I have always loved lists. The idea of lists excites me. For the Type A personality that I am, they are a way to create order and keep it. For my life as a student, they are a way to establish goals and track progress.
Everywhere I look I see lists. On my refrigerator. In my phone. And, now, on the internet. “The Ten Things Every Married Couple Should Know.” “The Three Ways to Write a Publishable Dissertation.” “The Top Ten Lessons For a First-Time Mom.” I have never been much of a follower, but it is hard not to want to jump on this bandwagon and take it for a spin. (Have I mentioned I LOVE lists!) So in the spirit of order amid the glorious chaos that is motherhood here are the five things I wish for my daughters, and, in truth, for myself. I hope they use this list to help dis-order their lives every single day.
I hope my children obsess over their bodies.
I have spent way too many moments, hours, days, and years obsessing over how my body has failed me. My thighs are too thick. My nose is too long. My teeth are too crooked, and, of course, noticeably so because they are much too big. What I am saying to myself and my daughters with every wasted minute that I think such thoughts aloud is that not only has my body failed me but God failed me by giving me this body.
I, too, pray my daughters obsess over their bodies. But, instead, I hope they recognize their bodies not as punishment, shortcomings to be itemized, but vehicles, beautiful entities entrusted to them in which to honor God and through which to fulfill His purpose. I hope they obsess over all their bodies can do. How their minds work; how their hands create; how their hearts feel; how their feet and limbs help them connect, help them literally move forward. I have a dear friend who has spent the last five years battling a mysterious and debilitating illness. He said to me recently, “I would give one of my five senses to have overall good health back.” I hope they appreciate every day all their bodies do for them, the health they have. I pray they obsess over how their bodies serve them and don’t waste a single moment, hour, day, or year focusing on its (mis)perceived imperfections. These misconceptions detract and distract time and attention from the way they can use their beautiful bodies in service to others.
I hope they lighten up.
I come from a long line of people who love to laugh and do so loudly and with abandon. I have always loved how at family gatherings laughter quite literally fills the room. I, on the other hand, have quite the serious streak. I do not laugh loudly or, sadly, all that often. What I hope for my girls is that they lighten up. While I pray they find something (and honestly many somethings) to be serious about, I hope they never take themselves too seriously. Laughter is a form of communication. It communicates to others how you see and experience the world. Laughter is medicine. It is therapy, and it is hope. The ability to laugh when others and we show us the worst is an ability to hope and believe that the worst never wins. Love wins; joy wins. Laughter is the grace that brings joy to the world.
I hope they embrace change.
Did I mention I LOVE lists? I like order and stability and structure. What I hope for my children is that they learn to live with order but are not defined by it. To this day, I have adult-sized tantrums when I am surrounded by too much change. Moving darn near sends me over the edge. I don’t like mess, literally or metaphorically. I pray for my girls that they learn to live with boundaries and rules but that amid the structure they are able to embrace and welcome change. Change is perhaps the only certainty there is, that and my and God’s love for them. Things change my sweet ones. Rules change. People change. I read somewhere that someone found it silly when people said they were getting divorced because their spouse had changed. We should expect change, he said. It would be more detrimental to the relationship if we didn’t. (Perhaps the way they changed was harmful to the relationship but that’s another story.) I hope my girls, too, see change as inevitable, necessary, and exciting. Change is necessary for growth. When circumstances fall apart, I pray that they do not. Instead, I hope they are able to play in the rubble and then find the tools to build something better. Change happens. Change your expectations. Change your attitude. But do not let change alter your ability to appreciate the world.
I hope they are passionate about ideas.
Okay, honestly I hope my girls are passionate about everything. My mom used to say she wanted her tombstone to read: “I may not have lived perfectly, but I lived passionately.” Amen. I hope they are passionate about learning and hobbies and travel and a number of other things, all defined by themselves not by what they believe others want for or expect of them. But most of all, I pray that they recognize that passion for all these things comes first from a passion for ideas. True passion for ideas is recognizing how to respect others’, even when different, while never losing sight of your own. One of the things I love most about my big brother is how excited he gets about ideas. Every family get-together is a chance to brainstorm something new. I hope my daughters look at their uncle and also become passionate about what ideas can do, from changing their own perspective and the world to stimulating rousing family discussion. I hope they think, question, wonder, and read aloud. And I hope they do so without fear of the unknown but in deep, thoughtful pursuit of it.
Finally, I hope my girls connect. Connect, connect, connect.
I hope they are passionate not just about ideas but about the people who foster them. I hope that this passion evolves from their great love for each other. I know the world is moving faster. There are more ways than ever to entertain one’s self at the touch of a button. I know we are culture always redefining personal space. My wish for them is that even in their embrace of the personal that they never lose sight of themselves as citizens of the world, as a part of ever-changing and ever-evolving public spaces. I hope they never tire of good old-fashioned conversation, of face-to-face interaction. I pray they learn to give and receive a good hug, never lose sight of the importance of a firm handshake, and never fear touch. We live in a society where we worry about how touch may be interpreted. I hope they respect others’ boundaries but, still, learn how to appropriately buck their own, to call when a text will do or reach out a hand when the person on the other end seems less inclined to reach back. Connect. Connect. Connect. It is what makes us human, and I dare say, it will be what keeps us so.
This is my list. My lover letter to my children. Finished: never. Imperfect, of course. But that is my great hope for my girls: that they will learn how to make their own lists – imperfect as they may be – and that they will be courageous enough to rewrite them.