I have a friend with whom I can analyze everything and everyone. She knows me pretty well, which means she could tick off a list of my faults from now until Thanksgiving.
The other day, she said something in passing that has reverberated over and over with me.
She said, “You’re kind.”
Um, hello? I’m passive aggressive and snarky and judgmental and I definitely think incredibly mean thoughts that would probably crush people if I said them out loud. I’m not kind.
“Yes, you are. Whenever you have a choice, you choose kindness. You try not to hurt people.”
I thought about that. True or not true, it’s definitely a quality I value. I remember a conversation with this friend when our daughters were barely walking. She said if she had one hope for her daughter, it was that she’d be tough. I said if I had one hope for mine, it’s that she’d be kind.
Then I started wondering what I’d say today. That little pigtailed toddler is now a pretty awesome almost-12-year-old with an equally awesome nine-year-old brother. What is it, in my 43 (okay...43 plus) years of wisdom, I’d wish for them?
Well, I’d hope for happiness. I’d hope for a happiness that isn’t dependent on grades or money or friends or soccer goals or weight or looks. I’d hope for a happiness that starts so deep within their cores that nothing can ever steal it; an intrinsic happiness that exists because they love who they are.
I’d hope for gratitude. I’d hope they wake up every day thanking God for the ability to open their eyes and get out of bed. I’d hope they appreciate it when their most basic life necessities are met, because not everyone has a roof or heat or food. I’d hope they appreciate the extra things they have, whether they’re (ah-hem) fabulous parents or nice clothes or great trips or junk food. I’d hope they appreciate their health every single day.
I’d hope for self respect. I’d hope they know what gifts their bodies are, and that they take care of them. Physically, emotionally, mentally, in relationships, with the food they eat, when they’re confronted with alcohol or drugs or any of the other crap they’ll face.
I’d hope for honesty. I’d hope that they can be honest with themselves, with their friends, with their eventual (and mighty lucky, if I do say so myself) spouses. I’d hope they’re trustworthy, because little destroys someone more than being betrayed. I’d also hope they understand the value of a good little white lie (remember, I want them to be kind, and I don’t really want to hear that my butt’s gotten huge or my dinner looks like dog throw up).
I’d hope for courage. I’d hope they know they can do anything they want, and let common sense – not fear – be the only thing that stops them.
I’d hope for loyalty. I’d hope that they can always be counted on, I’d hope that they always show up. My husband has a history of showing up when he’s not expected but greatly appreciated; he’s gotten on more last-minute flights to attend funerals and be at bedsides than I can count. That’s one of my favorite things about him.
I’d hope for faith. It can be any kind of faith; we’ve given them the foundation of one religion, but faith isn’t defined by one religion. I’d hope they believe that God exists and loves them, and that their faith provides a moral compass and sense of contentment and security that nothing else in the world really can.
I’d hope they have an enormous capacity to love and an equally enormous capacity to forgive. Loving means they will likely get hurt. Forgiving means they won’t be destroyed. Loving and being loved are so fundamental to happiness; I’d hope my kids never have baggage or walls that hamper their ability to do either.
…and I’d hope they know when to let go. Let go of toxic friends, let go of toxic relationships, let go of anyone who doesn’t treat them with kindness and respect. I'd hope they don't harbor grudges, don’t look for retaliation, don’t stuff anger down inside; I'd hope they just accept that people are different, and move on.
And yes. I’d hope they’re kind. I’d hope they’re not the reason someone feels ashamed or inferior or picked on. Rather, I’d hope they’re the friend whose phone rings when someone can’t stop crying. I’d hope they’re the friend who will stick up for a buddy at school or be the one refusing to join in a derogatory conversation about a classmate. Later, I'd hope they're the ones who will stop malicious gossip in its tracks. I’d hope that, when given the choice, they choose kindness. There’s so much heartbreaking meanness in this world; I’d love to know that there are a couple more souls out there trying to counter it.
Am I some fabulous role model for my children, embodying the fulfillment of each of these hopes? Not a chance. I’m a little of some of these things, none of others, and a lot of others. I'm definitely a work in progress.
And that brings me to my final hope for my kids: I’d hope they don’t give up. I’d hope they don’t give up on happiness just because life gets hard; I’d hope they don’t give up on who they want to be just because they aren’t; I’d hope they don’t give up on love because they get hurt.
And I’d really hope that, as adults, they remember to call their mother every day to say, “I love you.” Because I can already tell you I'll really miss them.