As moms, the moment our little one is laid in our arms—or maybe even sooner—we start dreaming of what their life will be and thinking about what we want for them. Our heart is filled with hopes and dreams for our children.
As they grow, so too do our hopes and dreams for them. We might start fantasizing about athletic accomplishments or professional success we hope they achieve. Some of this is natural. After all, we want the world for our children. But when I think about what I want for my children—what I really want for them—it is far simpler and, I suppose, far more challenging as well.
So, to my sweet boys, here is what I really want for you as you grow up and live your lives:
1. Find your village.
As moms, we talk a lot about finding our village but the simple truth is that everyone needs a village. Everyone wants to feel like they belong. Everyone wants to find their people. I hope that you always find that in your family, but that your village also expands and grows over the years. I hope that it is filled with lifelong friends who knew you "way back when" and that your village grows to include new people as you also grow.
2. Always be each other’s safe place.
Speaking of finding “your people,” I hope that you are always this for each other. When I was growing up, my mom used to say to me, “Now I understand what your grandpa meant when he said, 'all I ever want is for my kids to get along with each other.'” And now I say this to you. But I don’t just want you to get along; I want you to be friends. Sure, you'll fight. You'll hurt each other. Your lives may take you in different directions, but I hope that you always have each other to rely on. I hope that you will always have each other’s backs, that you will be each other’s safe place in this wild world.
3. Resist outdated gender norms.
We’ve come a long way from the gendered stereotypes of my own ‘80s childhood, but we still have a long way to go. You can do and be whatever you want, regardless of what society seems to tell you is the norm for your gender. You don’t need to “man up” (what does that even mean, anyway?), and you should go out of your way to fight the patriarchy and dismantle toxic masculinity.
4. Be comfortable feeling and expressing your emotions.
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel things. You are, after all, a human with human emotions. Don’t deny it. I have seen too much harm caused by toxic masculinity and men who have been taught to push their feelings down. Acknowledge your feelings. Talk about them. Maybe even with a therapist if that helps. Deal with your emotions so they don’t deal with you. And remember: I'm always here if you need a hug and good cry.
5. Use your privilege for good.
As cisgender white males, you have an exceptional amount of unearned privilege. Use it for good. Make the world a better place. Be a good ally without centering yourself. Pass the mic to others who don’t have the same privilege as you. Use your privilege to make the world a better place. Sometimes you'll get it wrong. When you do, be humble. Learn. And keep trying.
6. Spend your time doing things you find fulfilling and meaningful.
This capitalism-hungry world will tell you that the key to good life is money and success. It isn’t. The key is living a life of meaning and purpose. May you find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. Of course, you’ll need to put food on the table and earn money to support yourself. But somewhere along the way, the world will try to distort what is “enough” to support yourself (and your family if you decide to have children). Don’t sacrifice a life of meaning and purpose for one filled with material goods and external measures of what it means to be successful.
7. Forget about happiness and find joy.
A lot of people talk about finding happiness. Parents say things like, “I just want my kids to be happy.” But happiness is a fleeting emotion. It is impossible to feel happy all the time. What is possible, however, is to feel joy. When you live a joyful life, you can feel all the feelings—happy, sad, excited, angry, anxious, eager, content—because you have a baseline of contentment. You will know that the world is both cruel and beautiful, but that the beauty outweighs the cruelty.
So be humble. Be generous. Be you.
Be strong. But stay soft.
Forgive easily and apologize quickly.
Take risks. And keep learning.
Live a life that you are proud of. And take care of each other.
This is what I want for you.