"God bless the child that's got his own."-Billie Holiday
I am thinking of writing a book on parenting, as I am an expert. Or as much as an expert as any other fool out there who thinks they can tell everyone how to properly raise children. I have three children. One biological, 2 adopted. Adopted from abroad, adopted from here in the USA.
Adopting children requires a long process of meetings with social workers, writing essays about parenting techniques, having background checks, getting physical exams by one's physician, and sometimes travel. If you are lucky, you get to communicate with the biological parents.
Birthing a child requires sex, a uterus, some luck (or lack thereof, depending on your perspective I guess), a high pain tolerance, and lifelong access to hemorrhoidal relief.
Raising a child requires showing up.
There! My book is written. I'm gonna sit back and wait for the royalties now.
What, I wonder, defines success in parenting? In the ancient times, or even the first half of the last century, this would be defined by your kid living to see 18. Now we would probably (at least here in the US) see this as the bare minimum. If you go by what they say in the doctor's lounge, success is:
1) your child winning the state science fair, and pretty much being a shoe-in for the next Nobel prize
2) your child attending an Ivy League college and having a dazzling smile and being the state champion in their chosen (or forced upon them) sport
3) your child being a doctor when they grow up, but a richer and more successful doctor than you
Surely I jest. Because as anyone who knows me knows, no one could be richer or more successful than I.*
I take care of elders, as a doctor. And what strikes me is that even the oldest of old continue to think and worry about their children. Parenting is a lifetime gig. Sometimes, the roles reverse, as frailty and dementia can turn the relationship all cattywampus. And this must be hard for the children, as they want their parents to be in charge. They want this, except for that time between age 12 and 20. Because, as we all know, parents are idiots during those particular years.
I will not divulge the secrets of my children here. I love them dearly and wish for them the best. The very best.
Billie Holiday was, I believe, tongue in cheek with her God Bless the Child song. I think it meant to say that
1) the bible talks about love and justice for all, but no one seems to want to actually follow that part of the bible
2) "my Mom really pissed me off" (maybe this is apocryphal, but the story suggests she argued with her Mom about money, and this song came out of that)
So what is the very best, in terms of hopes for children? And what the heck does this have to do with redwoods and running? Well, to answer the second question, I am a better Mom when I run regularly, and I raised my children among the mighty redwoods. I strongly believe that they will always find themselves rooted in the strength of those trees. To answer the first, this is my hope for my children:
1) Leave the world a better place than you found it.
2) Don't do drugs. Not even pot.
3) Do not smoke cigarettes, as they will surely make you miserable in the long term.
4) Read a lot of books. They make you better able to understand everything, and they make good company when you are bored or lonely.
5) Follow your passion.
6) Please do not put me in a nursing home.
7) Eat vegetables and fruit as often as humanly possible.
8) Travel as much as you can!
9) Call or write or text. I like to hear from you.
10) Exercise daily
#10 may be the most important of all.
My parenting advice?
Don't take yourself too seriously, and always make sure your kids get enough sleep.
There, that's the sequel to my bestselling parenting book. Now I can retire and follow #5 of my 10 hopes as noted above.
My passion? Running, piano, love. Well, to be honest I kinda like the whole doctoring gig too.
Take it, Ms Holiday:
*I am neither overly successful nor particularly rich, but I do like rich food and I twice broke 3:30 in the marathon.