“I just want them to be happy and healthy” is the de rigueur answer to a number of polite(ish) questions about our children, and it’s really never the truth. There are so many things we want for our kids.
The problem is, there are a lot of things it’s really not okay to want for your kids.
Most of what we say about what we want for our children is a reflection of us; our values, and not of our love for them. For example, “I want my son to be a millionaire” may come from someone who finds money stressful. It might be a genuinely positive wish, but it could easily turn into undue pressure for a little kiddo.
At worst, what we want for our children reveals our character flaws — racism, bigotry, greed, vanity and so on. When we push these flawed ideals on our kids, we can do a lot of damage.
However, “happy and healthy” really doesn’t cut it. I don’t spend all weekend on the floor with my toddler trying to show her how to be happy, and while her continued good health is certainly a hope of mine, even if I do my very best, I don’t really have any control over what may ravage her system in the future. There are things I want for her brain and for her effect in society that have nothing to do with how happy she is about them, though I do hope she’ll be happy. Here are eight things I want for my daughter:
1. To be kind.
There are a lot of terrible people out there who are happy and healthy. In fact, studies have shown that bullies have the highest self esteem and social status and the lowest rates of depression (isn’t that depressing?). I’m sure there are happy and healthy murderers, rapists and corporate criminals. I want my daughter not to be a d-bag.
2. To do something positive with her life.
I want her to have an occupation of some kind, whether that be a job or a set of responsibilities. And, I want it to involve doing something for others. I do not want a happy, healthy person who lives in my basement and plays video games, unless that person is me. There. I said it. I want my daughter to do something positive in and for the world.
3. To have a sense of humor.
Because family dinners are forever.
4. To have logic and reason.
Firstly, logic and reason help us communicate. But also, she’s growing up in a world of automation, The IoT and digital tools to solve problems we don’t even have yet. Computers run on logic. So does money, usually. I want her to get it. Even if she could be happy not getting it, I want her to get it. In fact, I want her to want to get it.
5. To have discipline.
I don’t mean “to beat herself up when she does something wrong,” but to have the discipline to complete things, to focus and to avoid temptation when temptation needs avoiding.
6. To be fierce.
We all come to situations in our lives when our fierceness is required. We need to be brave, loud, big and cutthroat. I want my kind daughter to have ferocity in her back pocket, and to know when to use it.
7. To embrace contradictions.
The world is a gray area, with an overwhelming lack of mutual exclusivity. So many things can be true at the same time. Some people get so tied up in their black and white views of things, it becomes a definition of their purpose. I want my daughter to embrace contradictions, and to be free from fear of the gray.
8. To have love for the world.
This is different from kindness. This is about acceptance and excitement and gratitude and wonder and empathy. I want her great big heart to envelop this whole place.
There are a lot of other things I want for her, too. What do you want for your kids?