14 deep life truths I'll teach my son

Tuesday 30 May 2017

will be a part of the fabric of your life because my thoughts will have been taught, my example will have been seen and my love will have been felt your whole life.

It's not often I stop to really think about the enormity of bringing up a little human being. 

Almost too massive to process, the scale of the responsibility can be a little daunting, to say the least. You tend to get caught up in the day to day learning – manners, sharing, how to fasten shoes – which are all important in their own way. 

But when I think of the future, I know that I want my son Theodore to grow up with certain values. One of the great secrets that adults hopefully kept hidden from you back when you were little is that we're all making it up as we go along. While kids can – and should – see mum and dad as the all-knowing authority with everything under control, we know that isn't the case! 

So while becoming a mummy has made me grow up in an awful lot of ways, I don't feel especially wise. I'm still learning myself! 

As I move through my 30s, however, there are definitely some truths that I'm living by. Perhaps I've always known them. But its taken me until recently to truly accept them, to dismiss the negative internal voices we all have and concentrate on living my life by the truths below. If there's any way to be immortal, its by passing on some knowledge or some of your spirit to someone else. 

So here's what I'm hoping I can teach Theo as he grows:

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

Life is messy. And usually you haven't got control over a lot of it, but you seem to spend all your time and energy on these bits that you have no hope of controlling. What you can control is your reaction, how you let something impact you and what you do as a result. 

Mental attitude is so important – it can make or break you. I'm naturally a positive person and I like to think fairly resilient emotionally, and I'd like to help Theo see the world from a glass half full perspective, empowering himself to approach things with a view to what he can control and make better.

When you judge someone, you do not define them, you define yourself

This is a hard one to learn, and if I'm totally honest with myself, I need to do a lot more work on this one. I know the above is true, but its easier to look critically at others than to extend them your understanding. Often I think the 'flaws' we judge in others reflect our own worst fears about ourselves. Controlling those fears and that judgement isn't always easy. 

The way the brain works, its set up to make snap judgements and going against this can be hard. But actually, children are an open book. They don't come with inbuilt preconceptions. So Theo is teaching me a lot about approaching the world with an open heart and I would love for him to keep that and for us to work on this one together.

You can't ever be lonely if you like the person you're alone with.

I've always loved my own company and found comfort in it. This is something a lot of people get wrong about me, because I'm an extrovert and very social. But it is possible to be that way and still to love a bit of solitude! 

I was an only child, so I quickly got used to having to entertain myself sometimes. I'll always be grateful for that, because its given me the ability to be on my own quite happily. In contrast my husband, although he is much more of an introvert, doesn't like being completely on his own and it really rattles him! 

Developing your own interests and forgiving yourself for not measuring up to an imaginary 'perfect' is a great recipe for being self-sufficient. Some experiences in life you are always alone for, so being comfortable with that is massively important.

No one can make you feel small unless you let them

This is massively, massively important, and yet quite hard to do. For reasons of their own insecurity, many people in life will try to make you feel small. But if you are secure in your own dignity, they can never take that away from you. People treat you the way you allow them to. It took many quite a while to understand this. I had to be firm with myself that I would not allow people to belittle me. 

That doesn't mean flying off the handle, by the way. There is definitely a way to stand firm while being perfectly polite. In fact, that approach unsettles people more – if you over-react, you seem like the problem. If you learn to challenge them in a cool, calm collected way, they don't know what to do. This ties into my next one... 

Conflict can't survive without your participation

An argument needs the fuel of two people. If you choose not to take part, it collapses. There are powerful ways to diffuse bad situations by simply refusing to be a part of it. 

Hopefully I can teach Theo that conflict is generally a waste of time and energy. That doesn't mean I want him to be a doormat – far from it. I will try and teach him the skills of getting to where he wants to be, while also not wasting his energy. Like Winston Churchill said: "Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip'. 

You are enough

This ties into a post I loved on LibFem Blog. It's one of those things that is so simple, so true, but often gets overlooked. We all have issues with our self-worth from time and time, striving for some unattainable ideal that's always just in front of us. I'm not clever enough. I'm not pretty enough. I'm not a good enough speaker. 

Whatever it is that we tell ourselves, whoever we compare ourselves to in our heads. It's important that we learn to tell ourselves that we are enough. It's an instantly calming thought in a social media driven world that seems to go out of its way to encourage us to compete with each other and to feel inadequate so it can sell us things. So I'll be making sure that Theo knows how to tell himself  'Remember, I am enough'.

Hemlines don't mean morals 

This applies more to how Theo treats other people – in particular, how he treats women. I'm a humanist, and I absolutely reject the pervasive cultural notion that how someone dresses reflects their morality. No one should ever assume that a short skirt means a woman is 'asking for it'. 

