Some friends of mine are brand new parents of a healthy baby boy. They are beyond thrilled, and by all accounts of those who have visited the newly expanded family, his newly arrived majesty is giving his mommy and daddy quite a workout. When he is up, so are they, and when he is down, the respite cannot last long enough.
These happy parents have dreams for their long-awaited child, as all parents do. We all want our children to be healthy, happy, productive and fulfilled at every stage of their lives. We are all humbled as we discover over time that the world will treat our Precious Jewels as roughly and as kindly as it treats everyone else. Some of our dreams for them will come true and others will be cruelly dashed on the rocks of daily living.
There is no template for raising children into the adults we want them to be, but there is plenty of free advice floating around. One article that resonated with me lately in Business Insider addresses mental strength, sometimes thought of as resilience. Entitled “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and as I think about the people I know and love, some are more resilient than others.
Here are some of those things that will give our children the framework for lives well lived.
Mentally strong people don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. We all have the occasional pity party, but it is ultimately a waste of time. We are stronger if we are grateful for what is positive in our lives instead of dwelling on what is not.
Mentally strong people face the inevitable changes in life squarely. They may be afraid, but they understand that what Eleanor Roosevelt said is true. “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” If you do not, they just get harder and more intimidating, and others will leave you behind.
Mentally strong people focus on what they can control, not on what they cannot. ‘Nuff said.
Mentally strong people understand that risk is part of life and that taking calculated risks is a way to grow. They assess risks and often decide to move ahead, knowing that standing still may actually be moving backward.
Mentally strong people look forward, not back. No one can change the past if it is negative, nor remain there if it is positive. We can only reflect on what we have learned and move forward.
Mentally strong people, if they are not exactly happy for other people’s success, at least do not resent it. Resentment is toxic, damaging you and keeping you from focusing on what is good for you.
Mentally strong people do not give up the first time they fail. I recently heard the founder of Spanx, now a billionaire, say that her father would ask her each week how she had failed. He praised her for her failures, and she realized only in adulthood that he was teaching her that failure is a part of life and getting her accustomed to it so that she could keep going.
Mentally strong people welcome time alone. The only person who will walk every step of life with you is you - not your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends. Learning to love and trust yourself and to enjoy your own company is affirming and restoring.
And finally, mentally strong people do not think the world owes them anything. Life is not fair, and some of us are more successful in all sorts of ways than others. Dwelling on this cold, hard fact of life gets us nowhere and diverts us from what we can and should be doing.
As the mother of three Precious Jewels, now young adults, I understand how challenging parenting is and that it is never really over. My young friends snuggling with their infant this holiday season will know that someday, too, but for now, I wish them a warm and peaceful Christmas with their newly-expanded family. I also offer them and other young parents one more piece of advice learned through decades of mothering through times both wonderful and difficult.
Try to say “yes” more often than “no.” Sometimes, especially with young children, it is easier to say “no” and do a task yourself than allowing time for small hands and inexperienced minds to figure out what to do and how to do it. But unless it is a matter of safety, “yes” often means learning, and “no” means shutting something down. I hope they remember as well that all parents make mistakes—certainly this one has and continues to err. But also know that only the most traumatic mistakes leave deep wounds. The ones made in good faith are learning experiences for everyone.
I attach a photo of a pillow that sits on my bed everyday.
It pretty much says it all about being a parent.