This week in church we talked about the idea of influence. As a teacher, I liked to think I had a lot of influence on a few of my students, or perhaps more realistically a bit of influence on some of my students. In the earliest days of my teaching career I probably harbored vague visions of finding the next Good Will Hunting or at the very least having students come back years later to tell me that they got into medical school or were working somewhere cool like Google. In reality, at least half of my former students are probably either unemployed, premature parents, or incarcerated. Some days it takes a lot of faith to believe that all my work amounted to anything, not that I expect them to remember that the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell; rather, I hope they knew in the time they were in my classroom that I was on their side and they mattered. Like I said, a lot of faith.
I realized that of all the people in the world, the person on whom I will probably have the biggest influence is my son, and that means that raising Fire Monkey is the most important and enduring thing I will ever do. This is both awesome and terrifying. Awesome because like some sort of wizard I turned (and continue to turn!) bread and tuna salad and fruit into a HUMAN BEING. (And a really freaking adorable one at that.) Terrifying because I have to ensure that said human being not only makes it to reproductive maturity (evolutionarily speaking) but does so as a functionally contributing member of the universe (morally and metaphysically speaking). I’m not even sure if I‘ve reached both of those milestones yet.
Being pathologically predisposed to think ahead, I’ve started imagining what kind of person Fire Monkey will become as a result of my and Science Guy’s parenting. (This is where the terror comes into play.) He already shares his father’s taste in music and his mother’s prodigious sleeping abilities. He already likes books and Broadway musicals. Will he love color coding as much as I do? Will he love plants and animals as much as his father does? Will he inherit my premature gray hairs or his father’s (and grandfather’s) sense of…”style”? (Help me, Lorddddddd.)
More importantly though: Will he be healthy? Will he be kind to others and himself? Will he have empathy and compassion? Will he be a generous and responsible steward of his material and non-material resources? Will he find strength, perseverance and resilience in hard times? Will he one day care well for his own family? Will he know God in a way that is uniquely his? Will he let me kiss him in public after his 10th birthday? (If not, well, too bad, because I birthed you for 42 HOURS SON NOW COME SNUGGLE WITH MAMA YOUR FRIENDS LOVE THEIR MOMS TOO SO WHATEVER.)
It’s kind of funny because as young girls we often think about our weddings without any prompting, but I’m not sure I ever stopped to think about my future children past the cute overload baby stage. I know there’s more to Fire Monkey’s development than nature vs. nurture (epigenetics for everyone, wheeeee!!!) and he has two nerdy but very different parents in the equation. (“What are you doing?” “Building this desk.” “Where are the instructions?” “In the box.”) But if I could (which I know I can’t), here’s 4 things I’d guarantee for him.
- That he be brave enough to take risks without looking for trouble. Mufasa was right on, man. It took me a long time to get over my fear of failure (and success!) and I hope he learns earlier than I did that it’s okay to make mistakes, even ones that we think are irreparable at the time because God really does redeem everything. I want him to know that truth in the core of his being.
- That he surround himself with people–friends, family, partner, colleagues–who help him be a little better each day. I was and am outlandishly fortunate to be surrounded by people who bring out the best in me and gently help me get out of my own way.
- That he understand every aspect of himself: strengths, weaknesses, patterns of thought, behavior, and actions. Yes, only an INFJ parent would think of this for their child. But deciphering some of my unconscious beliefs was a huge part of the growing-up process for me.
- That he love fiercely and fearlessly. I don’t need him to be a star athlete, artistic prodigy, or even a good student (that last one is a little hard to say but…) as long as he can recognize, respect, and honor the humanity (and divinity!) in every person.
If I can make reasonable progress toward all fOUR of these for myself, much less for Fire Monkey, I’ll count that as a parenting win.
What do you most want for your kids to know, do, or be?