42 is a funny number.
It isn’t ‘turning 40’ and it’s not as though I’ve hit my ‘mid-40’s’, but somehow, I feel firmly entrenched in this decade. And that is glorious in so many ways. I’d love to tell you I’m not physically aging, that I don’t see that wrinkles, that my eyes aren’t less useful than they were a few short years ago, that I don’t envy the skin on younger, photo-shopped models, or that I don’t have more trouble sleeping. Alas, I do. All of it.
But I’ve traded it in for peace of mind. And happy. And maybe a little bit of wisdom….because I don’t want to go back.
What I want to do is be the best ME: friend, person, business owner and most of all, MOTHER I can possibly be.
But this….this is everything I want them to know.. At least I hope it is.
So, it is long, I know…but I’ve created a list of the 42 Things I Want My Kids to Know. Take a deep breath and read on. (It’s actually a little bit shorter than my recent gratitude list!)
2) You can’t control how other people treat you, but you can control how you respond. There will always be both wonderful people and not-so-wonderful people in the world. Often times, mean small people grown up to be mean big people. When you come face to face with unkindness, ignorance or spite, you are in charge of your reaction. I challenge you to remember you cannot change THEM, but you can change you.
3) Respect – Give it to others and Expect it for yourself. Your heart, mind and body all deserve respect. Stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. Offer that same to others.
4) Do things that scare you. You know I love Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’. Make your heart race. Try something new. Push yourself. Feel your fear. Let it motivate you to be better. The butterflies you feel as you do these things will only give you wings to fly.
5) The right decision isn’t always the popular one and the popular decision isn’t always the right one. I trust you. I trust your heart will lead you in the right direction and will let you know the difference between right and wrong. But know this – following your gut will take guts because sometimes you have to take the less traveled path, stand up when others are sitting or walk away from what feels comfortable. But you can do it.
6) Do what you say you are going to do. If you tell someone you are going to meet them, call them, finish a project or start a new one – do it. Standing by your word matters.
7) You cannot please everyone and it is not your job to try. Parents. Teachers. Coaches. Bosses. Friends. It will feel as though you are always surrounded by people who expect you to BE, to DO, to GO. And it will be impossible to please them all. Your job is to BE YOU, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AND HEALTHY and GO AFTER YOUR PASSIONS.
8) Play hard, Play often. You are already good at this. Don’t ever stop. You have taught me that play is to happy living what water is to the soul. I will be here to remind you as you grow to press pause and just play.
9) Be a cartwheeler. Learn to be as happy for the gifts and joy of others as you are for yourself. Celebrate your friends’ successes as though they are your own. Everyone needs to have a cartwheeler in their life. You can be it. Be genuinely happy for others – you will find this makes a happier you.
10) Work hard. Every time I drop you off at soccer practice during the Winter, I see the quote on the wall: “Hard Work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” It is true. You can be the most talented kid on the planet – at soccer, at softball, at playing the guitar or winning Spelling Bees….but if you don’t continue to work hard, you will be passed by those who prioritize hard work and effort over assuming their talent alone can carry them. (for the record...it appears this quote is originally attributed to a High School Basketball Coach named Tim Notke, but made popular by Kevin Durant in 2007 when he was named NCAA Player of the Year – Basketball)
11) Creativity and imagination are a beautiful thing. Nourish them. I don’t care which path you choose: Read. Write. Play an instrument. Draw a picture. Sing a song. Dance your heart out. But find a way to keep the garden of your creativity watered.
12) There is only one YOU. Be Her. Or Him. You are both so beautifully unique. One sensitive and bold. The other quiet and courageous. Both funny, heart-centered and loving. One tenacious and driven, the other unassuming but brilliant. I don’t want either of you to be anything BUT you. Not more like your sister, your brother, your friends or me….just extraordinary you.
