In my last post, I spent some time looking back and reflecting on someone I used to be. This time, I want to look ahead and think about someone I want to become. Some of this may sound hypocritical now, but I hope I can work that out in time.
There are a few reasons why I’m not sure that having my own kids someday is in the cards for me. This isn’t really the forum on which I wish to discuss that, but suffice it to say that I would like to have my own family with my own children. Tonight I really got to thinking about what kind of parent I would like to be, and even though I’ve been mulling over it for about four hours now, I’m not totally sure it’s completely fleshed out. Then again, how can one ever know these things so far in advance? At any rate, this may not be so well-constructed.
First and foremost, I never ever ever want to belittle my children and give them any reason to doubt themselves. I never want to tell them that they’re worthless or that they’ll never amount to anything (or make them feel as such). I never want to cause them to sit around wondering where they went wrong in life and what they did to deserve my wrath. I want to support them and let them know that even if I don’t always agree with them, I trust them (this, of course, goes to a point; if they’re doing something dangerous, that’s another set of rules) and their decisions. I want them to know that their happiness is what matters most. I also don’t want to discourage them from ever thinking that they can’t be anything at all that they want to be. If they spend their entire childhoods pursuing a dream and then suddenly decide to change it, I will not be disappointed in them. I will not consider them failures for changing their minds. I will consider them brave for wanting to do something new.
I want them to know that it is never too late. It’s never too late to change your feelings or change your mind or to realize something new about something you thought you knew inside and out for years and years. Because really, no one ever knows. It’s just never too late for anything (except maybe snacking. I’ll probably discourage that because I want them to be healthier than I am).
Equally as important, they will know that my problems are not their problems, nor should I be taking it out on them. I expect to have fights with my kids and I expect there to be rough times (ages 2-18, perhaps). What I never want to do is let the things that have tarnished me rub off on them. I want my bad habits to be my own and not something that my children learn by example. I know that when teachers meet the parents of problem children, they spend the first few minutes assessing which parent’s attributes are rubbing off on their kid, and to what extent. I don’t want those meetings. I will not expect them to bear the weight of my world on their shoulders. Work ethic and responsibility are important lessons to be learned, but they also need to have to be kids. As they get older, they will have enough of their own problems without me further burdening them. I will be there for them as needed even for their adult problems.
I will be consistent. I would hate to think that my kids never know what to expect from me – not sure if I’ll be happy one minute and angry the next, not sure if I’ll be forgiving or critical, not sure of my moods at any given moment. I don’t want them to have that kind of worry and anxiety because it only gets worse over time. I also don’t want to make them feel unnecessarily guilty about things over which they have no control. I hope they will be more confident than I ever have been.
While I believe that there is a time and place for constructive criticism, I will hate myself if I become meanly critical and start picking apart all of my children’s actions, thoughts, decisions. I refuse to tease them about what might be sensitive topics. I don’t want to deconstruct them and pick out all of their flaws. I want to love them unconditionally, even if it’s sometimes difficult because they drive me crazy some days, and I completely expect that they will (just as much as I will drive them crazy). It hurts to be made fun of, and I don’t want to hurt my children.
I want to be fair, knowing when punishment is necessary and how to best prescribe it. I want to keep it uniform from child to child so that no one can say it isn’t fair. In that same vein, anyone who knows me knows that when I’m wrong, I’ll say I’m wrong. And when I’ve wronged someone, I will feel bad about it. I will always apologize, and even if I’m sometimes over-apologizing, I want people to know that I recognize that I was stepping out of line (or that I perceived myself to be). It is my hope that my children will share that sentiment – that they will be able to recognize when they’ve been wrong, and that they won’t be too proud to apologize when they’ve wronged someone else. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s what you do about them that counts. That being said, I truly believe that if we know we’ve hurt someone, our apology should mean that we will try our best to not do it again, not that we’re just sorry for now.
If I’m going to force anything, it’s going to be books. My kids will read, and I will do whatever it takes to make that fun for them the way it was and is for me. I also hope that I can get them to feel as excited and enthusiastic as I did about school when I was little, but I hope that their passion for learning exceeds my own and that they don’t slack off in Jr. High like I did. I hope that they will choose to go to college and have the time of their lives there and meet wonderful people. I hope they won’t roll their eyes too much when I inevitably take them back to Susquehanna and tell them stories as I walk down memory lane.
My children will know empathy, sympathy, compassion, and what it is to be a good friend. I want them to be able to interact with people much better than I do. I want them to find something to be passionate about. I want them to learn to love themselves in a way that I don’t know I ever quite learned to love myself. I want them to be so happy, to have their feet on the ground but a sense of imagination that tells them that nothing is impossible.
I could go on (and on), but I suppose these are pretty standard and maybe even a bit cliche. Most parents DO want more for their children. Some parents mean well, but they still end up hurting their kids. I never want to hurt my kids in any way, and that’s basically what it boils down to. I just hope I get to meet them someday.