Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The lessons I will not teach

I've done a lot of thinking over the past 3 years - motherhood, while linguistically monotonous, is mentally exhausting. The constant need for ready answers, for gentle words, for succinct and accurate life lessons at a moment's notice - motherhood is anything but brainless.

Over the course of my life, I've worked with a lot of people, a lot of kids, a lot of different backgrounds/socio-economic standings/religions - and now, with 3 little years of motherhood as a modest platform, I've come a conclusion. There are some lessons, significant life lessons, lessons that some would tout as paramount to growing a successful/'good' human being, that I will not teach. I simply won't do it.

I won't teach these lessons because while I agree with their original core intent, I disagree with the result I think it produces in us as people. I won't teach these lessons because I think they are false lessons, and perhaps the reason so many of us went through crises in our adolescence (in addition to the fact we were adolescents) was that we were becoming aware of the realities of a world we'd been shielded from. Perhaps cynicism's roots are in childhood lessons. Perhaps disenchantment stems from simplified life lessons from those who should be best equipped to gently introduce us to the hardest realities.

But here's the thing - when I choose not to teach these lessons, I am choosing a much more difficult task. One I don't know the outcome of, and one that will require more mental attention, more careful structuring of sentences, and more availability to guide my little bundles of innocence and newness.

But I think it's right, to equip rather than shield, and to call to a higher standard than cater to my own fear of shattered innocence. I mean, can innocence be informed rather than shattered? I think so.

So - with that decided (and with very careful attention to making sure good parenting and my children's best remains at the core of these decisions), these are the lessons I will not teach.

* Fairness. I will not teach fairness. This world is not a fair place, and the simple fact my children were born into a home with literate parents who had stable incomes is a testament to that fact. Instead, I will teach kindness, consideration, and humility - for those things create a person who truly sees others, and who I think more truly sees themselves. But I will not teach fairness.

* Pity. I will not teach pity. Pity breeds fear. Pity tells us we are better than others, and that their position is to be avoided at all costs. Instead, I will teach compassion, generosity, and grace - because these things breed change and gratefulness. But I will not teach pity.

* Entitlement. I will not teach entitlement. While certain things - even simple things like physical safety, access to food, or right to free speech/right to education/right to equal treatment - may be good things, they are not guaranteed things. And just because they are accomplished in the moment, and even for the foreseeable future, does not mean they are guaranteed. Instead, I will teach self-respect, values founded on faith, and wisdom - for these things create an unshakeable person with hope and perspective. But I will not teach entitlement.

* To be against. I will not teach my children to be against things. When we are against things, we choose to participate in the defeat of something - we set ourselves in a position of power. Being against things breeds hatred, arrogance, and close-mindedness.  I will teach them to be for things. I will teach passion, courage, and perseverance - for these things create a person who will catalyze change, instill strength in others, and better the world. But I will not teach them to be against. (note - I recognize the dissonance of this particular lesson, since I'm saying I'm against being against things. Sometimes the actions of being for something and against something are the same, but the attitude behind them decides the basis for the action. Thus, the focus on all of the things I will teach. Figured that needed a little acknowledging :) )

And I think we all strive for about the same thing - none of us want to produce children who truly think fairness is an absolute reality, we know it's not. We don't want children who pity others, we don't want entitled children (though we might be pretty sure they came out into the world that way...), and we don't want children who view the world only as a set of negative obstacles to be squashed. But, it's hard, and in my play dates, in my running errands, in the television shows the kids watch, and even in my own conversations with my kids - I hear the subtleties of these lessons being taught. I see the timers being set so everyone gets a fair turn, I take too far the good allocation of toys to little people who need boundaries and inadvertently breed entitlement. 

With some of these lessons, I'm not even quite sure how I teach them, or if I do so accidentally - but I know they are taught by many and I don't want to teach them. So I vigilantly watch for little ways they sneak into my language, attitudes, and interactions with my children, and with others - for little eyes are always watching and little ears are always listening. And with some of these lessons, like fairness, I'll constantly juggle teaching my children to treat others with fairness (which I think is rooted in kindness, consideration, and humility) while not expecting fairness in return (though I will teach them to have a founded sense of self-worth that believes they have just as much of right to fairness as others - but while not teaching entitlement.... See? This is going to be tricky).

My point is simply this - I want to raise children who are strong, who are informed, who have strength of character that is built on knowledge of reality coupled with hope and faith. And so, there are the lessons I will not teach, and the ones I will teach instead.

I suppose my conclusion would be this - parenting is exhausting, and it's so easy to slip into auto-pilot and in those critical moments parrot the answers or phrases or explanations we know. But conscious, intentional, forward thinking parenting is much more likely to raise the people our children are capable of being - the people our children already are.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah- and all the other young parents that read this blog, please remember you can try to teach your children many things with words, but it will be your "modelling" that will be the best teacher. As one person said, "It's not what you say, but what you do".
    Sarah, you already model these things you write about, and I have no doubt your children(my grandchildren) will grow up to be compassionate and loving, full of grace.


The Favorites