animals also feel love, don’t they? They are affectionate towards their mothers. So, perhaps he/she may know it.

        Oh, yes. I am familiar with it, although I don’t quite remember where I saw it, most likely my psychology class.

  6. OMG, I know that there are no instruction manuals for raising children but if I had to keep a “go-to” guide for rearing the generations of individuals who determine the direction of our future, your words would be IT! Two parts that are especially important for me is where you wrote “There’s enough misery in the world without your adding to it.” as well as “Be open minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out.”

    Most of all, the emphasis on kindness that you highlighted when saying not to let other people’s selfishness or mean-spirited behavior be one’s excuse for exhibiting the very same behavior is so crucial in each of us doing what we can to carve out happiness in our own corners of the world; I say “crucial” because it’s often something that many adults are aware of, yet, it seems to be more difficult to put into practice than it is to agree to and understand in theory, as there are so many times when a tragedy or wrongdoing can get cause us to lose our cool that we quickly throw all of that Nobel thinking and behavior out of the window…that’s where things get messy and go downhill.

    I am going to link to this in a future blog post, so that others can read your list…and so that the parents among these readers and visitors may hopefully also make sure that their kids know these things, or something similar, as well.

    ~Nicole
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    1. Nicole, may I frame your comment and hang it on my wall, for those days when I’m feeling low and totally inadequate? πŸ™‚ Thank you.

      Sure, most of this is summed up by “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (NOT as so many interpret it, “Do unto others as they do to you”) but we ALL have our tired, careless, thoughtless, hurtful moments. It’s easier than we make it out to be, most days, but sometimes – well, most of us slip up and screw up, sometimes. Doesn’t make us awful people, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try harder and make some restitution where we can.
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