What does a better life for you and your kids look like?
We all know we want it, it's embedded in our DNA, but do we know what "better" is?
There is a large variable in the term "better,” and after reading a poem from the Tao Te Ching for Parents, it became crystal clear for me.
What better do I want for my kids? What better do I want for myself? Better stuff, better experiences, better relationships, better grades? What does a “better” life really look like?
It’s something worth pondering because it’s driving a lot of the words we speak and actions we take with and for our children and ourselves. It becomes our intention, conscious or not, of how we are raising our kids, and how we are raising ourselves.
My 7thgrader recently came home complaining that all her friends were talking about how they made National Junior Honor Society. “That’s great!” I told her. “I know it’s great for them, but it’s all they want to talk about,” she replied.
I may be one of the few moms who doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on the grades my children make at school. I want them to learn, absolutely. But their character and living from a place of heartfelt fulfillment surpasses any grade or any label any day.
I reiterate to my kids and to myself: do your best and lean in on what you love because that shows you your purpose, and don’t place much value on outside achievements, because they come and go.
But that doesn’t mean it's easy.
My daughter felt left out that day at the lunch table. And that’s a crushing thing to feel when you’re in Middle School – the battleground for discovering who you are, who your friends are and the hormonal surges that come and go out of nowhere. It can be tough when all you really want is to fit in.
As a mom, I wanted to take her pain away right then, but, as I reminded myself, this is her life, she’s going to have opportunities for growth that aren’t mine to take from her. She needs to discover what her better is.
Every bump along the way gives us the choice to stay true to who we are or get bumped off the ride. I told her this was just another way for her to reaffirm that she can do, be, have whatever is in her heart and take action from that place, regardless of any labels she does or does not wear. (The public school system, at least where I am, has become an incubator of labels.)
I reminded her not to compare herself and asked her if she wants to be on NJHS. “No, not really, I’m comfortable with my grades and know I’m doing what I can and don’t want studying to overtake my life,” she replied. (Interestingly enough, she makes As in classes she’s interested in.)
I knew that was her real, from her heart answer.
Now that I’ve lived through the scrutiny of Middle & High Schools the best thing I was encouraged to do was keep going in the direction that felt right in my heart, not necessarily right in my head. Because the truth is, the outer systems we play into may not be in service of our highest good. Resting our self-esteem on outside achievements is just asking for disappointment.
So while my daughter may have felt left out that day, I really know it was a lesson for her to lean in on what really matters to her even when “EVERYONE ELSE” is going the other direction. You keep going your way because it’s yours, and your life is an authentic demonstration of why you are here, we don't have to chase anything for it to be lived out.
"Most people are searching for happiness outside of themselves. That's a fundamental mistake. Happiness is something that you are." - Wayne Dyer
When we become okay with not fitting in, being ourselves, not reaching for those external accolades but instead diving down deep and getting to know who we really are – the conclusion is the dream of our life is our dream come to life. This starts at home - and when we change at home, we change the world.
We are here – our children too – to share our gifts with the world. And sometimes this means our kids don’t want what we want for them. And that’s where we as parents are being called up to rise to the occasion: are we willing to let go of our dreams for our kids so they can live their own, better life? Are we wiling to let go of the expectations others have of us so we can live our better life?
As it turns out, being ourselves fulfills our purpose, and that has nothing to do with the grades we make, what club we belong to, what box we check, or any other outward judgement the world wants to blanket on us.
As Joseph Campbell said, “follow your bliss.” I don’t think he meant: work your hardest to win the favor of others by attaining certain labels. :-)
Here’s a little introspection exercise for you (or your kid, or maybe you do it together :-)) to dive in deep into the day-to-day grind and question if it’s really a reflection of who you are:
Am I Living a Life Authentic to My Joy? 4 Questions to Ask:
This is a big step – to give ourselves and our kids the freedom to ask these questions. Sometimes as parents we unintentionally want our kids to fulfill certain dreams we have placed on them because we think it will make them happy, when actually our dreams for them aren’t what they truly want. I see it regularly with coaching clients still fulfilling dreams and goals their parents had for them that they wanted nothing to do with, but are still living out.
When our children see us living from a place of contentment, and they notice outward achievements pale in comparison to our inner joy, we teach them with our actions, we teach them with the way we feel, and we teach them with intention. But we have to get to that place first to break the pattern and chart the course.
I think we can all agree that teaching our children how to be the most joyful, connected loving people they can be is the best thing we can give them. It is the "better" life.
So I leave you with the poem that sparked this conversation below, and a true desire that we change the way we view the success of our children and ourselves and instead care more about our joy. The way to our joy has no label, no club, and needs to application, but it will be written all over our faces and embedded in our hearts.
With so much love & heartfelt joy for you and your kids,
Happiness is Contagious
The Parent’s Tao Te Ching
If you always compare your children’s abilities
to those of great athletes, entertainers, and
they will lose their own power.
If you urge them to acquire and achieve,
they will learn to cheat and steal
to meet your expectations.
Encourage your children’s deepest joys,
not their superficial desires.
Praise their patience,
not their ambition.
Do not value the distractions and diversions
that masquerade as success.
They will learn to hear their own voice
instead of the noise of the crowd.
If you teach them to achieve
they will never be content.
If you teach them contentment,
They will naturally achieve everything.