So, to follow up my Nine Things I Hope My Children Will Learn From Me, I wanted to list a couple things I hope they DON’T learn. We’re all passing on our best and worst to our kids, but I hope being aware of these is helpful. I’m still convinced we’re all messing our kids up in some way. I just hope that they can overcome my parenting shortfalls and turn out to be successful, happy citizens despite them. I’m sure there are more if I thought long enough, but these are the things that pop into my head often. Dear Children, please don’t learn these things:
- Procrastinating is a reasonable life habit. We all put the unpleasant off from time to time, but cramming all night for a test, or waiting until your lease is up to look for another apartment, or just waiting until you’re hungry to think about preparing a meal, will not serve you well. There is an argument to be made that an approaching deadline can get your creative juices going and make you perform better. It’s a good argument, I get it, I’ve felt it. But do it to yourself. Set your own deadlines ahead of time. If you have six pages to write by the 20th, tell yourself you must have all resources gathered by the 5th, a rough draft by the 10th, editing by the 15th, and final formatting by the 20th. Or whatever. Respect your own deadlines as much as the instructors, or your bosses, or the cable company’s! If I’d learned that by the time I graduated from high school instead of only after I’d birthed children, I would have avoided a great deal of stress in my life. That black cloud of dread hanging over your shoulder stinks, and it can be avoided.
- You don’t need a budget, credit is easy, and there’s always time to save later. Again, I finally learned this lesson, but not until I’d married your dad. My parents knew it, and tried to teach me, but I just didn’t get it. Just like number one, if I’d learned this earlier, I’d have saved myself a whole lot of stress. Your dad may be a little too neurotic the other way, but we balance each other nicely. Don’t count on meeting a mate that balances you, though. There are too many other things on the must-have list for a mate. Take care of your own money because it’s smart. Set a budget, stick to it. Don’t take unnecessary credit, and pay what you do take on time as agreed. And always, always, always save something for the future.
- Girls must stay home and cook meals, do all the laundry, care for the kids, and never mow the lawn or perform car maintenance. Now, you might think this one is obvious, but it is what your mother does, at least for now. As much as I spout equality for men and women, I stay home, cook ALL the meals in our home, do all the laundry, provide nearly all primary care for the children, and I’ve never ever run the lawn mower. But you have to understand that this was a choice. Your father and I have divided our family and household chores in the way that works best for us. I LIKE to cook, he barely likes to eat! It does not have to be this way, it’s just the way it is at OUR house. And your dad can, and has, pitched in cheerfully to do laundry, and frankly would do more of it if I weren’t sort of a freak about how it gets done. That’s my own issue, maybe I’ll talk more about that another day. It’s best to find a mate who compliments your interests. If you hate to cook, it’s great to find a mate who loves to, but if you don’t be sure you both agree on what the best take-out is.
- Cursing is an acceptable method of communicating. I’m working on it. I know I let the naughty words fly more than I should, and I know you’re listening and repeating it. I know. I promise to try harder. It’s not cute, it’s not even funny. Other people are judging me based on what comes out of my mouth, and they will you, too. And that’s fair because we are all in control of our own mouths!
- Smoking for a while when you’re young is no big deal, you can quit later. I hate to use the word “regret” because I wouldn’t change anything that would change the place in life I find myself, with this family, in this place, at this time. If your father and I weren’t smokers, or if only one of us had been, our initial social interactions might have been different and who knows if we’d be together. That said, my only real regret in life is picking up that first cigarette. I really wish neither of your parents had ever been a smoker. You see that I am not a smoker today and maybe you think it was just a thing I used to do and you could try it, too. Please, please, please don’t. Quitting was enormously difficult. I am extremely proud that I accomplished it, but it’s not a project I would wish on anyone. Ever.
- You must always make your point. I know you (and probably most of the readers) think I actually believe this one. I don’t, I just have trouble remembering it. As much as I enjoy a good disagreement, and believe it necessary for a healthy relationship, sometimes you have to just let it go. You cannot have a healthy long-term relationship if you can’t sometimes just let the point go. Sometimes making the point isn’t necessary, sometimes it isn’t advisable, and sometimes it’s just too much effort for no pay off. Choose your battles.