I have good news for anyone who’s lived most of her life as a narcissistic, materialistic navel-gazer: if you have kids, you have a second chance at becoming a better person.
I am fortunate to have been raised by conscious parents and lived most of my life tuned in to how my actions affect others. I’m green (the for-real, every purchase is evaluated kind, not the “OMG, this Prius is so cute!” variety). I started volunteering in high school and kept it up for most of my adulthood. I donate monthly to a handful of charities. But these actions, while incredibly important and valuable to me, have become so routine that I’ve lost that sense of purpose they once provided. I don’t get as excited about what my $20 to Amnesty International is doing; I just write the check.
But as I have begun to filter the world through my child’s eyes, the passion in my compassion has returned with full force. My son is just shy of 2 years old and he has learned to recycle, gets most of his books from the library, and excitedly donates the change from mommy’s purse to every charity cup he sees. These actions are, of course, a result of my guiding hand—and I understand his excitement often has more to do with fine-motor achievements (I got the nickel in the slot—hooray!) than a passion for empathy. But he’s going to get there, and sooner than I ever did.
I take the responsibility of raising a kind, conscious and compassionate person extremely seriously. His future depends on me investing in him now. This is why parenting is hard fucking work. It involves a level of commitment that is all consuming. Show me a CEO who is concurrently on a surgical internship and launching a record label and I will show you a mother who is working even harder.
Every day is a challenge, yes, but every moment offers the opportunity to shape this little mind for better or for worse—daunting stuff! I seek to fill my son’s schedule with learning activities (the messier, the better), free play and exploration of the world around him. Getting our books from the library provides a fun field trip, but also a lesson in borrowing, taking care of shared goods, and waste reduction. Recycling is a fun sorting brain-teaser but we also talk about where the trash goes. I know he’s two, but this stuff is going to sink in and probably already is. I believe the earlier you introduce your child to activities that make a difference, the more difference he or she can make. Continue reading