Blake’s recent post, Things I Hope My Daughter Learns, got me thinking about what I hope my son learns. Of course, there are tons of things I hope he learns—how to ride a bike, how to play an instrument, how to cook a meal, and so on and so on. But I got to thinking about what I hope he learns deeply. Deep down inside his bones. What I hope he learns from me and my husband and our marriage and our faith. Things that will affect his overall life experience and, hopefully, give him a sense of joy throughout his lifetime.
1. I hope he learns stubbornness. I know I’ll probably regret saying this when he starts telling me “NO!” and won’t eat his peas. But I don’t mean wanting what he wants right now and nothing else will satisfy him. I hope he learns to be stubborn about what is right. That he won’t simply be a follower and won’t mindlessly do what he’s told. I hope he stands, stubbornly, for justice, for purity, for peace. I hope he learns that standing up for what is right is more important that impressing his friends or obeying an “order.” I hope he learns to think skeptically and critically and deeply about what life presents him. That he won’t follow along with kids who bully. That he won’t follow along with people who want to mislead others. And that he learns to stand firm in his decisions and feel secure in himself.
2. I hope he learns that “masculinity” is not the same as being a man. Our culture often teaches males that macho or masculine things make you manly. Driving a big truck really fast. Lifting heavy things. Playing sports. Shooting guns. Chugging beer. Tools. Some have more serious consequences, like promiscuity. Never showing emotion or vulnerability. I hope that he learns that his identity and value is not contingent on “being a man” according to media culture. I hope he learns that being a man is so much more than (and often contradictory to) the incomplete list above. I must say that I think my husband will do a great job teaching him how to be a man. Teaching him that what matters is doing the hard stuff that has to be done. Showing up. Leading his family. Loving his wife. Playing with his kids. Changing diapers. Standing up for integrity. Valuing women for their minds. Sharing his emotions and feelings. Being confident in himself.
3. I hope he learns that many problems are caused by unbalanced expectations. We live in a world full of entitlement. We want things because we feel like we deserve them. And, sometimes, what we want can ultimately be destructive to ourselves and each other. When our expectations get out of balance, our lives get out of balance. At work, we get disgruntled if we feel like we are not getting what we deserve, be it money or respect or promotions, when most of the time we should be thankful we have a job. At home, we can drift away from our spouse if we feel like we aren’t getting what we deserve, be it affection or responsibilities or money, when we should be focused on finding joy in what and who we have. And the list goes on for every aspect of life. I hope he learns to have healthy expectations—a balance of big dreams and of realistic hopes. And a sense that no one owes him anything. That ultimately, what he gets in life is a gift. Joy is all about perspective.
4. Above all, I hope he learns to love well. To love himself and others. To love Christ. To love his wife and his children. To love those who are hard to love and those who are easy to love. I hope he learns to put others before himself, but also know when it’s time to put himself first.
Writing this made me think more about how my actions and words are a huge (if not the hugest) factor in teaching my son about life. No pressure, right?