Before my son, I had so many visions of what the future would hold as a mother. These things included: professional photos where the whole family is wearing matching outfits, home-cooked meals every day, less TV, more books, and a child who slept twelve hours in his own room. Now that I have a child I understand how essential some of these things are, but I never explored the more emotional aspect of being a mother and caregiver. Through all the preparation and excitement I never explored the core values I wanted to instill in him, although I had a pretty broad idea. After much contemplation, I have settled on the most important thing I want to teach my son and that is how to love.
I will teach him what love looks like and that it can be expressed in different ways. I want to show him that two people showing physical affection can indeed be a mark of love, but more importantly, I want to show him that expressing love isn’t solely a physical act. It can be expressing our gratitude for something our spouse did for us or communicating our excitement for something our partner accomplished in his or her work life. It can be respecting our significant other's physical, mental and emotional boundaries and having that respect returned. I want him to know showing love comes in many shapes and sizes.
I will teach him to love his neighbors and his community. I want him to love his friends at school, the cashier at our local grocery store and the homeless man who begs on the street corner and I want him to love each of them equally. I want to teach him that when we SHOW our love for others we are recognizing those who may feel unrecognizable because of their position in the world. I want my son to meet the next-door neighbor with the same love as the homeless man on the street corner.
I will teach him to love himself. I will teach him that his outer appearance, his ability to play sports, or his ability to solve math problems are not measures of self-love or self-acceptance but rather his ability to be kind, grounded and strong in his beliefs are more accurate measures of self-love. I'll teach him to ask himself in adverse situations if words being said or actions being made are unkind or untrue if he'll show himself and others love and respect by going against the norm?
Love is where I want to begin because it flows into so many other important parts of us we choose to show: kindness, gratitude, respect, and grace to name a few. If we as adults are able to begin loving more by being less dehumanizing and cold then we can lead our children by example to foster a more peaceful and safe world.