Raise your hand if you get super sentimental this time of year.
Maybe it’s because my kids are still young (grades one and four), but man, the end of school is KILLING me. In September it’s all about energy, excitement and possibility but June is when I can’t seem to stop thinking about how quickly time is going. Reflecting on all the ways my kids are changing has my brain fast-forwarding to when they’ll be teenagers and adults, preferring car keys and babysitting to advice and morning snuggles.
It makes me feel slightly out of control too, like I need to do a better job making my mark as a parent; and that all the time I spent teaching them to unload the dishwasher would have been better spent discussing how to be a good and happy person.
And what would that conversation look like? What would my advice actually be?
Love and like whomever you want. There are still people who believe that girls can only love boys and boys can only love girls, which is nonsense. You can love and like whomever you want. Fall in love with the guy who plants trees or the girl who farms alpacas. Become best friends with the kid who chose to play the maracas. Just make sure he or she is nice to you and worthy of you. Also, no sex until age 25 or marriage before 30.
Be kind to everyone, even the meanies. I know this sounds like typical mom-speak but hear me out. No one is born a bully or born mean. If someone’s nasty to you there’s a reason. I’m not saying you have to like it or tolerate it, by all means stand up for yourself. But also consider that it probably isn’t about you. I promise you’ll never make someone’s day worse by showing him kindness.
Have pets. Animals have always been an important part of our family. Sometimes they cuddled with you, sometimes they pooped in your room. But they taught us how good it feels to be needed and loved without condition (and to put away our socks). A happy life means having something you can bury your face in and tell your secrets to (but they lick their own butts so go easy on the face kisses). And remember: if your soul mate is allergic it was never meant to be.
Be tidy, but not obsessively so. You grew up surrounded by dust bunnies, pet hair and clutter. I’m sure you remember me going room to room, picking stuff up and slamming it down in its proper place while muttering bathroom words under my breath. I didn’t obsess about cleanliness but I do believe that a cluttered house creates a cluttered mind, so if you’re going to be the CEO of Apple you need to start putting your stuff away.
Care, but don’t worry, about what other people think. Everyone will have an opinion on what you should wear, do, dress, think, believe, look like and say. Not caring about the opinions of others seems like a brave stance but it can lead to isolation. So be open to new ideas. Sometimes people give us the perspective we need to make good decisions, and sometimes they’re full of crap. So listen and consider but always go with your gut. Don’t try to make everyone happy.
Be curious and open-minded about your emotions and mental health. Don’t ignore the dark days or the dark feelings. When you’re irritable, afraid or insecure don’t intentionally spread your unhappiness around because, trust me, it won’t make you feel better. Turn off the mental movie that’s playing in your head, telling you you’re not good enough. Be brave enough to ask for help when you need it.
Get in the picture. Who knows what sort of device you’ll be capturing memories on by the time you’re my age but whatever it is, get in the picture. Don’t worry about what you look like. Record that memory and cherish it, especially if it’s with your kids. As you get older people will hand you the camera instead of asking you to pose for it and eventually there will be almost no evidence that you were here, and that you mattered. So get in the picture.
Travel. See as many places as you can and make this a lifelong pursuit. Do it alone and with people you love. Return to your favourite places. If you don’t have the money, save up (or put it on your credit card, but don’t tell your dad I said that). Explore new places with the same curiosity and excitement you use to greet each new episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Live somewhere exotic and invite me to visit. Eat local. Don’t bungee jump.
Live at home for as long as you want. It might be the peri-menopause talking but from where I sit right now, having you around is pretty darn awesome. Of course I want you to launch, to have your own life and space, to start your own family if you choose. But don’t rush. I like knowing we are sleeping under the same roof, that I can touch you, kiss your forehead and watch you breathe any time I want. Sorry, I know it’s creepy but I can’t help it.
Call me. A lot. When we’re living apart I’ll want to call you every day, but I won’t because I don’t want you to think I’m overbearing. But you will always be on my mind; and just like the spontaneous hugs and “I love you’s” you bless me with today, an out-of-the-blue call will do more for my spirit than anything else.
And be sure to floss. Dental plans don’t come cheap.
Author: Jen Millard
Jen Millard is a proud wife and mother of two living in Markham, Ontario. After adopting both her girls at age four, Jen and her husband Daren became passionate advocates for older child adoption, foster care reform and LCBO gift cards. An avid traveller, Jen counts Hawaii, Edinburgh, Greece and Canada’s east and west coasts among her favourite destinations. Jen is happiest when she’s got her nose in a book, a glass of wine at her side and a nap on the horizon. Jen is at her unhappiest when she is talking to her husband about her credit card bill or contemplating working out. When she’s not blogging, Jen is busy cleaning up after three badly-behaved pets and working as a part-time College instructor and Stella & Dot Stylist. Jen and her family spend their summers on Prince Edward Island.