Important Things: From a Mom to Her Children

I'm honored to have another Guest Post from My Little Mama today.

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I've been thinking about things, important things, that I hope my two children (and now six grandchildren) have learned or will learn from me.

The first thing that comes to mind is kindness. For me, most other things have to get in line behind this one. You can do the most important thing in the world. But if you do it without kindness, it doesn't mean much. One of my favorite people in this world, Dr. Maya Angelou, died recently. Of the many wonderful, insightful sayings she left behind is this one.  "I've learned that people will forget what you've said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  I couldn't agree more. If I asked you to picture in your mind people in your life whom you love to be around, who fill you up, I'm sure some faces would come to mind. Likewise, if I asked whom you try to avoid; who drains you of life when you're around them, others would flash before your eyes. What's the difference? It probably comes down to kindness, a caring about you as much as about themselves. Maybe it's a friend listening to you as if you're the most important person in the world. And then responding in a way that shows he or she has heard and understood and truly cares about you.

My children knew that the surest way to please me and make me proud of them was to do something kind for someone else, especially someone who really needed it. Even though I don't know everything they say and do these days, as I did when they were little, I hope they still think of me when they go out of their way to treat someone well.

Another life lesson I tried to get across to Katy and Andy is that all the choices one makes, all day long, and then all life long, add up to who he or she is. We are faced with choices, decisions, all day every day. Some are very important, possibly life-changing, while many are tiny, hum-drum decisions. Added all together, though, they make up a pattern, a picture of who we are, what kind of character we have. Lest I scare the pants off you by claiming that each choice is important, let me put it another way. In twelve-step groups, like A.A. and Al-Anon, one of the things we learn is to "Do the next right thing". I love that! Every time you have a choice to make, really try to do the next right thing, with the knowledge you have, to the best of your ability. Notice that I didn't say, "Do the perfect, infallible thing". That's too much pressure and is not even possible. We'll still make mistakes that we may have to go back and fix. But I really believe that if we make one choice after another with that thought in mind, at the end of the day we can feel as if we did a pretty good job.

One final life lesson is one I really didn't practice while my kids were still with me; I've actually learned it later in life. But I think it's certainly something I'd love for children to learn early. I've learned to try to treat myself as well as I treat others. What I mean is that many of us are so much harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else. The self-talk that goes through our heads and even comes out of our mouths can be so incredibly harsh and self-defeating. If I make a gigantic mistake or say something I regret, I try to ask myself what someone who loves me dearly would say to me in the moment, rather than lambasting myself. If I wouldn't say it to someone else, I shouldn't say it to myself. I try to remember what the song on Sesame Street said many many years ago, when I used to watch it with two little peanuts. "Oops, I made a mistake; that's all."   I wouldn't punish a child for making an honest mistake, and I try (work in progress) not to stomp all over myself for the same thing.

There are so many other things we moms feel as if we have to drum into our children's heads. If a child could grow up and really know these three things and act upon them every day, I think he'd have a pretty good start. Now for the other three hundred and fifty-nine things you'd like them to know before they leave you and go out on their own...

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