Saturday, November 10, 2007

What We Teach Our Kids

As parents, we assume we’ll be with our kids as they grow up, learning with them, teaching them the values that are important to us, hoping to mold them into better versions of ourselves.

But once you’ve got cancer, you’re not guaranteed to be around to do all that, so you feel like you have to cram everything in all at once.

Tony and I have a lot of similar values: compassion, tolerance, respect for others. But there are some things I value more than he does, and I want to pass these on to my kids before I die.

I want Josie and Toby to be strong, confident, independent, self-reliant, hard-working, disciplined and honest. I want them to recycle, clean up after themselves, help a mother get her stroller up the stairs when everyone else just walks by. I want them to prefer books over television, thank the person who made their dinner, and do a math problem over and over again until they get it right. I want them to fantasize about saving people’s lives rather than about the perfect house or car. I want them to pick themselves up when they fall, not cry or wait for someone to come along to help them. I want them to have the confidence and courage to point out that the Emperor is in his underwear.

These are big demands to make of anyone, but trying to instill these values in a two-year-old and a four-year-old is a bit silly.

For example, I’ve tried to explain to Josie why I turn off the water while I brush my teeth, why I don’t put my clothes in the laundry after just one wear, why I walk to the local shops instead of driving. But how do you explain depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution and global warming to a four-year-old? Al Gore can’t even get grown, educated adults to take environmental protection seriously. How do I instill respect for the environment in a pre-schooler?

I want my kids to think they’re better than everyone else, not because they have better grades, bigger houses, higher-paid jobs, but because they’re living a life they’re proud of (and that their mother would be proud of) and they struggle each day to do even better.

I need more time to pass on what’s important to me to my kids. But in case I don’t have that time, I’m talking about these things to Josie and Toby every day. I’m talking about them to my friends and family, so that they’ll know these things are important to me and they can pass them on to my kids if I’m not around to do it.

I’m not sure my family and friends know what I value. We don’t often sit around and talk about our values with each other. This isn’t exactly cocktail party conversation. Do you think your friends or even your family know what you consider to be important character traits and what you want your kids to value as they grow up?

You have the luxury of teaching your kids by example. I might not be that lucky, so I have to talk a lot and squeeze in as much as I can while I can. But maybe we should all talk a bit more about the things we value, regardless of whether or not our time is limited.

1 comment:

Deb said...

It's funny Shin that I just had this conversation with my mum at the weekend.
She and I definitely share the same values but my brother is quite the opposite, he's very materialistic. The conclusion we came up with is that in his life time he's never really struggled or wanted for anything.
My mum struggled after the divorce from my father, never had money, took every job she could and this went on for ten years or so.
I struggle with the fact that, despite undergoing every fertility treatment known to man, I can't have children.
You can give me the winning lottery ticket for millions of dollars and I'd turn it down in a second for a child.

Why do I want a child so much? I want to walk in the woods and let them see all the natural beauty around us. I want to teach them to help everyone without passing judgment. I would want them do a good deed everyday. I want them to try everything without thinking about failing but to simply take pride in the fact that they tried. Of course it goes without saying I want them to love all creatures and respect them for what they are. I could go on for ever with my list but it will never have on it that I want them to have all the best toys and clothes and never want for anything.

My ten year old niece asked me "how come dad's much more posher than you and Grandma?" I tried to explain about being materialistic but I can be thankful that she spends half of her time with my mum, swimming, canoing, walking and helping out with the local charities she's involved with. Hopefully she'll get a good balance of things.

You're doing a great job Shin