Childrearing

Your Most Important Job As A Parent Is To Teach Your Kid To Be A Better Person Than You

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mother and daughterI have a confession: sometimes I think awful things.

More than once, I have caught hold of a thought running through my brain that, on a second examination, makes me shudder. Classist things. Fatphobic things. Spiteful things. “She’s too old to wear a miniskirt.” “Do you really need to order dessert?” “Why is all that junk food in their grocery cart?” “Why even go to weights class if you’re not going to use a bigger plate than that?” Sometimes it’s even self-inflicted. “I’m not smart enough to accomplish that. Why did I wear something that made me look so flabby? No one’s going to care what I think, so I’ll just shut up.”

These thoughts are always followed up by something along the lines of, “Oh my GOD, brain, you need to shut up. That person can wear, eat, or buy what they want.” I’m not talking about this because I’m proud of it, I’m talking about it because it’s something that needs to be talked about, and it’s something that I think about a lot: how to make sure the first thing that will pop into my kids’ heads someday is that second, kind, non-judgmental reaction.

There’s a quote floating around Tumblr that I think is pretty apt for the situation:

I was always taught by my mother, That the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.

I’ve been fighting those first thoughts for a long time, but they’ve never really gone completely away. It’s the stuff I heard around as a child, that got muttered in church, the background radiation I grew up in. And one of the most important things I can do as a mom is to insulate those thoughts in a lead shield to keep them from turning my kinds’ ideas into the same strain of ugly mutants.

My kids can be – are going to be – better people than me. Their first thoughts, I hope, won’t be wasted on pointless judgy-pantsing; they’ll jump straight to solidarity, support, and sister- (or brother-)hood. And then by the time their second thoughts roll around, they’ll already have moved on to, “And I can help them by …” or “So I wonder how they feel about …” or something else that’s a much better use of brain activity than what my lousy neurons are wasting electrical activity on.

We can’t really change the way we were trained to think – not entirely. But we can shape the way our children look at the world, and I hope the way my kids see it will have a shape other than ‘warped’.

(Image: Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock)