Some people have said that we choose our parents before 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 situations to work through in their past lives.
My four children are adults now, and I’m happy to say I’ve worked hard to have healthy relationships with them. 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 learned it’s never too late to be a good parent.
We, humans, are blessed with the gift of being able to parent on some level throughout our entire lives. On many occasions, I feel like I’m getting a mulligan for things I didn’t get right the first time.
Although I’ve freed myself from the disempowering 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 I’ve since realized are complete myths. Things were passed on from generation to generation, and 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 everything that doesn’t serve me in my life’s purpose, I try to share it with them in real-time. They say the best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago, and the second best time is now. Since now is all we 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 (and are also life lessons for your kids, if you so wish).
Here are 10 things I wish I told my children when they were younger.
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 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 challenging things to do.
We live in an infinitely abundant world, and wealth is meant to constantly flow through us. When we stop the flow from going out, we limit what can enter. 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. 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 the pain, they never get the opportunity to grow. All growth comes from our challenges in life, and those 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, but I don’t 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 remembered all the bogus emotions that went with gift-giving. Guilt because I didn’t reciprocate with the same perceived value and obligations to buy for folks I didn’t even like, resentments over unrealistic expectations I put on others.
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 when I get XYZ, I’ll be happy, then only to discover there was always going to be another XYZ to leave me lacking. 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 living out my dreams vicariously through my kids. I rationalized it by telling myself it was in their best interest. It’s not something I’ve done consciously, but as I continue to awaken, I see very clearly I’ve done it a lot. Each of us has our unique purpose to fulfill here, and putting expectations on our children to fulfill our roles will only distract them from their own. We all have valuable experiences to share with our kids, but we can only give an autobiographical perspective from which they choose what to take and leave.
My job is to help them discover their authentic self without adding my ignorant judgments into the mix. I have no way of knowing what their destiny is. I’m here to show them a few survival skills and support them on their journey.
7. “I don’t know.”
There have been many occasions when I’ve given my children poor, misguided information to satisfy my 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. Telling my children I don’t know allows them to create a more realistic idea of who I am while opening a space for a better connection as we pursue the answer together.
8. Who you are is very different from what you do.
We all wear many different hats throughout our lifetimes. Many of them fit us well, and others not so much. Happiness is when we align what we do with who we are. It is an ongoing process with a lot of mistakes along the way. Regardless of how many mistakes we make, who we are never changes.
We are pure consciousness and pure love. The distractions we face while on this temporary mission constantly move in and out of touch with our true essence. What we do is constantly changing, while who we are never is.
Vigilant practice keeps the two of them closely aligned. Yet, they are never the same.
9. Never stop playing.
I’m not sure where this whole concept of taking life seriously began, but it 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 fun and games always go together, but when I can see myself as playing rather than working, I always 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 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 some meaning in my life has been an absolute game-changer for me. I’m unsure 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 it means you have your unique path to follow as well. All I can share is my autobiography of what works for me. Hopefully, one or two of them will work for someone else.
Greg Boudle is a recovery life coach, published author, and professional speaker.
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This article was originally published at Life Beyond Clean. Reprinted with permission from the author.