By Ray Lucas
Just as the cliché goes, I blinked my eyes and eighteen years flew by. With her high school diploma now in hand, my baby girl is all grown up. She is ready to leave the nest and will soon be flying toward her next life adventure of college.
When she was just a toddler, I attended a parenting workshop offered at Floyd Memorial Hospital. The speaker shared that our primary goal as parents is to raise children who are morally grounded and increasingly independent so that by the time they graduate from high school, they are ready to walk into the world as fully formed young adults. Ready for life without a net.
I have since had this goal in mind and have done my best to teach her all the important lessons she will need to be happy, healthy and successful in life. Life lessons such as saying please and thank you, telling the truth, treating others as you would have them treat you, working hard, praying every day and being grateful.
However, raising children is rarely an orderly and measured experience. The work of passing along important life lessons is a random and often chaotic affair that you try to fit in through years filled with homework, chores, punishments, carpooling, sporting events and all the other mundane aspects of growing up. While I know I hit the “big” lessons, I have recently become mildly panicked that there are smaller life lessons I have neglected passing along.
These smaller lessons are a collection of real world truths I have picked up during my life but have rarely shared with my daughter. These life lessons aren’t the types of advice you often find in books, but in many ways could be the most important lessons I ever share.
With only a summer left to finish my job of preparing her for the world, here is my parenting equivalent to cramming before the final exam.
Small lessons for a life without a net:
- Spend more of your money on life experiences and less on things.
- Take road trips with the window down and the music loud.
- Kiss your spouse everyday in front of your children.
- Go for hikes in the winter when the leaves are off the trees.
- Own a hammock and use it regularly under your best shade tree.
- Find a go-to cocktail and learn to make it like a pro (after you turn 21, of course).
- Go to as many concerts as you can afford. There is no substitute for live music.
- Arrange for your teens to work on a farm for at least one summer.
- Life is short. Just in case it’s longer than you plan, take care of your body – especially your knees.
- At work or in business, be a problem solver, be a team player, be positive, be a visionary, be a networker, and work hard everyday.
- When things are not going as planned, choose joy.
- Never grow too old to blow bubbles or to have snowball fights.
- When you sing to your children at night in their beds, sing them Johnny Cash.
- Buy the best furniture you can afford.
- Go on family vacations each year when your children are young, even if you can’t quite afford them. The memories you form will be with your kids for a lifetime, and there is such a small window of time to create them.
- Say you’re sorry to your children when you are wrong.
- Let college mold your dreams and your mind – not your credit report.
- Learn the names of the children you sit near in church. Be a small part of their lives, if only for an hour each week.
- Always stop for kids selling lemonade.
- Keep gift cards to McDonald’s in your car for when you see people in need.
- In marriage, be giving and forgiving.
- Robins are special; when you see them in the yard think of family members you never had a chance to meet watching over you.
- Read Robert Greenleaf and learn the importance of servant leadership.
- Once in a while, get up early, sit outside with a mug of hot tea and enjoy the quiet.
- Try things that scare the hell out of you.
- Surround yourself with the best, happiest and funniest people you meet.
- If you must make assumptions, assume positive intent.
- Memorize one piece of poetry to the point you can recite it in public.
- Put a bird feeder outside your living room window.
- Learn to back up a trailer and to drive a stick shift.
- Reach out to people on the fringes.
- Read Undaunted Courage about the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
- Seek adventure, be curious, set out on life expeditions.
- Watch all of these classic movies -The Big Lebowski, A River Runs Through It, Field of Dreams, The Empire Strikes Back, Cool Hand Luke, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Grand Canyon, the Milagro Bean Field War, and O Brother Where Art Thou.
- Treat yourself to full body massages on a regular basis.
- Sit on the porch and watch storms roll in from the distance.
- Don’t judge a person based on their worst moment.
- Soak in those perfect summer nights where the yard is full of lightning bugs.
- Care for those you love in their most vulnerable times.
- Teach your children about good music, how to fly a kite, how to play chess and about the genius of Calvin and Hobbes.
- Keep God and love in your life, and it will be a good life.
May these life lessons serve you well and forever be a reminder of my love for you.