When I think about the pressure of raising kids, my head kind of implodes. So I try not to think about it too often. HA! That’s totally a joke. Those who know me, or are familiar with some of the articles I write, wherein I delve deep into analyzing how I parent, how I discipline … then you know that I’m a thinker; an analyzer. I consider these to be good, honest traits. They’re traits that humble me and keep me centered in one of the most challenging and rewarding roles I’ll ever have the honor of tackling.
While there are many similarities in how I raise my kids, I have some special (and slightly different) lessons on life I hope to implant in each of their magnificent little brains and hearts before they go off on their own in this mad, beautiful world. As my son grows, here’s what I hope to teach him about life, love, happiness, and integrity …
1. Forget about being a good man, concentrate on being a good human.
While I want you to respect women, I want you to respect yourself just as much. There is far too much pressure on young boys and men to, “man up.” The old-school thought process that quantifies being a good man to being the strong, silent type. One who never cries, holds doors open for women, whose manliness is measured by how many women he can get in the sack. These are the sort of “manly” goals that I dearly hope to squash. I wish for you to be able to focus on who you are and what your values are as an individual. As a human being, with gender left out of it. I want you to understand what bodily integrity is, to have no qualms with knowing that by the mere fact that you are male, you are privileged. I really hope you have a solid awareness about sexual violence and manage to steer clear of the peer pressure/frat house type of culture that minimizes these issues and pats perpetrators on the back, while blaming the women. To me, this will lead you well on your way to being a good human, not just a good man.
2. Know your gifts.
Even now, as a young lad, I see your creative and brainy ways shine bright. Don’t let anyone squash that in you, even when you’re on your own as the smart kid, the theatrical kid, the sensitive one. People can be mean and others will turn their own lack of self-confidence or discomfort with being around someone different against you. Shake that off and know that the people who are in your corner (your family and close friends) are the ones who matter.
3. Clean your room and brush your teeth.
This is basic hygiene stuff that I know can sometimes get missed during the teen years. Now, I’m not talking about keeping your hair short and being clean-shaven. You can rock a beard and grow those curls out if you so desire. But keep your breath fresh and your pink parts clean. I know, I know. So basic. And yet, it’s just me your mom here with your best interest at heart. Go on with your suave, handsome self and let that shine. A nice-smelling human with clean fingernails is generally a much more well-received person than those who are not. You have been blessed with the privilege of fresh, clean water to bathe in and things like toenail clippers. Honor that and the skin you’re in, not to live up to the media’s ideals, but your own.
4. Have faith in yourself.
Be kind — even in the face of adversity — and your intuitive charm will shine through. But know that there will be times when it doesn’t. Not everyone will see your light and not everyone will like you. Don’t let that stop you from liking yourself. I wish I could protect you from all of the hardships and challenges I know you will face, but I also know that these experiences will strengthen your character, build your resolve, and create the layered, intelligent human I know you will become. Don’t ever lose sight of your core: you are blessed, loved, smart, and gifted. Sometimes things won’t work out the way you want them to — even if you’ve worked really hard for it. If you have confidence in yourself even in the face of failure, you will be able to overcome anything and come out on top in the end. Learn patience, embrace kindness, and travel the world to experience how other cultures live, eat, love one another, teach one another, respect one another, and face adversity. This will go a long way in building the faith you have in YOURSELF.
5. Be fierce and be loyal.
Know who your people are. Treasure, honor, and respect them the way that they respect you. Work hard at learning how to be a good brother, son, friend, and partner in life (whether that be in love or in business). Have compassion for those who are less fortunate than you. Chase happiness and seek a humble life, helping out others when you can, everything else will fall into place.