I ran into an old friend on the subway the other day. He and his partner have a two-year-old little girl, and we started talking about the different types of parenting challenges we face at different stages. As we continued to chat from 96th Street to Times Square, we both agreed how much easier life would have been if only someone had clued us in to a few things before high school.
Both of my children are now officially adolescent. Yes, it’s a tough blow for this mom to confess, but still true. My daughter has been trudging this exciting (and sometimes volatile) road for a few years, but this is relatively new territory for my son (and me together). So if I could ensure my two precious babes were able to learn only a handful of things before the joy and elation (and, yes, despair) of young adulthood capsizes and pulls them into their powerful undertow, this would be it:
1. It’s impossible to satisfy or please everybody. Figure out what feels right to you (which, by the way, is not as easy as it sounds) then work towards that. If you are truly sated, it won’t matter what others think.
2. The person who breaks your heart or causes you pain is not the person who will heal it–or as my Dad used to say, don’t go to the hardware store for milk. Think about it.
3. When someone shows you who they are through their actions, words or reactions, believe them. (And as another offshoot — people are remarkably consistent, you can predict the future by looking at the past).
4. You will judge yourself by your intentions but the world will judge you by your actions. Try to ask yourself do my intentions match my behavior/actions–if not, the good news is you have the power to change that.
5. Don’t let one bad experience or one person’s behavior change how you view the whole world. People mess up and are fallible–but one, or ten or even 100 doesn’t represent the whole human race.
6. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s acting in spite of it. Feeling regret is far worse than feeling afraid, lasts longer too.
7. You can love someone and still be angry at them. In fact, the more angry you are the more you probably care. That means you need to address when you are angry, yes it takes courage but, well… (see #6)
8. Kindness is probably one of the most underrated qualities in modern society, but it will make you a standout spouse, parent, friend, colleague, sibling, neighbor–you name it. Curiosity would be second.
And then as I was writing this post it occurred to me…the only way to learn most, if not all, of these things is to experience them. They are life lessons–actually, these are MY life lessons. Yours may be different, but even if they are identical, feeling them and owning them is how it becomes “a lesson” and then it becomes part of ones’ collective consciousness. So the final item on my list would be…
9. Take every opportunity to learn. Successes are great, but failures teach just as much or more–soak it all in and when making mistakes just try to make them new ones.