Aye, newly born parents! How many dreams we have—how much hope, how many preconceived ideas—for that little package of meat steadily chunking out in the nest of mamá! And surely our naïveté far surpasses those parents now on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th child, who have long since discovered that while parenting goals are important, our romantic visions will never be 100% met.
Keeping that in mind, I’ve got my list. Most of these are characteristics or skills I myself lack or struggle to develop. And like every other well–meaning parent, I will now endeavor to forcefully inject them into my child (and with any luck will simultaneously cultivate more within myself).
My Parenting Expectations
12. Good nutrition and exercise
Because if you don’t have your health everything else falls to the wayside. Eating and exercise habits are formed in childhood and are incredibly difficult to break later on. So forbidding my child a bowl of whipped cream when she didn’t eat her dinner is like investing in her long–term health insurance (without having to worry about what insanities will pass in government!).
11. A desire to learn to grow food and survive in the wild
Hey, apocalypse is possible! (Lately it’s looking inevitable). And even if the world doesn’t go to hell in a handbasket, the best thing we can do for ourselves and others—aside from you know…becoming enlightened—is to live as independently from the (corrupt, inefficient, unsustainable) system as possible. No hippie commune required. Just an ability to fend for herself.
10. A daily meditation habit
Imagine if our children could grow up without the neuroses that most of the modern world now has! Free of anxiety, impatience, ADHD, and a constant need to be distracted, they would have the ability to focus on whatever they chose, to be kind and caring towards others, and generally, to be a hell of a lot happier.
9. Confidence in the face of fear
Fear is what prevents us from doing what we know is right and from meeting our greatest potential. It’s also what makes people assholes. Need I say more?
8. Self love
I’m willing to bet most of us have spent years struggling to reconcile our vision of who we should be with our impression of who we are, saddled by the belief that we’re just not good enough. Who could my child be if she were infused early on with an indestructible self love?
7. The understanding the “This too shall pass”
All things are impermanent. ALL. THINGS. The sooner we get that through our thick heads, the sooner we can stop desperately clinging to our insubstantial desires, and the sooner we can put to rest our interminable suffering.
6. The ability to discriminate without judging
Discrimination is necessary if we want to live as something more than a jellyfish. Example: Is this woman trying to help me or scam me? Does this dude really care about me, or does he just want to get into my panties? Good things to be able to determine. And very different from: She’s an evil cuntbagel. He’s a pinche culero. Not so helpful. Those judgements (though so much fun to make!) are not at all constructive, and arguably as emotionally harmful to the curser as they are to the cursed.
5. Insight into the difference between lasting happiness and temporary satisfaction
Thirty minutes ago I was craving a coffee. I love a good cup of coffee. It’s one of those signature delicacies of daily life. I made it, drank it. Happiness. Now I feel nauseous. Unhappiness. From the same cup of coffee. What if my six year old began to fathom that the chocolate cake she’s throwing a temper tantrum for would actually only bring her momentary satisfaction? Or my teenager chasing after some tool of a boyfriend? What if she understood at an early age that those things we crave are not the key to our happiness? But that the only real happiness we can have is the kind we cultivate within that then spreads out in waves to all aspects of our lives. That would be one hell of an emotional jumpstart to give her!
4. A love for learning and practicing
I’ve realized in the last year or two that my biggest obstacle to doing the things I love and feel are important is an overemphasis on results, rather than joy for the practice itself. When results take precedence, the muse doesn’t bother showing up. Why should she? She’s not a hooker! I’m certain this results-obsessed mindset is culturally and socially driven. Which means there is hope: I have the opportunity to help my child learn to love the process of learning and the art of failure.
Patience is one of the highest forms of emotional intelligence. Studies have been conducted that show that children who are able to delay reward (1 piece of candy, for example) and wait for a greater reward (2 pieces later on), are more likely to succeed in school and the workplace. Patience is also a fundamental element of a fulfilling relationship. But more than anything, patience with ourselves is vital to seeing our goals through to the end, be they material or spiritual. (Which explains why I’ve completed almost nothing I’ve started!)
2. An understanding of our interdependence on one another
With just a glance at the current political situation we can see why compassion is an essential personal character trait for building a better world. Health care only for those who can afford it or who have no pre-existing conditions? Hmm. That might lead to a national catastrophe. Relaxed US gun laws, government support of Big Pharma, and industrial agriculture are all seemingly unrelated issues that have resulted in a monstrous increase in both violent crime in Mexico and heroine addiction in the US. On both a global and local scale, the human race, the environment, and wildlife are indisputably interlinked. I hope I raise my child to see that her well–being is no more (or less) important than that of others.
And above all, if I only manage to cultivate one trait in may child, may it be:
i.e., The ability to observe our minds and actions and to make the adjustments necessary to lead us along the path of freedom and well–being. Without this we are nothing more than slaves to our emotions, prisoners of our habits. Without this we haven’t even a breath of chance at cultivating lasting happiness. And what more is the purpose of life than that?
What’s your list? What have you strived for with previous children? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Leave your comments below.