I must admit I assumed everyone thought this way, until a few years ago when it became clear that 'lad culture' was on the up and studies showed that most people still think a rape victim is partly responsible for their fate if they were dressing or acting a certain way. That horrifies me. We're very lucky in this country to have the freedom to dress in a way that's individually expressive – many people around the world still aren't able to claim that right. I want Theo to know that how anyone dresses is not a direction on how to treat them.

Go for it now – the future is promised to no one

As I get older, the less I procrastinate and that's definitely something I'd like to give to Theo. By nature, I'm a thinker and an over-analyser. My main pleasure tends to be in the lead up to something, rather than in the actual act of it. That's just my nature, but unfortunately, it can lead to inactivity and even sometimes missing out. 

There's nothing wrong with evaluating the options and being well planned, but sometimes it can get out of balance and lead to not knowing when to seize the moment. 

Abundance is not something you acquire – it's something you tune into

This is one I really believe. You can tell yourself you are rich and have plenty and it will be true. Or you can tell yourself what you have is not enough, and then however much more you get, it may never be enough. 

Being the kind of person who lives for the future, I often get caught up in what I want to achieve next and along the way I can forget to appreciate that actually, I have everything I need right here and now. Theo can teach me a lot about this one, as children naturally live in the moment, and as he gets older perhaps I'll be able to remind him of the things he’s shown to me.

You'll see it when you believe it

Another mental attitude one but at the end of the day, that's all you really have when you think about it. I do believe people can manifest their own destiny through their attitudes and actions. If Theo can visualise himself achieving things, the sky will be the limit. I want him to be ambitious and to aim high- but more importantly, to believe in his own abilities. 

Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.

This one ties into the same themes about mental attitude and perception and how powerful they can be. You can see enemies out to get you and a universe that is unfair all around you, or you can choose to tap into something else. These days, especially with all the threats to our security (I'm writing this still reeling from the unspeakable events in London and Manchester) it's easy to let fear win. Friends have even ask me how I feel having brought a child into a world like this. 

But I firmly believe that there is more good in human nature than bad. Seeing people’s response to the attacks assures me of that. Since my 20s, I've made a very deliberate decision to have a positive attitude after spending my late teens quite depressed for a variety of reasons. It's definitely helped me out in life, and if it can help Theo then I'll try and teach him all about how to retrain your mind to be more ‘glass half full’. 

Never be afraid to say 'Sorry, I was wrong'

So many people struggle with this! Pride can be a really strong emotion, or even just fear of admitting that you messed up. But I want Theo to know that there's no shame in making mistakes as long as you set them right. 

It's how we learn: you're entitled not to get it right 100% of the time. Whether it's work or personal relationships or anything else, you actually gain a lot when you admit you were wrong and work on solutions for how to put things right again. 

Of course I will always forgive Theo and teach him to offer others forgiveness too.

The best investment is in yourself

Learning makes my heart sing. I love discovering new things, and I hope Theo will be the same well. I'll advise him to invest regularly in his own ‘human capital’ – the development of his abilities and talents and what he has to offer the world. I want him to be excited about learning and seek it out for its own sake. 

It doesn't have to be through formal channels like school either. I want him to learn on his own – read, absorb, challenge himself. What it will give him is opportunity. Someone said ‘opportunity is a byproduct of ability, and ability is the result of knowledge turned into action’. If I can show Theo how to love learning then I'll consider my job well done! 

Seek to love more than be loved

And finally… a lot of people waste a lot of time chasing after love. Wanting to feel worthy. And it's difficult, because a lot of us are programmed to want that- it's a perfectly natural human desire. But if the focus is more on giving love, then I believe that you naturally attract that back, and pursing love itself becomes less of a focus and more of an inevitable consequence. Of course I will be doing my best to make sure Theo always knows how loved he is at home. 

My little boy had given me more joy than I ever thought was possible. Never having been the maternal type, I remember well the panic of seeing that little blue line appear on the test and wondering if I would be up to to job I had signed up for. It's part of the job of a parent to constantly worry if you're doing it right, after all. 

What I didn't expect was the utter punch of joy to the gut everyday I wake up and see his shining little face. And that is truly my happy ever after. 


  1. I BLOODY LOVE THIS! I've been waiting on this post since you mentioned it and I think you chose some absolutely killer advice to put in here. I can take a lot from it!

    "When you judge someone, you do not define them, you define yourself" is something I absolutely live by.

    Would love to read more posts like this :)

    Rebecca, libfemblog.com xo

  2. These are fantastic things to teach a child (and anyone for that matter). I also really like that you've been open about the fact that some of them you have to work on to set the best example for him.
    Inspiring stuff.

    V <3

  3. Your son is going to grow up to the be the most amazing gentleman :)

  4. this is so sweet! and rings true for a lot of people! xx



  5. This is amazing. The thought of raising someone terrifies me, but this post has some great ideas and I shall refer back to it if/when I have my own little human to look after in the future. (I already try to teach some of these things to my students, but it's hard in a country where their country and parents are probably trying to teach them the opposite.)