“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.