One of my favorite things about being a parent, and especially a new parent, is the ability to hug, hold, kiss, smell, stare at and smooch my babies whenever I want and for as long as I want (something I couldn’t do if they weren’t mine, otherwise it would be creepy). And if you are anything like me, as you hold them tight and stare at them relentlessly, you can’t help but wonder about the person they will grow up to be, their personalities, or the kind of things they’ll like or dislike. I believe that who children are, or grow up to be, has a lot to do with who we are as parents. Kids see and model what’s around them and more often than not, they look up to their parents for guidance on how to interact with others in this wild place we call Earth. That is why everyday, I strive to be a better person so that I can be a better mother. Granted, some days I manage to keep my cool while other days I lose it altogether.
Many will agree that being a parent is one of the most rewarding, humbling and trying experiences in life. The responsibilities of being a parent extend well beyond providing basic necessities of food and shelter, to nurturing a child with love and affection. As parents, we also bear the lion’s share of making sure our children grow up to be responsible and constructive citizens (though some might say we are 100% responsible for this). If my boys are anything like I was with my parents growing up, they will do anything in their power to contradict me! And that’s ok, since I don’t expect them to make my life easy. But, if I do anything right as a parent, these are the 5 values I want to instill in them:
–A strong sense of identity: As biracial children, chances are my boys will be asked the “what are you?” and “where are you from?” questions more often than their peers. Not that these questions are always ill-intended or harmful to the recipient, but as they grow up and go through different stages of self-discovery, these questions could help or hinder their identity quest. Especially as biracial people, they might feel pressured to “pick a side” or might feel totally inadequate to claim either race (more on that later). As a mom, my goal is to expose my children to as many culturally-relevant experiences as I can. Beyond just knowing their parents’ nationalities or speaking a different language, I want my children to explore and feel comfortable talking about different cultures and feel proud of their heritage. Finding comfort and pride in who they are will lay a strong foundation that could help them weather any storm.
–Being passionate about life: As I encourage my kids to develop their own interests, I want them to get excited about… something. Whether it’s sports, music, art, or renaissance history, I want them to be passionate about it. I believe that passion drives innovation. But I’m not talking about wanting to follow a certain career path, or develop a specific hobby and devote hours and hours to it. I’m talking about having a positive and enthusiastic attitude towards life and finding the passion and desire to live life to its fullest by taking a lead role in it instead of watching it happen from the sidelines. I want my kids to be passionate about what they do, to pursue their dreams and live a fulfilling life. I know that there will be ups and downs, and there will be moments in life when, well, things are just not that fun (cough, cough, adulthood). But my hope is that during those dark days, they can find a spark of passion inside of them to guide them to the light.
–Resiliency: Children are naturally hardheaded resilient. But as they grow older, they learn that life is a bit more complex than they thought and there are more risks involved in their decisions, more trade-offs, and more choices. They can choose to follow their dreams or not. They can choose to drop out of college, but what’s the trade-off? Resiliency is a quality that helps you bounce back from life’s setbacks by not giving up no matter how many times you fall. Just as I want my kids to pursue their passions, I want to teach them to be resilient when life doesn’t go their way on their first or second or tenth try. Knowing that life’s biggest rewards often come with the toughest challenges is no easy lesson to teach. But you can instill this value in children when they are young by encouraging them to solve problems on their own and being their biggest cheerleader.
–Gratitude and generosity: No, I’m not trying to sneak two values in one here! I like to think of gratitude and generosity as the combination of being grateful for life’s bounties by giving to those who are less fortunate. I think these two values go hand in hand, and it’s a good way to teach children to appreciate what they have. Despite our very different upbringings, both my husband and I agree that we want to teach our children not to take things for granted and understand the meaning of hard work. We want to teach our children that no matter how much or how little they think they have, there are others who are less fortunate and that there are many different ways they can help and give back to their community.
–Humility: Lastly, humility. Of all the amazing values that I want to teach my children, I chose to add humility to this list. More than being humble, humility is about having the confidence to know that you accomplished something great without bragging. Is more than teaching children how not to be a sore loser, and more about learning to apologize when they are wrong. Instilling the value of humility is about building children up to be the best they can be and knowing that that’s worth more than any trophy or race they win.
As parents, we want the best for our kids, including the best qualities and values. If you could pick, what would be 5 values you want to instill in your children?