This morning I stood in my kitchen, having a conversation with my 14-year-old daughter and two thoughts came to mind: “Where did this child come from?” and “I sure am proud that she is my daughter.” We were discussing one of the recent new media items that seems to be a hot topic in political and social circles: legalization (or not) of same-sex marriages. I had no idea that it was a hot topic in middle school, too.
My daughter’s English teacher is one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He encourages the kids to think for themselves and to form their own opinions. When they read and discuss a work, he doesn’t just stick to the standard literary critics or “pat” reviews. He inspires the students to look at what they have read and to voice what they see in the story, what they get out of it. And he does not leave that philosophy to literature alone. He encourages them to use their own ideas to examine the world around them.
This past Thursday, the topic – inspired by a Channel One news report – was: “Do you think same-sex marriages should be legal? Why or why not?” Each child that wanted to voice an opinion was allowed to do so. Many of them did and there was disagreement over their views. My daughter was very open with her opinions and her reasoning behind them. Even when others disagreed with her, she would not back down. As I listened, I was struck by the strength and conviction that this young teen-ager possessed. At her age, I never had that much faith in myself. There are days as an adult that I am not that confident. Yet there she stood, explaining how even close friends had argued against her and she refused to give ground because she believed in her own voice.
I don’t know how I managed to raise a daughter that believes in herself and the strength of her own power, because it is not the way I was raised. Perhaps I was determined that she would be raised differently. Perhaps she has fought to grow past what I have given her. All I know for sure is that I am incredibly proud of her and while I am the parent, I am privileged to learn from her, too.
Our children are what we teach them. If we look at them and see strength of character, respect for self and others, and faith in themselves, it was instilled by their parents. If we look at them and see fear and doubt, their parents instilled it. If we want to save this world, then we need to look to our children. But most importantly, we need to remember that they are looking to us. We set the example. What example are you setting? Are you setting one of hate or love? Are you setting one of prejudice or tolerance? Are you setting one of hope and strength or of fear and weakness?
All parents want their children to succeed. We need to remember that we have a role far greater than just hoping for them. We are their teachers and their inspiration. We are their mentors and their confidantes. We are their coaches and their protectors. They did not ask to be brought into this world. The desire for children is purely selfish; we are only thinking of what we want. The responsibilities that come with the child are enormous. Do we live up to our end of the deal in raising our children to be healthy, happy, productive adults?
I challenge you – take a close look at your child. If there is something there that you do not like, take a look into the mirror at yourself. What have you done to encourage (or maybe what have you not done to discourage) that behavior? Before you begin to correct the problem within them, deal with it in yourself. Remember – they are what we teach.