It has been three years since my daughter was born. As she gets ready to start pre-school this September I think about how she will adjust to being in a new environment, with new faces, and new experiences. I also think about the daunting task parents have in raising confident, kind, and productive members of society. I think about the challenges she will one day face and my heart aches with pain. I am reminded of a quote by Debra Ginsberg.
“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
After becoming a mother something unexpected happened. The way I interacted with other children changed. Now, every child I see reminds me of my daughter. Not in a physical way, but in a humanitarian way. I am instinctively compelled to nurture them. I wholeheartedly believe that what we do as parents directly influences our children’s behavior because they tend to do as we do and not as we say. As my little one begins her educational journey I have been reflecting on some of the lessons I want to teach her as she grows; lessons I wished someone would have given me as a child. Lessons that I believe are important for children to remember as they grow and make their way in the world.
1.Stay in school. This piece of advice is one that my parents instilled in me from a very young age. My dad always said “Stay in school and get an education, it’s the one thing no one can ever take away from you.” That has stayed with me my entire life because I believe that through education you can write your future. Education gives you options and opens doors and opportunities that otherwise would not be available. School is important and children should know that.
2.Dream BIG. As a child I was told that I could be anything that I wanted to be, but it was always followed by “make sure you get a good job where you can earn a lot of money.” As I grew older that statement has remained in the back of my mind. When I went to college I majored in Accounting (even though I hate math and numbers) because it was a decent career and I could make a good living. I now have an Accounting degree collecting dust on my wall. In hindsight, I wish someone would have told me to dream my wildest dreams. To dream so big that even though it may seem unrealistic at the moment, through hard work and commitment our wildest dreams can come true. We just have to believe more than anything that the dream is attainable. Once we believe, it’s only a matter of time until reality catches up to our vision.
3.Stick together. There’s no fancy way to say this. It’s simple and straight forward. We all get much further when we stick together than when we tear each other down. There is enough success in this world for everybody. The biggest misconception we can teach children is that they are in competition with each other. The only person they should ever want to be better than is the person they were yesterday. We are all born with unique gifts and talents and because we are all unique no one can ever be better than us at what we have been gifted to do. The key is to help children realize their own talents and gifts and then nurture them.
4.Help each other. No one becomes successful on their own. Everyone needs someone to help them achieve their dreams. Oprah, Beyoncé, LeBron James, all have a team of people helping them every day so that they can continue being great at what they do. Oprah has a team of writers, assistants, producers, etc. that help run her network and write her shows. Beyoncé has stylists, make-up artists, choreographers, nannies, etc. that help to make her look beautiful and stylish for her concerts and TV appearances. LeBron James has coaches, team mates, and personal trainers that help to keep him fit and in shape so that he is always on top of his game. We all need people to help us. It’s important to remember this and to always pay it forward when possible.
5.Be kind. I think that the importance of being nice and kind to others is something that is not echoed enough. It’s really hard being a kid today. Bullying and suicide have become prevalent in our society with one in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considering suicide annually, and approximately 1,700 dying by suicide each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are alarming numbers and I believe that if we teach our kids from a young age to be kind to others (especially to those who may be different) we can change those statistics. Not enough children are praised for being different. Let’s teach our children that there is beauty in diversity. Being different is what makes us unique and special. When we teach kindness and encourage individuality we are simultaneously giving each other the freedom to be ourselves.
6.Be grateful. Lastly, showing gratitude and appreciation for our blessings is the surest way to be happy. I find that when I start my day with an attitude of gratitude I almost always have a good day. It is so easy to focus on what we don’t have that we forget to be grateful for what we do have. When we learn to shift our thinking from a state of scarcity to a state of abundance we will always have more. What we attract into our lives begins with what we feel we deserve. Be grateful always for your blessings and watch them multiply.
Nancy Arroyo Ruffin is an award winning author and motivational speaker. Her work has been cited and published online at The Elephant Journal, The Daily Voice, La Respuesta Magazine, For Harriet, Duende Literary Journal, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Sunday Tribune-Spectrum, and CentroVOICES. You can follow Nancy on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram @IAmNancyRuffin, on Facebook @ Nancy Arroyo Ruffin or by visiting her blog at www.nancyruffin.net
Photo credit: Nancy Arroyo Ruffin