Thursday, July 05, 2007

Family Planning

Subtitle: No this isn’t about any more babies…

I received a wonderful e-mail shared by my friend Donna from the DailyOM. It was about what “Family Planning” means.

The challenge was to think of family planning far beyond the questions of how many children, when to have them and how do we afford it all. Instead, it encouraged us to think about what kind of people we would like to raise – what sort of qualities do we want to foster in our children.

This is an outrageously wonderful idea – especially in this age of technological fast-forward, the ME TOO mentality, the overwhelming greed and lack of moral fiber that seems to be pervasive in our current culture.

I’ve always said that the job of a parent is to raise an emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy adult. No small challenge, this concept.

Perhaps because we think of teaching our children all the things we learned – how to ride a bike, how to throw a ball, how to swim, how to do long division, etc. – we think of all the great things we have to offer a child. We focus on all of our good qualities and how much the world is a better place for us being in it.

It was sobering for me to remember that this process of teaching my children all the things I have learned could also include how to fight dirty, how to be easily offended, and how to speak disparagingly about myself or others. It could include how to shamelessly flaunt my body, how to consume alcohol in alarming quantities and act like a complete idiot, how to hurt somebody else with my words just because I can.

I’ve got these experiences in my arsenal of knowledge, just as I have how to properly balance a checkbook.

Sometimes the behavior I could teach would be neither good nor bad, just somewhere in the banal and inactive middle – talking about things that should be different but never having the courage to really change.

I think we all like to talk a big story about the “right” way to raise a child…we all have ideas, not least of which is avoiding the seemingly huge mistakes our own parents made.

The unfortunate reality is that children learn by living with us and observing how we behave rather than just doing what we tell them to do...

You see, my child will grow up thinking that the way things are in our household and in our extended family is the way things are in the world. We teach him how to respond to those things by how we respond to them behind closed doors. Hmmmmmmm….

So, this e-mail my friend sent was so refreshing because it approached the mechanism of training our children up in the way they should go.

And I thought with glee…I could grow MYSELF up this way too.

If I want a generous child, I can act in generosity and teach the concept at the same time. This might be making a dinner and taking it to somebody in need. It could be baking cookies for the people at work. It could be creating a scrapbook album for somebody from my heart and just because.

By incorporating enriching experiences into my own life, I can experience the art of living and teach my child to do the same. We can learn how to share, to form new friendships, to thoroughly nourish the old friendships, to appreciate music or art, to open our mind to learning and new ideas, to be a soure of support and encouragement to others, to try new athletic endeavors, to contribute to the health of our community, to develop healthy boundaries and respect the boundaries of others and the list goes on and on.

How exciting to think of all the things I can adjust, learn, and change within my own life all in the pursuit of teaching my sunny little boy how to live in a healthy and whole-person-building way.

Perhaps the coolest thing for me – who is afraid to look stupid while trying something new (darn that perfectionist attitude!) – I can try new things and laugh about my ineptness with my child all in the name of teaching.

And perhaps he will learn that the goal is not to worry about how good or bad we are at something, but to be seeking to find new and fun ways to make our world a better place to live.

Perhaps he will learn to laugh at himself and just keep going.

Perhaps he will learn that you never really stop becoming who you were meant to be.

And, I pray, he will learn that the saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Is more than just a saying…

Happy day, everyone!

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Oh what powerful thoughts and words...I'm inspired! Your son is so fortunate to have you as his mom. Blessings to you!