Jackie Kennedy is quoted on the internet as saying: “If you bungle raising your children,…I don’t think whatever else you do….matters very much.”
I have a couple of thoughts on this:
1) It was on the internet as being from Jackie Kennedy. This means it could just as easily come from someone else, like Jackie Gleason, Hellen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, or some 18-year-old boy in Toledo, Ohio sitting in his underwear playing on his computer all day.
2) I don’t think it is very easy to be able to tell if you’ve bungled your children until they are like, 30. And if you can tell you’ve bungled ’em before then, you’ve done one doozy of a job bungling!
3) The word Bungle is underused in society, in my humble opinion.
4) I suspect there is no one right way to raise a child. Of course, Jackie Kennedy, in her elitist snobbery would not have known this important little nugget of wisdom. But really, there is more than one way to raise a kid. I like to raise mine with lightness and a sense of humor. Other people raise theirs with drive and competitiveness. Other’s with guilt and manipulation.
The funny thing is, no matter how you start them off, they still end up finding their own path in life. Because their life does not belong to you, because you have no idea what their purpose in life is, and because, if you were really honest with yourself, you’d admit you don’t even know what your own purpose is in life, either.
Parenting takes a boatload of humility. And if you don’t already have it, no worries; it’ll give it to you in short order.
I’ve made some hum-dingers of mistakes and I’m just in my first decade of motherhood. I’m just glad my Varmint has reached the age of 10.5 without a (permanent) twitch. And I’m hoping that by the time Critter reaches the age of 10.5, I won’t have developed a (permanent) twitch, either.
They are in good hands, though. Their dad is big on teaching responsibility and drive. Their Grandma is big on teaching them continuity and tradition. Their step-dad is big on teaching discipline and altruism. And I believe it falls to my lot to teach my kids to take all of the things those three people are teaching them, with a healthy sense of humor.
No, not mock them.
But take life lightly and with humor. There is no need to go around all glum and work-oriented. Life is too short to waste it on that. And there is humor in everything. Hell, I’ve shown Gwen how to find humor clipping toe-nails. (Especially when you find one of the clippings in your hair 4 hours later.)
What I want to avoid more than anything is making my kids think life needs to be full of DRAMA.
Drama is what results in taking life and yourself waaaaayyyyyy too seriously. None of us are so important that any mistake we might make, or trespass we perceive against us, or disappointment we receive, is worthy of DRAMA. Maybe a shrug of the shoulders. Maybe a snap of the fingers. Maybe even a few well-chosen socially inappropriate words. Then let it go.
And quickly find the humor in it.
I try to teach this by example. Often.
For instance, I had a serious abdominal and colorectal surgery last year. Right before I went under the knife, I begged the 2 surgeons, a fellow, an intern, and several nurses if, while they were closing me up, they could please make it so I poop out little heart-shaped turds for the rest of my life.
They loved it. Finally a patient with a sense of humor.
And so my kids heard this story. And they saw Mommy not taking life (or death, or disfigurement) so seriously. And they learned:
1) If Mommy can not get upset or all dramatic about a potentially life-threatening surgery, they could probably lighten up about whatever they’re struggling with in Math. Or Reading. Or School Peers.
2) If they work really, really hard, they can try not to be as weird as their Mom. But even if they fail at that endeavor, she’s still pretty fun to be around, so it wouldn’t be all that bad if they did end up like her.
3) They need to eat a lot of fiber to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
One important caveat in my lifelong lesson of the importance of humor to them is this: Try very hard to avoid finding humor at other people’s expense. Its best not to cause pain in others when finding joy and laughter for yourself. That rarely ends well.
This does not apply at any firehouse, however. Or Frat houses. Or, most likely, Navy Seal Training. But with that one I only surmise. (Or DO I?)
Humor: It’s what’s for breakfast.