My 20-something daughter has repeatedly thanked me for the way I reared her. She feels well-prepared for being an adult, making choices (being happy and healthy among them), and is extremely confident in her abilities. Looking back I see there were 13 steps I followed fairly consistently (which turn out to also maintain a happy, healthy adult).
1. Boundaries. They give you a starting point in which to create and explore. More important, boundaries are to be pushed and expanded. And while you may grumble, moan, and groan, (perhaps even swear and curse) as you’re pushing and expanding, once expanded you find yourself in a better, stronger, different, newer place, and feeling good about yourself.
2. High expectations. You fulfil the expectations made of you. As a child you attempted to fill your parents’ expectations. A marker of adulthood is when you set high expectations for yourself (also known as goals). Then, you strive to not only achieve them, but surpass them. The higher you aim, the higher you’ll reach.
3. Unconditional Love. A toughie. Loving another just because he or she “is.” Loving the essence of who and what they are, not what they do. It’s one of those “I love you, but not your actions, or choices.” It boils down to “You have value as a human being, and that is what I love unconditionally. As for the choices you are making with your life, well that’s another story.” And while for most loving unconditionally is difficult, it is “easier” (relatively) to love another unconditionally. (Think of your children.) It gets tricky when you realize you need to love yourself unconditionally, without being narcissistic or egocentric. A good analogy is the airplane speech. They always tell you if the oxygen masks drop down you’re to put yours on first before putting one on your child. Like it or not, you need to take care of you first and foremost, because you’re not going to do anyone any good when you’re six feet under. (Yourself or your children.)
4. Accept your humanity, and theirs. Neither you nor your children will ever be perfect. Accept it. Accept being far more human than you probably want. I’ve been known to make lots of mistakes, be cruel, rude, a curmudgeon and even lie, cheat, and at times steal. However, I’ve also been known to be generous, polite, gracious, kind, and giving. I’ve been known to go out of my way to help another, share what I have, battle wrongs, and learn from my mistakes. I continually strive to get as close to my ideal of good, kind, and generous, while realizing there are hiccups along the way. (I try never to repeat a mistake.) While I’ve always been able to accept that humanity in my child (as part of her life/learning/growing experience), it’s been harder to accept in myself. Turns out humanity is part of being human — for better and for worse. Aim for spending more time in the “for better” portion.
5. Apologize when warranted. This segues into the above. When your humanness has you reacting inappropriately — yelling at your child because you’re worried about your marriage, giving into road rage because someone else took credit for your ideas at work, being mean or bullying someone smaller and weaker than you because you can, and you know your actions are wrong and inappropriate — apologize. Make sure that apology is from the heart. If it’s not sincere, don’t bother. Know that even when you mess up big time, often by offering a sincere apology, you will be forgiven. Know that even though one of the hardest things of all is to apologize and forgive yourself, it’s worth it.
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Part 2 will cover:
6. Remember who’s the boss.
7. It’s not necessary to do it all.
8. Keeping a household running
9. Simple is good.
10. It’s okay to cry.
Part 3 will cover:
11. Creating memories
12. Rituals and religion — making sense out of chaos
13. Sometimes there’s nothing to say
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