It’s hard to predict what you’ll value for your kids…until you have kids. Coming from a family of Type A successful people, I’d have predicted that I’d place a premium on my kids achieving extraordinary things.
It hasn’t turned out that way. At all. I’ve found that, towering over everything else, what I yearn for is that my kids be happy.
I know that word happy can be tricky for people. So I’ll expand that to mean peacefully content. So far, my fourteen-year-old son and twelve and six year old daughters have done quite well in that department.
Here are the four things I have encouraged and will continue to encourage them to do that I think will give them the best chance to remain peacefully content for the rest of their lives. I’ll start with the lighter side and move up to the deeper.
Let’s start with some raw honesty: We’re all clueless. We’re born, we live, we die. Nobody knows with any certainty what it all means. Why we’re here. Who put us here.
We have options on how to coexist with this vexing metaphysical reality. For the sake of ease, let’s break it down to two: We can take it all really seriously…or not. The path for me on this one has always been crystal clear: I choose to be a nut and not overly serious.
The bottom line is that laughter is the ultimate elixir. And it’s what I want for my kids.
As such, I have encouraged them to develop their sense of humor from an early age. When they did or said something funny, I’d laugh and make a point to tell them that being funny was a gift not just to them, but to the world. That putting smiles on people’s faces was a good thing.
In my son’s case, that has meant some trouble with his teachers, but mostly they’ve appreciated him. At age eight, his teacher told us that she was doing an exercise where the kids needed to come up with words ending in ‘light.’ Like flashlight or gaslight. She called on my son who said, “Bud Light!” She told us she had to turn away and try not to laugh.
Then there was the time a few months ago that I was on his case about something and he said, “Thank you Jeff Bezos without the money.” Apparently, I look like Jeff Bezos.
The favorite activity for my 14 and 12 year olds recently has been to purposely rile me up, then surreptitiously record my volcanic eruption. A few weeks ago the little rascals accomplished this by having my son throw a lacrosse ball smack into my forehead. I, of course, was livid and completely lost my shit.
A few minutes later I hear them howling with laughter as they watch the video, taken by my daughter, of me exploding. Torturous? Yes. Funny? You bet…As long as they don’t post it online!
I won’t bore you with the ten trillion medical studies showing the enormous benefits of physical exertion. Suffice to say that exercise does humans a world of good.
Fortunately, all three of my kids like physical activity. My son plays on his high school lacrosse team and my older daughter plays everything — soccer, tennis, volleyball and basketball. My six year old plays soccer, basketball and tennis.
Key to this is they see their mom and dad working out most days. I play tennis, cycle, swim and lift weights, while my wife plays tennis and does vigorous exercise classes with some of her friends. So the example is there.
My hope is that they bring regular exercise with them into adulthood. It’s an effective weapon in fighting depression, anxiety and a whole host of other maladies.
3.LOVE EVERYONE, SERVE EVERYONE
Love everyone, serve everyone is the main teaching of Ram Dass’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba, something I wrote a separate article about. It’s basically the equivalent of Christianity’s “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
As for how this relates to my kids, it’s not about forcing them to volunteer at a soup kitchen or things like that. It’s more about encouraging them to be decent to those around them.
And at their age, that’s mostly about how they relate to their friends. My 12 year old daughter is at that age where girls can be brutal to each other. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about parents freaking out that their daughters have been shunned by some friend group. It’s all too common.
I go out of my way to encourage my daughter to NOT exclude other girls. And to not badmouth girls behind their backs.
So far, so good. My daughter is friends with several girls who are in several different friend groups.
I think the reason she’s able to do this is that she does her best to treat all the girls with decency and respect. Pretty sure it’s also because she’s really funny (see #1, Humor).
She’s very talented, both academically and athletically, but I have told her several times that what I like most about her, and what makes me proudest, is what a great friend she is to so many girls.
I hope this will stick with her for the rest of her life. Why? Because I think most would agree that the highest riches life has to offer are attained through giving your love to others. I know I’ve found that to be true.
4. GETTING QUIET AND LISTENING
Anybody’s who’s read my articles knew this one was coming. Getting quiet and listening to the voice inside is central to most everything I write about.
We get quiet by practicing meditation, mindfulness and a whole host of other techniques and practices. Once we get quiet, we listen.
This is the one I really want for my kids. Why? Because getting quiet and being able to hear that sacred, divine voice within is paramount to living a successful life.
My definition of successful is living a life that is in harmony with the Universe/God/Nature. The best way to do that is to quiet our minds so that the Universe can express itself through us.
How do I communicate this to 14, 12 and 6 year olds? Not directly, at this point.
The two older kids have meditated on and off these past few years. I also use sports as an avenue to transmit these ideas.
For example, the only advice I give my son in lacrosse is to do his best to remain as relaxed as possible while he’s out on the field. Because only when we’re truly relaxed can we access the genius within who knows exactly what to do. I see relaxation as just another form of quieting down inside.
I think I’ll talk more about this with them when they hit their later teens and twenties. I sure wish I’d known about all this stuff back then.
Humor, exercise, loving others and getting quiet inside. Those are the four things that I believe give my kids the best chance at the best life.
And I hope this is no surprise, but that is also what I want for all of you. And for the same reason: Incorporating those big four will maximize your life experience.
I hope you’ll give some thought to adding more laughter, exercise, love and quiet in your life.