Friday, December 19, 2008

Life Lessons

This past week has been a bit harrowing thanks to Sam's illness. She is finally better, but staying at home and going stir crazy allowed me a lot of time to think and much of what I thought about was the life lessons I would like to impart to my children.

The other day a friend--a therapist--told me something about myself I did not know. "You allow more than most people for the 'bad' in life." At the time, she was talking about the fact that I allow Sam to tantrum, to feel all of her feelings. I never shoot her down or tell her she is being irrational. This is not to say her fits don't irritate me. It is just that I grew up in an egalitarian household where I was encouraged to voice my thoughts (even if they did not listen).

Later, I took it a step further. Not only to I allow the bad, I embrace it in some ways. There is nothing a person could call me that I could not call myself. Think I am snobby? Mean? Selfish? Well, I have thought all those things about myself as well. There is nothing anyone can call me that I won't call myself. But I don't care. I am proud of my bad side as much as I am of my good side. Am I selfish? Well, maybe. But I would not be where I am today if I were not a little selfish. I embrace it.

In our culture, it is counter-intuitive and disturbing to most when you say anything that is not pretty. But life is not pretty. Life can really, really suck and it is way too short. My biggest worry for my children is that they will spend too much time putting a pretty bow on their crappy feelings. I say no way. I want them to let their freak flags fly, to be who they are and to not be concerned with what others think or how they are perceived.

R and I talk about this often because he was painfully self conscious as a child. I never was and am not now. Do I sometimes make a total ass out of myself? Absolutely. All the time. But I don't care. I can't teach my kids not to make fools of themselves. Why would I want to? The people that make fools of themselves, fall flat and make mistakes are the ones who are really living. They are risking and taking chances and putting themselves out there.

My hopes for my children are that they will be bold. Say what they think, fail and make asses of themselves. There is nothing worse than mediocrity. I like failing spectacularly.

This is not to say that there is only one measure of success. They don't have to be rich or famous to be successful. They just have to be themselves. They have to be real. They have to embrace life's shades of grey and not live like things are black and white. The people who think they have all the answer are often the most unwise. My favorite thing about getting older is realizing how much I don't know. It is so easy at 15 to think you have all the answers, that all is black and white. But at 31, I know there is so much grey. It has made me a lot more forgiving of myself and of others even while it makes me sad that there are some who still live in a permanent state of adolescence.

It is a shame that we can't start our kids knowing what we know. They have to go through it all, too. But my hopes for them are that they will have confidence, that they will see the world for what it is and not try to sell themselves on lies about "being nice." Do I want them to be kind people? Sure. But not in the traditional sense. I think it is most important to be kind to themselves. To forgive themselves of their mistakes and stumbles and to keep on trying. But most of all, not to be afraid. Fear is probably the single most paralyzing emotion. People who are afraid never DO. They never live.

So be bold my babies. Or, as my mom always said, "feel the fear and do it anyway."

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