Parenting essentially comes down to two things: keeping your kids alive, and making sure they grow up to be good people. There is plenty of help available for the keeping them alive part – car seats, baby gates, child-proof everything. Little kids are even designed to so bendy and squishy they are hard to break. However, you can’t put anything on your baby shower registry to assist you in raising a good person.
It would be wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness.
Actually, I take that back. You can register for something that will help you raise a good person, but not too many people register at book stores. Everybody wants to get a jogging stroller, but people would roll their eyes if somebody gave them a copy of Meditations. Though if we are really being intentional on what kind of parent we want to be (and in turn what kind of kid we want to raise), the means by which we instill ideas of courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom are much more important then how we will get a tiny person from point A to point B.
So if resources to teach goodness to our kids are available, what’s stopping us? Personally, I think it is the age-old cliche of all parents (or at least bad parents) – do as I say, not as I do. Unless your kid is Doogie Howser, safe to say your toddler isn’t cracking open Marcus Aurelius or Seneca. But you can. And we know that every kid inevitably mirrors their parents’ actions. To instill the goodness we want in our children, we first have to attain that goodness our selves. Or at least be making an effort.
If everybody waited around until they achieved goodness to become a parent, the human race would have ceased to exist immediately. The pursuit of goodness is a lifelong journey, not an alarm you can set on your biological clock. Knowing the destination could be a lifetime away, why not start the journey now?
Ironically, for myself as a parent, one thing that stands in the way of attaining goodness is actually being a parent. When there is breakfast to make, kids to get dressed, and three places to drop off three kids in the morning, it is hard to start the day intentionally. It’s easier to sleep in than it is to wake up early and give myself time to spend reading. After a workday and dinner, showers, and bed time routines, it’s too easy to sit on the couch and turn my brain off before I go to bed. While it may take more mental effort to engage my mind in reflection and writing than it does to stream a few episodes of something, what is more worth my time? I mean, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is funny, but is it helping my journey to goodness?
Kids take up a lot of my time, but I can’t let that stand in my way. If I have to set my alarm for 5:00 am to give myself time to read and reflect each morning, then that is what I need to do. I can’t let the comfort of my bed stand in my way. In the big picture, an hour or so of sleep seems like a pretty fair trade for being the kind of person I want my kids to pattern themselves after.
So what is standing in your way? A perceived lack of time? Bad habits you can’t seem to kick? The fact that your own parents were poor models of goodness? All of the above? Whatever it is, don’t let it be an excuse. Don’t let the fact that something in your way today stop you from taking steps toward achieving (and modeling) goodness in the future. Easier said than done for sure, but what could be more worth it?