I wrote the following as part of the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card to Fandango.
I encourage you to check it out, but only after the contest ends on September 15, so that my competition is less stiff. After all, I’m in this thing to win and you’ll just make it more difficult.
They asked us to share five important lessons every kid should learn. Here goes:
1. Play. Kids now entering the Kindergarten at my alma mater in New York City—a prestigious private school—are trained at an early age (usually 2 or 3, if not in utero) to succeed. A whole cottage industry is built around doing and learning in order to [fill in the blank listing something that the parents wished they did at a young age but didn’t; a.k.a vicarious existence]. Sometimes kids need to have unstructured and meaningless playtime to simply build imaginary worlds that might someday exist. Or not.
2. Honor your parents. Respecting your parents—and not just being a friend with them, which is the modern trend—is vital to being willing and able to respect and follow authority of all kinds. This isn’t a warm and fuzzy lesson, but it is crucial in life as one gets to school and needs to follow a teacher, coach or music instructor, a college professor or social club regulations, 55 MPH on most highways (oops…this is a “fail” for most of us who DO honor our parents), a tough boss’s instructions, or a religion’s mandates. Independent thinking and entrepreneurialism are beautiful things, but obeying authority figures imbues both parents and kids with dignity and builds trust. It leads to love borne of serving one another.
And, even if my paragraph above was nonsense after the first three words, honor your parents anyway, my son, since we pay the bills and change your diapers and feed you and buy you an Xbox for your birthday and, someday, might do it all again when you have grandkids. (See? It’s in your self-interest!)
3. Be there for your friends, and love your enemies. Friends should be there for each other, always. Friends truly should be able to call each other at two in the morning for help or—in case the case of adolescence—sometime after 10 but before 11 p.m. and preferably not with too many strings of consecutive capital letters in text messages, which only serves to drive up my bills. (See #2 above.) If you are there for your friends, it’s not just that “your friends will be there for you.” It’s that you’ll have friends, which is good enough on its own.
Few people love their enemies. Great people do, however, and are remembered through the ages. Even if everyone forgets—because eventually we all will be forgotten by humanity; read Keats—the enemy doesn’t forget during his lifetime, and the act of being loved by an enemy can transform both parties. It is for some people their only hope for transformation. So do it.
4. Live within your means. My son, I didn’t do this for many years. If more people did this in the U.S., our country wouldn’t have an average debt-to-income ratio of 110%. If you want to know if this works, just look at the population explosion in majority-world countries where living within one’s means is not a good idea but rather a necessity. It is ironically sad but is a lesson that a billion people find ways to survive each day on less than what we spend on a newspaper that we throw in the trash after 30 minutes and ends up in a landfill that those billion people pick through for their subsistence. If more people in the U.S. lived within their means, more of us might have the hearts to do the next thing.
5. Find something you think you can’t live without and give it away. One tangible thing that I hold dear is this blog. I started it at the suggestion of my wife in early 2006 and then it morphed into another blog a couple years later. I have written 500+ posts and from them produced a collection of essays that I self-published. I don’t post on “just anything,” and—having becoming increasingly snobby and dainty about what I write on (delving more recently into cinquains and haiku on only the most haute topics) I somewhat eschew posts like this or words like “nanny” and “mcphee” appearing in them. Nevertheless, I am doing this for my kids. (We love to see movies, and I want to win this gift certificate, which I’ll use with them to go see the next film that all five of us can see. Having seen the trailer recently for the movie named above, I just might take my boys to see it—WILL do it if it in any way increases my changes to win that $50 gift certificate.)
Others hold different things dear. Their children, for example. Will my three sons be willing to send their sons and daughters off to war to fight for what they hold dearest? Will I, for that matter? Will they defend their own family in the face of an attacker, or will they risk their life or the life of a family member to save a stranger?
I would like to think that the best lesson of all is to be willing to die for someone who you don’t agree with or whom you don’t even know, but that you would do it because it’s who you are that motivates you to do it, that it’s the person I’ve raised you to be and that it doesn’t even make sense not to do it, even when you have a viable option and no one would blame you.
The lesson you will learn from all of these is that it was not I—but someone greater than I—who taught you.
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here: http://nannymcphee.twittermoms.com/about