“Mama said, don’t give up, it’s a little complicated.”
Wouldn’t you agree that the person we ultimately become, as we grow older, is a collection of life lessons we’ve accumulated over the years from a variety of sources and experiences. They act as a road map and a framework for how we proceed through our lives and the core of our being.
Some of my greatest life lessons came directly from the mouth and actions of my parents, not always intended as such. Like witnessing my dad head to work every day in the early morning, sometimes not returning until dark. All while my mom dedicated her long working hours raising my sisters and me (a job she doesn’t get enough credit for). Or receiving pep talks from my dad after a defeat in one of my volleyball games, even when they weren’t well received from my hypo hormonal teenage self. And by my mom committing to not only provide a homemade meal for us, but insisting we ate dinner together as a family…every night.
These lessons are still things I use today; hard work, in hard times to dust yourself off and grow from it, and to always focus on family.
Of course, my own children will learn things like this from my husband and me in similar inadvertent opportunities as they navigate through their lives. But I also want to be intentional with the lessons I leave them. I make it a point in every interactions to look for “teachable” moments, where something not so pleasant can be used in a way to provide valuable takeaways and to develop their moral compass.
Take for example the catchy new Panic at the Disco song I quoted above, “High Hopes.” It just happens to be my youngest son Scout’s favorite tune right now, so I get lots of windshield time singing along with Brendon Urie’s ode to his mother’s advice:
“Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing
Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision
Always had high, high hopes (high, high hopes)”
In 20 years, will your kids be singing about the lessons you taught them? Possibly not literally if they don’t pursue music, but how about figuratively? Shouldn’t that be all of our goals as parents?
I have found a simple way to teach my kids life lessons on a daily basis that doesn’t take much effort or time.
About two months ago I started implementing nightly, “Life Lessons” with my oldest son, Sawyer. At first he thought it was a little weird. After his normal bedtime routine of watching 6 minutes (yes 6) of a video of his choice and hugs and kisses, I would say, “Okay Sawyer, now for your life lesson.”
I would then give him a short 2-3 minute talk on anything from common courtesy, to manners and kindness, to making smart choices. Think, “Be kind” “Be a leader”, “Always be honest”, “Befriend those that are alone”, “Family comes first.” And I always apply it to an example in his life. Like with “respect others,” I’d remind him how important it is to treat others the way you want to be treated, at school and at home.
When I first started I basically went through the 10 Commandments, but my own kid-applicable versions. Because I made it part of his routine and I add in humor of course, he now asks for (and expects) them every night, “Mom what is my lesson tonight?” It really touches my heart, but also keeps me in check.
I struggle some times to come up with new ones, but one trick I use is when I have my own issues to deal with during the day, I think about how it is a way for me to practice what I preach. What is something I have learned that I not only can put into action, but teach him to as well?
For example, I imagine that with my boys growing up in a social media heavy world, they might one day struggle with comparing themselves to others and try to be something they aren’t. Normal kid stuff but magnified and broadcasted. So, I gave him a lesson one night about how he is one-of-a-kind and not meant to be anyone but himself. His eyes widened as I spoke, like a light bulb went off.
He repeated back to me “I should always be Sawyer.” Yes, son, yes!
And just like Brendon sings, and I couldn’t say it better myself:
“Mama said, it’s uphill for oddities
The stranger crusaders, ain’t ever wannabes
The weird and the novelties don’t ever change”
I understand, not all of these lessons will stick. Some won’t make the cut as he fills his brain with both intellectual and trivial things, but my hope is that by having a daily open dialogue on our principles with our boys, we are helping to incrementally influence their character into two thoughtful and, above all else, KIND HUMAN BEINGS.
I’d love to hear your best life lessons too; what did your parents teach you that you plan to pass on to your kids? I do need some more, so you’ll be helping a mama out!