14) Be a Giver: of your time, you energy and if you can – of your treasure. Give Good, Get Good. We’ve talked about it since you were small….. the more you can ‘give good’ in the world, the more you understand the value of ‘good’. You are blessed with enough. Share what you can.
15) Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Use your words. Use your talents. It won’t always be easy, but do the right thing.
16) Life can be hard. You can do it. There will be bad days and very bad days mixed in with the good, the ok, and the extraordinary. You will fail tests, lose games and jobs, experience injuries, watch the ‘part’ go to someone else, suffer rejection and loss. I know you can do hard things. Allow the light from the good days to guide you through the tough days.
17) Every day offers the opportunity for a fresh start. As you fall to sleep at night, remember that each morning the sun rises…offering us a chance to start over, to try harder, to be better. Embrace each new beginning.
18) Be a student of life. There is something to learn from every person you meet. I have never stopped growing. Some of the best lessons of my life have come from the two of you. Seek to surround yourself with people who teach you and make you better.
19) Own your mistakes. You will make mistakes, errors in judgement – both big and small. Take responsibility for them, learn from them, and do better next time.
20) Value apologies. This means apologize when you have hurt someone and accept genuine apologies when they come your way. And then move on.
21) Magic happens every day. Watch for it: the sun rises, flowers bloom, Spring follows Winter, babies are born, a friend will call out of no where to tell you they are thinking about you – just when you needed to hear from her, and sometimes your mom even lets you get a pet hamster after refusing for years. See? Magic. Watch for it.
22) Say Yes. Say No. Learn the importance of each. Say yes to experiences, friendships, getting plenty of sleep and taking care of you. It is ok to say ‘yes’ even when you are a little bit frightened. Say ‘no’ to people who want to take advantage of you. Say ‘no’ when you realize you need to value your heart, your sanity and pride.
23) Aim high. I don’t expect you to win everything in life, to be the best or the champion. I do expect you to look up, to make plans, to set goals, to work hard and to reach as high as you can. If you fall a little short, that’s ok…pick yourself back up, measure the distance you’ve come, adjust your sails a bit, tweak your shot and get going again.
25) Make gratitude a priority. Putting gratitude at the front of your mind will allow you to maintain a positive attitude and THAT will guide you as you age. Recognizing the big and the small, the good, great, and brilliant give us perspective and help us to appreciate and often celebrate all that life throws our way.
26) Winning and losing are part of life. Allow both to teach you. I’m thrilled we have finally moved to the stages in your lives that have allowed you to experience something beyond ‘everyone gets a trophy’ as that isn’t how life works. While a ‘win’ can indicate perseverance, team work and incredible effort….a loss does NOT mean the lack of these traits. It can, however, teach you how to hold your head up, deepen your resolve, increase your efforts and try again. All of these lessons are important for life.
27) Pay attention to the world around you. It matters. I know it can be easy to feel insulated from the world when you have a roof over your head, clean water, enough food and parents who love you….but that is not the case everywhere and I want you to be aware of what is happening locally – in your home city and country and globally. Through your gifts, you may one day choose to make a difference for people who are far away or close by.
28) Choose your friends wisely and then be a good friend. Value honesty, loyalty and someone who cares about your joy and heartache. And then BE the friend that exhibits those same traits for another.
29) When being ‘social’ online, choose what you share wisely. It is ok for some of your life to remain just that: yours. And always refer to lesson number one: kindness is your number one priority. Do remember that what you choose to share online will stay there – both the good and otherwise.
30) Create a strong relationship with money. Understand the value of what you earn and the value of what you own. Save more. Spend less. I know it sounds simple, but it is exactly where you need to start. (This is a lesson I learned late and your dad gets all the credit.)
31) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Every time you make a mistake, I understand that you tried. It may not have worked, but hopefully you learned a lesson, can make an adjustment and avoid taking the same steps. Within every error is both courage (you took that step!) and a teaching moment (you can be better next time!)
