We are only on this earth for so long. We only have so many opportunities to learn from life, and we learn so much from our parents, and older relatives, and those that are supposed to be smarter than us. It’s human nature. We learn from and emulate those that set examples for us. Those that we love, those that we trust, those that raise us. Sometimes we learn about the type of person that we want to be, sometimes we watch them struggle with things and resolve never to have to deal with their issues ourselves. Either way you look at it, either way it goes, it’s still learning something.
I have a 5 year old son. I love him to pieces. He is the most important thing in the world to me. People come and go in your life. But your children come from you and they will always be yours. You will always bear some type of responsibility where they are concerned, and it is up to us as parents to do everything we can to give them a good start. Good values, the ability to see what is right from what is wrong, and to be able to prioritize things in life so we don’t let trivial things get in the way of what is truly important. We need to give them the tools to have good relationships, to treat people with respect and dignity, and to grow up to be aware individuals that will contribute in a meaningful way to society.
In order to do this, we need to teach them things. By example and by just plain telling them and showing them how. If I leave this world tomorrow if I get hit by a bus, or 50 years from now from natural causes (what I’m hoping for) or anything in between, there are things that I want to teach my kid before I go. Lessons that I want him to learn from me, and from my example.
The top 10 things, in no particular order are:
1. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. If someone gives you an opportunity to do something, don’t stand back shaking your head because you’re scared. Take the plunge and do things that are out of your comfort zone. You’ll have a lot more regrets in life because of the things you didn’t do because you were scared than the things you did do.
2. Be responsible. This ties in closely with taking risks. Every little thing you do has an impact. It impacts your life and the lives of those around you. Always think about how your actions may reflect on others. Think twice before you speak. If it looks negative, think twice about it and tread very carefully. Rely on your basic knowledge of right and wrong (which hopefully I will have taught you) when making decisions. When you take the risks above, always be responsible and safe, never putting a whim ahead of your own safety or that of others.
3. Believe in something. I’m raising you in the Catholic faith, as I was raised and your father was as well. I have you in Catholic school, take you to church, and pray with you every night. This is my gift to you. As you get older, your beliefs may change. You may take different paths, begin believing in different things. You may meet a girl (or boy – who knows?) that shows you a different way of life, a different type of faith, and that’s okay. As long as you have something to believe in, somewhere to go, someone to pray to, a community to support you. A good, solid belief system and set of values to live your life by, that teaches you to treat others as you want to be treated.
4. Look after yourself. There may come a time in life where you may be alone. You may move away from your family for a job or school, you may just live on your own sometime, doing your thing. Know how to look after yourself. Learn how to cook, how to do laundry (including how to properly fold a fitted sheet). Learn how to properly clean a bathroom and remember to change your sheets once a week. These are all important things that some people, men in particular (sorry guys, but it’s true!) never learn to do. They wait for others to do it for them. They eat out 4 days a week and survive on ramen noodles and Kraft Dinner the other days. Learn to do things for yourself and you’ll never have to rely on others.
5. It’s okay to ask for and accept help. This ties in with the above point. While you should know how to look after yourself, it’s absolutely okay to ask for and accept help sometimes. Sometimes you just can’t do it all alone. Sometimes you just don’t want to do it all alone. It’s okay to let someone you trust in to share the burdens life brings, both mental and physical. There is no shame in it. And chances are, those that love you will be more than happy to help if you only ask.
6. Never lose sight of who you are. You will meet people in life that want you to change. You know what? Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes a change of behaviour is needed. You’re not always right about everything. There may be a better way of doing things. But if someone asks you or tries to make you become someone you are not, or do something that goes directly against what you believe in, don’t be afraid to put on the brakes. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in and who you are and say – “I am who I am. If you don’t love me for it, then love me in spite of it. But don’t try to change the essence of me, because I’m worth being me.” Healthy relationships are wonderful, but never let someone else define who you are.
7. Money isn’t everything. We’ve all heard it before, and we’ve all rolled our eyes at it. Sure, money doesn’t fix your problems but it sure helps to make life easier. Which is true. I’ve gone through financial difficulties, and I will admit – life is a lot easier to plan when you don’t have to worry so much about where your next dollar is coming from. It’s important to plan for your future. It’s important to be responsible enough to make sure your bills are paid and you’re saving for retirement. But it’s also important to live life. Treat yourself to indulgences every now and then if you can. Have fun. Do things. Don’t wait until you’re 65 and filthy rich to start living life. Live it every day and don’t have regrets.
8. Stay in school. Education is everything. It gives you opportunities, it opens doors. Even when things get hard, find a way. Finish. If the opportunity is there, learn more. Always keep your mind open to learning new things. Read, read, read. Read anything you can get your hands on. Books, magazines, online or in print. Worlds can be opened to you by reading, and it’s often free. Always remain a student – in the classroom or in life.
9. Work hard and give your best in everything you do. If you can look back and say “I did my absolute best” you will never regret not trying hard enough. When you work hard, people see it and you go can places because of it. Your work ethic and reputation will precede you wherever you go. Work hard and live up to it.
10. Love DOES conquer all. Love people. Allow yourself to be loved. A safe, healthy, loving relationship is one of life’s greatest gifts. Don’t shut yourself off from those who love you, no matter how easy it may be to do so. Sometimes love is hard. Sometimes it’s about loving someone so much that you realize that you need to let them go in order for you both to be happy – because together it just doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid or shy to show your love. Love your friends, and tell them you love them. If someday you are blessed with children, make sure they know every night when they rest their head on their pillow that they are the most precious thing in the world to you. Give love freely, and accept it freely…….especially from your mother. 😉
Just 10. There are so many more. And so many more that he has taught me or reminded me of in his five years. Maybe that will be what my next post is about.