This little list has been making the rounds on Facebook, usually with a picture of a little infant sleeping and mom leaning in as if to whisper in its ear. The list is called TWENTY THINGS A MOM SHOULD TELL HER SON. It seems innocuous and even sweet at first. But I couldn’t honestly like it. You see, the longer I am the mom of the kid with whom I was blessed, the less true these sorts of lists ring. I’m honestly tired of books written, toys designed or games programmed in ways that require parents and kids to be gender specific.
I grew up next door to a little boy who enjoyed making families from the barbie-like dolls that my extended family unwittingly supplied to this unimpressed tomboy. And I loved spending afternoons at his house, using his cap guns and pretending to be the sheriff to his bad guy. Both of us spent hours with playdoh and legos, creating all manner of well, who knows? It never dawned on me that it might be odd for C to want to be the Mom sometimes in our make-believe times, especially since I was perfectly happy for him to pretend to cook while I was telling all about my “hard day at the office.”
So as I read the list and thought about my kid, there were several that not only seemed wrong for us, they seemed awfully presumptuous about the girls out there getting some other list whispered into their ears. I’m perfectly aware that there are kids who happily fall into the cultural patterns they begin learning very early on.
I’m also keenly aware of the kids who follow the beats of different drums, or multiple drums as they try on identities and roles in the world. So here’s my adapted list:
20 Things Your Kid Should Hear (Preferably From You)
- Be part of a team (or band or choir or ensemble) It will teach you how to respect authority, work with others, manage your time and stay out of trouble. It will help you see the benefits of practicing before you do something in front of others. And maybe even appreciate how important it is that not everyone is good at everything – or even the same things.
- Your heart really is connected to your sexual organs, and so is your partner’s. Don’t take away or give away anything that you can’t give or get back. (there’s a whole conversations about horcruxes we need to have, but that’s for another day).
- Whether you sit or stand to pee, think about the person coming behind you. Aim well. If you fail, clean up.
- Tuck away a little bit of the money you earn or get as gifts. The habit of saving will be more and more important as your dreams and desires get bigger.
- Get to know our dishwasher, oven, washing machine, iron, vacuum, mop and broom. That way, their cousins in the dorms, apartments and houses you will be living in won’t be strangers.
- Pray and be a spiritual leader. Fight for your faith, no matter where that journey leads.
- Don’t ever be a bully and don’t ever start a fight, but please remember you are more than worth whatever it costs to defend yourself.
- Treat others kindly. Forever is a long time to live alone and it’s even longer to live with somebody you have wounded.
- Take pride in your appearance, but don’t ever believe looks define your value.
- Be strong and tender at the same time.
- See your partner as an equal. This includes her having a successful career and you changing diapers at 3 A.M. Mutual respect is the key to a good relationship.
- “Yes ma’am” and “yes sir” still go a long way in letting folks know you respect your elders..
- The reason that they’re called “private parts” is because they’re “private” and not for viewing (or adjusting) in public.
- Peer pressure is a scary thing. Be a good leader and others will follow.
- A gift, flowers or a complement – just because – is always a good idea.
- It is better to be kind than to be right. Really. Kind and humble. People will remember how you treat them long after they’ve forgotten who was right.
- A sense of humor goes a long way in the healing process.
- Please choose your spouse wisely. And help them get to know your family. On their own terms, but not all on their own.
- Remember to call your your family. Or chat, facetime, whatever. You’d be surprised how much we miss you when you’re not around.
- I love you. No matter what.
Honestly, that last one is the one that matters most. The rest will come with it if you’re sincere, consistent and living like you love them. No matter what. And model the other 19 (see 16, above).