32) Embrace the honesty in criticism, allow it to make you better….ignore the rest. Being criticized can be painful. Whether we are learning to master a sport, an instrument, a new job, public speaking or the craft of writing…you are invested in yourself and your effort so the critique can feel personal. Learn to seek the honesty within the critic’s words and use those to improve. Any critique offered either by a perfect stranger or someone who does not have the goal of making you better can be ignored.
33) Rely on each other. In this case, I’m talking specifically to the two of you – Delaney – rely on Cooper and Cooper – rely on Delaney. From the time you were born, 23 months apart, it has been my goal to nurture a relationship between the two of you. And so far, it has worked. Yes, you fight as any brother-sister-duo do, but you play together, protect each other, and share each other’s joy. Continue to be that light for one another.
35) You are stronger than you think. The days when you don’t want to get out of bed…..when your muscles are too tired from the weekend’s games – but yet, your team needs you….you are strong enough. The day you fail that test and don’t want to face your teacher – you are strong enough. The day your heart feels like it is breaking, you are strong enough to put it back together. You are stronger than you think.
36) Laugh every day. You are both so good at this already…I will confess this is one I have learned from you and your father. Laughter is good for the heart. It is good for the soul. Find a way to laugh every day. Watch a video, call a friend, refer to your favorite quote….but laugh.
37) Take care of your body and soul. You only get one. I get it: you love chocolate and candy. And popcorn. And french fries. But continue to love so many of the fruits and vegetables and proteins that nourish your body. And keep being active. (as if you might EVER slow down). Love that soul of yours too – take time for quiet, do the things that make you happy and surround yourself by good people.
38) Do not compare yourself to other people. I’ll admit, it is a challenge – especially in our over-saturated online/social media world – to avoid comparing yourself to other people…. the house they live in, the food they eat, the vacations they take, their personal and professional success, BUT…and this is a big but…. your job is to be the very best YOU and the glimpses you see of others are just that: glimpses. You cannot compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Another of my favorite quotes (I’m back to the Roosevelt’s again) belongs to Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Sweet ones, it is true. You job is to compare yesterday’s ‘you’ to today’s ‘you…. that is how you improve.
39) Take the extra step. I know you won’t always be able to do this, but when you can…hold the door open for an extra 30 seconds, offer your umbrella to someone who needs it, help the mother traveling alone with kids, call your friend on his birthday instead of posting to Facebook. The little things, the extra steps….they can make all the difference.
40) Follow your dreams. Not the dreams I have for you. Not the dreams your father has for you. Not what your teachers, your grandparents, your friends or your coaches dream – but what you dream. When you were locked safely in my belly, I had dreams for you both. I imagined you as toddlers, as middle schoolers, as athletes and performers, as students, as teens and yes, as adults. But all of that has been replaced by one thing: my wish that you follow your own path – not one that anyone else lays out for you. We are your supporting cast – and happy to be so.
41) I may not have all the answers, but I will always be here for you. I know, I know. It is hard to imagine (at the tender ages of eight and ten) that there is a question I can’t answer or a problem I cannot solve. Remarkably, there will come a day when you will know this to be true. But if you wish, we shall muddle through it all together as you can always count on me to be a good listener, a sounding board, your staunchest defender, and the shoulder/hugger/cuddler/hand holder you need. I promise.
42) You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. No matter what life path you choose, no matter where you live, no matter your job, who you love or the dreams you follow…. you will always be loved by me and by so many others (your Daddy tops that list). Always.
It is a hearty list, I know. But being ‘in my 40’s’ has made me thoughtful. And hopefully wiser. I’m prioritizing. And these two small people….well, being their mother is at the very top of my list.
I know that I am simply entering my ‘second act’ and in so many ways, I love it. I especially love that I have embraced the fact that I will always be growing and changing and always be learning – especially from Delaney and Cooper.
Sweet small people – If you read this list and can only remember two of the forty-two….make it these: Make kindness your priority and remember that you are loved.
You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.