Mothers, teach your children.
Show them in big ways and in small, the intricacies of life, and love, and how to go on. Teach them strength and dignity, and kindness and respect. Train them to know the difference between being polite and the importance of being safe. Raise sons who respect women, starting with little girls. Raise daughters who expect honor, and who show honor in return. They will learn quickly how to treat others different from them, they will have heard the things you say, in the car and at home when you didn’t know they were listening.
Guard your mouths, and in doing so, guard the hearts of those who trust you. Tuck them in at night with gusto, as if you might not wake up the next morning. Read to them, daily. Read with different accents and tone, with silliness, opening the window to their imaginations wide, as if your voice alone was summoning the sunshine. Sing. Sing off-key, or hum, but sing to your babies, all the same. Children do not notice when they are out of tune, they extend this same grace to you. Sing at night, and in the morning, sing your instructions when you have told them a million times that same day, and they act like they haven’t heard you. Singing keeps you from yelling, and helps you remember your best self. Be her. Or him. You won’t regret it. And neither will they.
Teach your children how to wait. Let them know that things have value. Put down your smart phone in line, and strike up conversation. Ask your children questions, then really hear their answers. They will teach you more than you were expecting, and their insights won’t be this earnest forever. Listen. Teach them how to peel an orange. The world is full of sharp edges, and short cuts. There is a time and a place for orange slices, but teach them how to peel. Show them how the value in unearthing treasure, that the sweetest part comes after you peel back layers. Teach them that separation can happen without bruising, without cutting things apart, without losing the bits that are juiciest. Teach them, no, help them learn for themselves, that the work of things is wrapped up in its enjoyment.
Mothers, teach your sons that no means love. That no means stop, no matter what. Teach them to value themselves and others enough to exercise restraint. Not because if they don’t it could wind up on the internet, but because it is right, by everyone.
Train them to love justice, to plant seeds of truth, and to water those seeds with mercy. Tell your daughters that they are enough, and give them praise when they do things themselves. Teach your children to clean, both boys and girls, and how to change tires, and run a house. Find what your children are good at, and help them get better. Tell them you love them, and make sure they know your meaning it is unconditional.
Train your children to know that we are all in this together. That we the people is bigger than one person. But also that they matter, that we all hinge on each other. Teach them to travel. Expand their horizons, show them what is possible, and also those that are lacking. Let them see the world, from under the safety of your shadow, then let them rediscover its people and places on their own when they are older.
Fathers, hold your daughters. The time will come far too soon, when other arms will be waiting, empty, wanting for your sweet no-longer-babies to fill them. Hold them now, and fill them with hope. Hear them out, while there is time to talk. Build your children, sons and daughters, into something substantial, something not easily broken. Tell them their worth, remind them of it daily, make it part of their story, that will not be easily taken away.
Teach them to work, and to value hard labor. Make college the standard. Encourage their dreams, while giving them direction. Point out hard work, and praise quality service. Show them what people do right, and they will understand what is less than, without your having to tell them.
Be silly, and goofy. Tell jokes that you can’t finish because you are laughing too hard. Live freely in the moment, and you will give them things that you cannot buy. That said, do not be for sale. Make sure that you are getting the best value for your time. You only get 18 Christmases, 18 Thanksgivings, before your babies go to college. Don’t waste a moment of those days. Or any other, if you can help it.
Remember you chose this. Show gratitude. I know the pay is nothing, and the hours are long. I know, I know, that this is so very hard. But there are a thousand couples sitting at home with empty arms, just wishing they could be in your comfort soled shoes. Be grateful. Even if it’s the last thing you do.