Things we should have taught our kids...Thursday Think Piece

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I work with a lot of young people and I watch over and over while they make determined choices, even if everyone around them is railing against it, and the…after months or years…want to know why life has not turned out for them. Why are they raising kids alone? Why didn’t the guy who they loved more than anything stick around to raise his own kid? Why are they miserable working a go nowhere do nothing job? 

I think there are some lessons our kids never learned that we should have emphasized more. Kids born in the 80’s and 90’s were part of the ‘everyone is a winner’ generations. They were taught that everyone always was special, deserved everything they wanted and would always have someone nearby who was willing to give it to them. None of which is probably true.

Here are a few things I think we should have taught our kids:

11. You’re not really special. I mean, you are to your family. And in the world, there really is no one just like you. But you have to BECOME special by your actions and your determination. If you want the world to see your talent you have to develop it. If you want the world to see your creativity you have to put it out there for them to see. And if you want the person of your dreams to love you forever, you have to become loveable. 

22.      Kids do not make a relationship work. They also cannot replace the unconditional love you missed as a child. Because, you see, if you do not have that love to give in the first place…if it was never developed…then being a parent will at times be wonderful (when they are cute and clean and possibly sleeping) and at other times…hell (when they are sick and crying and you are tired of raising them alone). Kids do not raise themselves. You cannot be a parent by accident. Yes, you can CREATE a child by accident, but being a parent is a purposeful choice…and one that you are committing to for the rest of your life. Most of you cannot commit to a job for 30 days. Or a relationship for much longer. And then you want to be surprised that a child did not make life magical for you. Kids are not magic. They’re people. Wonderful, infuriating, challenging, amazing people. But they are also WORK
33. You really cannot have everything now. You cannot have everything because you have not EARNED it. You have to EARN your way in this world. You have to earn a place to live…a bed to sleep in….a car to drive. You have to earn the gasoline to put IN that car. It is not given to you by fairies in the night. It is not OWED to you by your parents or your boyfriend or anyone else. It is especially not owed to you by the government.
4       Earning $12 an hour right out of high school feels wonderful. Still earning it 10 years later when you have a couple kids or a spouse does not. Do you know how much the average person increases in wages over their lifetime if they have no real training past high school?  With a High School Diploma and an entry level job the average person can expect to earn $2 an hour more in the next ten years. In the fifteen years after that: $0.25 more. So while earning $12 an hour sounds great when you’re 19….earning $14.25 isn’t quite so great when you’re 44.  At 44 it means you are not able to buy a newer car or live in your own place by yourself. At 44 it means you’re living with others and asking for rides.

54. Do you want to know why you can’t manage to have the life you want? You’re basically lazy. You were told you were special and adorable and the world owed you a good time. But the world does not owe you a good time. If you want the life you want…whatever that is…you have to WORK for it. And hard. And sometimes, you will work hard and still not get everything you want. Life works that way sometimes. And you will have to work for it for a long time without seeing anything good happening. That is called delayed gratification. We did not teach you that. Sometimes you have to work for…years….to get the training you need to get the job you want. Sometimes you have to build a life all by yourself…or raise your kids alone…and wait patiently for things to happen ‘someday’. You hope. There are no guarantees in life with the exception that someday you’ll die and you will, like it or not, have to deal with the government every year at tax time. Oh, and student loans will never go away. Ever. Other than that…it’s all a crap shoot.
5 5. Want to be happy in your life? BE HAPPY. CHOOSE happy. Because ‘happy’ is not magical either. It does not come in a bottle, a boy or girl, a baby, a car, a house or a job. It does not come from someplace special you haven’t found yet. It is who you are. If you are not happy with who you are, figure that out. You should be able to be happy wherever you are, in whatever life you have. Being rich does not mean you’re happy. Being rich does not even mean you like your life. It just means you have money. And I like money, too, but it does not make me happy. My CHOICES make me happy. If you are not happy, you’re not choosing to be.
  I6. If you can’t figure something out….ASK FOR HELP. I know we told you that you didn’t need help because you are all special and magical and perfect winners at everything. But that’s b.s. You are going to need help now and again. Sometimes a lot of it. And sitting in your house moping or watching your life go up in smoke or down a bottle is not going to fix anything. Do you know why after you’ve had a wonderful weekend partying with your friends you wake up and have a kind of empty, ‘what the hell am I doing with myself’ feeling? Because THAT is normal, and the party stuff just masks it. That is the part you have to figure out…how to be happy when you are all alone with no one…and then- well, then, you’ll find the magic.

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