When I signed up for this parenting gig, I thought my job would be to impart wisdom, and to mold my kids into the people I wanted them to be. I imagined myself as a sage leader, always calm and in control. I imagined that my job was to contain my children, to instruct and socialize them, that by doing so I would allow them to become their best selves.
But it turns out that I need some un-socializing as badly as my kids need socializing. My 39 years on this earth have trained me to make myself smaller than I should, to be polite sometimes at the expense of meeting my own needs, to say “no thanks” when what I mean is “yes please.”
My toddler is changing all that by modeling these daily life lessons:
1 | Run towards the things that you love, even if someone is shouting at you to go in another direction.
The yellow tractor at the end of the road. The blueberries in the neighbor’s yard. The giant mud puddle next to the car.
Sure there’s someone behind you waving her arms wildly and yelling, “STOP!” but she’s pretty easy to tune out. What does she know anyway? Ignore the haters and eat all the blueberries.
2 | Declare what is yours.
“That’s mine.” Say this at least 20 times a day – to friends, family, and strangers. The rules of ownership are pretty simple: if you like it, you own it.
That marble at the bottom of the fountain? Yours. The Frisbee on the beach? Yours. The castle that your older brother painstakingly built out of Legos? Definitely yours.
Say it out loud so that everyone knows. “That’s MINE.”
3 | Don’t overthink your fashion choices. Any items you love always go together if you wear them with the right attitude.
Wear your T-rex shirt three days in a row without washing. When your favorite striped pants get a hole in the knee, have a grown-up cut them off so you can wear them as shorts. That hooded Spiderman tee-shirt goes with everything.
Wear ONLY things you love. Otherwise, it’s preferable to be naked.
4 | Don’t think about how you’re going to say, “NO!” Just say it and mean it.
Do you want a hug? No. A kiss? No. Want to sing Itsy-Bitsy Spider? No. Want to take a bath? NO!
Never hesitate. Never look for other words. The people around you will get used to it. They’ll come to know you as a person who says what you mean.
5 | Ask for comfort whenever you need it.
Cry for the one you love in the middle of the night. When she appears, whisper, “I missed you,” and plant a wet kiss on her cheek. Go back to sleep immediately.
6 | Feel your feelings.
Cry until you are not sad anymore. Pout until you are not angry anymore. If a joke is funny, laugh from your belly and ask the teller to repeat it over and over.
7 | Fight sleep.
The world is calling you. Run eight more laps around the yard. Become suddenly fascinated by the spinning top you’ve had for months. Insist on sampling all the flavors of toothpaste.
Suck all the marrow that you can out of every day, before you give in to rest.
8 | When you finally do sleep, relish it.
Sleep hard and strong with your blanket pulled against your chest. Ignore the noises of footsteps, of coffee grinding, of morning conversation.
If someone comes to wake you, roll over and sink your face into the pillow. Sleep, once achieved, is delicious.
9 | It doesn’t matter how small you are. Your body holds massive strength.
Your muscles were made to enact your will. The world is your playground. Climb trees and jump off steps. Use the counter for pull-ups. Snuggle and wrestle daily.
Motion is life.
10 | It’s possible to live without shame.
Run through the front yard naked. When you fart, announce it and laugh. Decorate your body in magic marker. Carry plastic Jack-o-lanterns to the grocery store in July.
Your joy hurts no one—in fact, it improves the lives of those around you.