The other day I was taking my daughter to the doctor’s office for a check-up when something happened that floored me.
People came in and she said with great enthusiasm and a twinkle in her eye, “Hi! How are you?” She gave hugs to the nurses and some of the elderly who weren’t smiling.
Being seen by the doctor was a bit of a different story because she’s used to getting shots, which has resulted in a fear of anyone who looks even slightly medical. I have to laugh whenever she gets scared because she starts whining, tears start streaming from her face and she repeatedly says, “Thank you! Bye!” As if it were a mantra to get rid of the doctor. She had the doctors in stitches because it was the nicest way of anyone telling him to “screw off” any of us had ever heard.
When I took her off the table, she ran over to both doctors (our pediatrician and a student he had with him) and gave them both a hug. When we were leaving, I was stopped by an older gentleman who patted me on the back and said, “We need more Daddies like you, keep it up.” I said “Thank you” and went on my way. He too, got a hug from my daughter.
I don’t mind telling you that I’m insanely proud of being told that.
It occurred to me that my wife and I are doing the right thing in how we’re raising her. But, what are we trying to teach her?
Here is a short list… Whether she learns them or not is for her and the world she’ll grow to interact with to decide for themselves.
Here are 20 crucial lessons to teach your kids:
1. Humor is the most essential ingredient to being a well-balanced human being
If you can’t laugh, at least at yourself, you’re missing out on the joy of life. Believe me, when you look around at the world, there is NO shortage of things to laugh at. Don’t be afraid to laugh and make others laugh.
2. See the way I’m treating Mommy, by always hugging her and telling her “I love you”?
Don’t you dare settle for anything less than this for yourself when you get older and select a mate. Your father is not above hobbling people who mistreat his daughter.
3. Anyone who does not treat you like the absolute treasure you are shouldn’t be in your life
That being said, treat everyone with respect.
4. Be courteous, unless your courtesy is not returned
Then, be indifferent until hostility greets you. Then, and only then should you be hostile in return, and perhaps not even then. When it’s time to strike, destroy. Don’t take crap from anyone.
5. Stop to smell the roses
Life is too short not to live. Don’t be alive for 40 years only to realize that you’ve enjoyed very little of it.
6. Develop a love for literature, poetry, wordplay, and language in general
You’ll find more life between the pages of a book than on reality TV. Music, also.
7. Learn something new every single day
Don’t go to sleep until you do. It could be a random fact or an entirely new skill set. But, never be content with knowing only what you know. You should want more for your mind. It’s for this reason that your mother and I would like for you to go to college. That’s the only specific thing we want for you.
8. Love with your whole soul and don’t apologize for it
This goes for people, interests, and everything else in your life — including yourself.
9. Listen to other people’s problems if they need you, but don’t become a crutch when they have no intention of doing anything about them
Know when you’re being used and walk away from those people who use you.
10. Your mother and I will never BS you
The truth would be better for you to get a grip on than some kind of sugar-coated platitude designed to make you feel better.
If you’re doing something stupid, we’re going to call you out on it. If we see something that doesn’t make sense, we’re going to ask you about it. If you require answers, we will give them to you, provided we know them. If we don’t, we’ll either find out or point you in the direction to find out for yourself.
This applies to you as well, if we do something that seems stupid feel free to say so.
11. If all three of us are talking about something and your mother gives me the look that predicates a fight, we’ll just assume that she was right about whatever it was we were talking about
Some fights are not worth winning. I run a tight ship, but your mother is not to be trifled with. I’m not even remotely kidding. Ask her about the “triangle choke incident” when you get older.
12. The fact is, for the average person at least, life pretty much sucks
You have to find your reasons for loving it. For your mother, it’s poetry and sci-fi fantasy shows (just TRY to get her away from a Supernatural marathon), and for me, it’s literature, writing, and music. Find your obsessions and reasons to love the life you have.
13. Be nice to animals
Sissy (our black lab/bloodhound) has protected you on more than one occasion. Animals also almost ALWAYS do the right thing. Case in point, I’ve been trying to get Sissy to bite your grandmother for years. It hasn’t happened yet. Not once. Seriously, why do we have this dog if not for amusement?
If your dog doesn’t like someone, be suspicious. Don’t put too much stock into whether or not your cat likes someone, though. Cats are furry, exploiting, narcissistic little jerks. That’s just Papa’s opinion.
Photo: Alina Tanya / Shutterstock
14. Your mother and I are atheists
This doesn’t mean that YOU have to be. As with everything else, follow your path. But, the other side of that is don’t insist that others subscribe to your beliefs. A true believer does not require the beliefs of others to coincide with their own. Keep Jesus out of my face and I’ll keep my religious mockery out of yours. Again, respect other people.
Also, if Facebook still exists by the time you’re old enough to read this, don’t post your beliefs (of any kind) up there unless you’re prepared to have a bunch of idiots debate you. I’m convinced that I would have more friends if I wasn’t aware of how stupid some of them are.
15. Don’t believe everything your friends say
Most people just like to BS other people. An ex-girlfriend of mine once used to sell bags of pencil shavings saying that it would help the plants grow.
16. Follow your path
Read Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” and absorb it. Just because your mother and I chose a certain path in our lives, doesn’t mean you have to follow us.
Develop your values and judge things for yourself. You have an amazing gift and capacity for reason and compassion. Use it. Claim your birthright and become what you feel you should be. If someone mocks you for it, screw them, they’ll talk about you anyway. Do what makes you happy. No apologies.
17. Bend to no one’s view that is inferior to your own, unless experience or reason tells you differently
Fight for your viewpoint. Make arguments. Challenge authority, including your mother and I.
This is perhaps one of the most important things I’d like to teach you…
18. There is no facet, no challenge, no accomplishment, no task or point in your life, that can’t be made easier, better, or more clear by having a cup of coffee and a nice conversation with someone you trust
At the end of the day, all we have as human beings is our capacity for conversation and communication. This leads me to the final thing on this list…
19. Neither your mother nor I will ever be too busy or involved to stop what we’re doing for you
We are your cheerleaders and your motivators, your counselors, and your hand-holders.
I feel like I should write a 20th, just to round the list out. Okay! Number 20 is…
20. Don’t watch Saturday Night Live
That show stopped being funny years ago.
Johnathan Bane is a musician, sexual educator, and programmer living in Tampa, Florida.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.