There are billions (trillions? bazillions?) of things that make up a human. That’s pretty much the deepest level of science I’m comfortable dabbling in and all I’m really trying to say is that there’s no one cell, bone, skill or personality trait that defines a person.
With that in mind though, there are plenty of traits or skills we become more well known for and some that we come to view in ourselves as strengths or weaknesses. As parents raising kids who take in everything we do, there’s every likelihood that those dominant traits you carry (both the good ones and the bad ones) are going to be passed on to them or mimicked to the point that the child makes them their own.
So, is that a good thing or is it a bad thing?
There are traits of mine I do hope my kids pick up on. I hope they are more reckless with their emotions than they are protective of them. I’d rather they find love and lose love multiple times than not experience enough of it. I want them to get mad when they feel they’ve been wronged and to show sympathy to others when they see wrong being done to them. I want them to find shoulders to cry on and I want their shoulders to be cried on in return.
I also hope they never feel the need to put boundaries on their creativity. There is no age in which a person should stop drawing outside the lines or stop believing in unicorns or the tooth fairy. We play with whoopee cushions now and I want to play with whoopee cushions when we’re 80. I hope I do a good job raising them to trust their gut when it comes to their artistic expression.
But faults? I have a few (trillions? bazillions?).
I get mad easily. I am low on patience for two little humans who are just being little humans. I swear when I shouldn’t and so on and so forth.
But if I were to pick one single trait I hope my kids don’t take from me, I’d choose that they never waiver on their views.
Since writing my Eugenie Bouchard is Not a Sweetheart post, I’ve received my fair share of criticism. I have no problem receiving criticism because having beliefs means being contrary to the beliefs of others. I’ve been told I’m overreacting, that everything is ok. I’ve been told that I can’t write and that I’m the one who is the problem, not those who rationalize that calling women sweethearts is fine because it is a term of affection, and meant endearingly. Which side is right in the debate over my words is irrelevant, my fault isn’t that I believe these terms are sexist. My fault is that I let these criticisms shake my beliefs.
When confronted with other opinions, I don’t so much question the criticizers sanity as much as I evaluate my own. The meaner they are the better they succeed. When pressured, I close down and become less willing to engage in debate as opposed to getting angered and emboldened. Angry people bring out the worst in me, when they should bring out the fighter in me.
I hope my girls are able to avoid this. I want them instead to act like 14-year-old Carleigh O’Connell, who, when hearing someone had spray painted a message about her body in her New Jersey town, sought out the graffiti and posed on it. That’s not just pointing out what needs to change, that’s making change. That’s also courage and it’s being proud of who you are and what you believe.
I don’t want my kids to shy away from controversy because others might not agree with them to the level I do. I want them to find wrongs, point out the wrongs and stand by their beliefs. I have a partner who does these things and because of her, and most of all, because of my two girls, I know it’s something I need to work on too.
I’m very convinced my two ladies can change the world. I’m sure of that even at the ages of two and four. I obviously don’t know how at this point given that they want to be dragons or oceans depending on which day of the week you ask them, but I know they will. Maybe they’ll become climate scientists or maybe urban planners. Maybe they’ll change the world with their visual or spoken art. But their impact won’t be the same if they skirt controversy the way I do right now.
It would appear there’s something to be learned from their current fearlessness. Dads and daughters, we’ll do this together.
This article originally appeared on Mike’s blog PuzzlingPosts.com.