Some people have said that we choose our parents prior to showing up here. I’m not qualified to speak on that theory but I will say that if my kids chose me they really must have had some major shit to work through from their past lives.
My four children range from 23 to 37 and I’m happy to say that I have a great relationship with all of them today but it wasn’t always that way. The choices I made while in active drug addiction resulted in being alienated from my two oldest children for over a decade. I’ve come to learn that it’s never too late to be good parent.
We humans are blessed with the gift of being able to parent on some level throughout our entire lives so, on many occasions I feel that I’m getting a mulligan for things I didn’t get right the first time.
Although I’ve freed myself from the dis-empowering thoughts that cause regret, I would have preferred to spare them this whole process of unlearning by teaching them as much as possible when their minds were young and wide open.
Many of the lessons I shared with my kids over the years have been things that I’ve since realized are complete bullshit. Things that got passed on from generation to generation that I didn’t even question because I was taught at an age when I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Today, as I go through this process of unlearning all the crap that doesn’t serve me in my life’s purpose I try to share it with them in real time.They say that the best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago and the second best time is now and since now is all any of us have I’m using the gifts available to me.
What follows is just a list of a few things I would have told my children had I been equipped to plant those seeds earlier.
1. Money may not grow on trees but it’s available almost everywhere else. Shedding the scarcity mindset is still a work in progress for me. Shedding those limiting beliefs that we should hoard our wealth in some bank account while not having the resources to live the life we were sent here to live has been one of the most difficult things to do. The truth is that we live in an infinitely abundant world and wealth is meant to constantly flow through us. Once we stop the flow from going out, we limit what’s able to come in. We also limit the impact we make on the world which is why we’re here in the first place. It’s been said that abundance is God’s gift to us and how we use it is our gift back to Him (or Her, or it, however you see the mystery)
2. Make time each day to sit quietly and do nothing. The most important thing I do each day is meditation. Our western culture has taught us that the secret to happiness is through achievement and busyness. It’s been my personal experience that this is completely false. Happiness already exists in each of us and if we never take the time to look within ourselves we may never see it.
3. Embrace your pain and your struggles. It’s difficult to watch our children struggle. In most cases we try everything to shield them from pain as much as possible. I used to think that was my job as a dad. If we’re successful at shielding them from all pain they never get the opportunity to grow. All growth comes from our challenges in life and challenges are usually painful. I believe that the addiction epidemic we face in our country today has a lot to do with our inability to embrace pain.
4. Choose experiences over material gifts. Growing up, there were always tons of presents around the tree at Christmas though I don’t really remember what they were. I do, however remember the smells, the music, and our whole family being in the same room, fully present for each other. As I grew older I remember all the bogus emotions that went with gift giving. Guilt because I didn’t reciprocate with the same perceived value, obligations to buy for folks I didn’t even like, resentments over unrealistic expectations I put on others, etc. Most of those emotions get replaced with joy and gratitude when I remove the gifts from the equation.
5. Happiness leads to success (not vice versa). It took me almost 50 years to realize this. Fifty years of telling myself that once I get XYZ I’ll be happy only to discover there was always going to be another XYZ that would leave me feeling lack. I would make Marci Shimoff’s book, Happy For No Reason required reading for them as soon as they reached adolescence.
6. My needs are my responsibility only as your needs are yours. I’ve been guilty of trying to live out my dreams, vicariously through my kids and rationalizing it by telling myself that it’s in their best interest. It’s not something I’ve done consciously but as I continue to awaken, I see very clearly that I’ve done it a lot. Each of us has our own unique purpose to fulfill here and putting expectations on our children to fulfill our roles will only distract them from their own. Each of us has valuable experience to share with our kids but, at the end of the day, we can only give an autobiographical perspective from which they get to choose what to take and what to leave. My job is to help them discover their own authentic self without adding my ignorant judgments into the mix. I have no way of knowing what their destiny is; I’m just here to show them a few survival skills and support them on their own journey.
7. “I don’t know.” There have been many occasions when I’ve given my children poor, misguided information simply to satisfy my own ego. I grew up believing that my responsibility as a parent was to always have the answers to their questions. As a young boy I was super curious and I can still remember some of the crazy responses my parents would give me just to shut me up. I still struggle to make the connection between birds, bees, and my sex life but that’s another story. Telling my children I don’t know allows them a chance to create a more realistic ideal of who I am while opening a space for a stronger connection as we pursued the answer together.
8. Who you are is very different from what you do. We all wear many different hats over the course of our lifetime. Many of them fit us well and others not so much. Happiness is when we’re able to align what we do with who we are but that’s an ongoing process that involves a lot of mistakes along the way. Regardless of how many mistakes we make, who we are never changes. Who we are, essentially is pure consciousness and pure love. The distractions we face while on this temporary mission are constantly moving us in and out of touch with our true essence. What we do is constantly changing while who we are never is. It’s only through vigilant practice that we’re able to keep the two of them closely aligned but they are never one in the same.
9. Never stop playing. I’m not sure where this whole concept of taking life seriously began but it simply doesn’t work for me. When I’m playing, I’m at my most creative, joyous self. For me, life is a game whether I’m splashing in the ocean with my wife or anxiously awaiting test results from the doctor. I’m not saying that fun and games always go together but when I’m able to see myself as playing rather than working I’m always able to see the possibilities more clearly. That’s just me.
10. Your Greatest Struggles in life are the things you were born to teach. I’m not sure if there will ever be clear definitive answers to those three big questions, “Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?” At least not ones that everyone will agree on. I do know that having meaning in my life has been an absolute game changer for me. I’m not sure where I heard this because I woke up one day and it was just there. All I know is the feeling I get when I live by this mantra fulfills me. if it works for my children or anyone else that’s a bonus.
You may agree or disagree with some of these and I love that because that means you have your own unique path to follow as well. Like I said, all I can share is my autobiography of what works for me. Hopefully one or two of them will work for someone else.
I love this quote from The Buddha:
Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious leaders, or text.Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation.Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will only lead to delusion. Find out for yourself what is truth and what is real.
I’m not sure he actually said this but it works for me.