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14 Things I’ll Tell My First Child

14 Things I’ll Tell My First Child

Despite the fact that we are all rookies in life – which most of us spend waddling around on this spinning rock as it flies through space, trying not to bump into each other – we are entrusted with raising babies. I know – frightening. More so, we are supposed to impart wisdom, set rules and give them the confidence to enter the big, wide world with all the tools they need to live a happy life. So, when writer Evan Porter was told he was about to be a father, his reaction was pretty much what you’d expect.

Things I’ll Teach My First Kid – Or, 14 Reasons Why I Suck

When I found out, I was holding a six-pack of beer.

“I’m pregnant,” she said. Words I knew would be coming one day soon, but not this soon. I always pictured hearing them on a sunny front porch, wind gently rocking a wooden swing back and forth. Or something like that. And there’d be music. Something upbeat and hopeful like what plays before the final credits of a Zach Braff movie.

I never thought I’d hear those words standing in the doorway of our dark, half-packed apartment, weary from a long day. My wife, Sarah, eyes puffy and mascara-soaked from her own shitty day, and then again from crying tears of joy, holding not one, but two pregnancy tests as proof.

My first thought was that we were about to miss our fantasy football draft.

My second thought was to open a beer.

My third thought was, “I can’t believe those were my first two thoughts.”

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It takes a moment like that to realize how woefully unprepared you are to be responsible for another human being. How terrifying it all is. And I’m not talking about waking up in the middle of the night to sooth a crying baby. I’m not talking about changing a dirty diaper or saying goodbye to your “raucous” social life (Sarah and I watch, on average, ten thousand hours of TV every night; so, that shipped sailed a while ago).

I’m talking about when your child learns to talk and what you say to him or her actually matters. When you have to start really thinking about how you want to raise them. What you’ll tell them when they get picked on at school. What you’ll say when they take a philosophical stand against the concept of homework.

It makes you question your values. Or wonder if you even have values to question.

And this line of thinking has led me to believe that I am already a terrible father. Because when I think about the things I want to instill in our first child, I realize that I embody exactly none of them.

But here they are, anyway:

1. I’ll say, listen, kid, not everyone has to like you.

Speak your mind when you know you’re right. Tell friends the truth even when they don’t want to hear it. Don’t just nod and “see both sides” and give pity laughs to people who make bad jokes.

2. I’ll say, work hard in school.

Not so you can make money and not for the bragging rights, but because if you don’t, one day you’ll look back and wish you’d made yourself proud.

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3. I’ll say, clean your room.

I’ll say, you see this 6-inch pile of dirty clothes next to my bed? It makes me feel horrible every time I look at it. You’d be surprised how accomplished seeing your bedroom floor can make you feel.

4. I’ll say, always finish what you started.

There’s a reason I can only teach you to be “pretty good”, and not great, at guitar, or photography, or card tricks, or any number of things I picked up and abandoned. If you have a talent for something, don’t ever waste it.

5. I’ll say, don’t wait so long to get comfortable in your own skin.

Phases are great and all when you’re a teenager, but there’s a fine line between exploring things and getting caught up in fads. Don’t ever feel like you need to fit into a mold or a category to be accepted.

6. I’ll say, take care of your body, because you only get one.

Floss every day. And don’t drink so much soda and Red Bull. You can’t ever undo the cavities they’ll give you.

7. I’ll say, force yourself to experience new things.

I know that people who studied abroad in college are obnoxious, but I don’t care; you should do it. Because when they’re yammering on about their summer in Madrid, you’ll roll your eyes but you’ll really just be jealous that you spent your summer watching TV.

8. I’ll say, don’t get so uncomfortable around homeless people.

They’re not going to rob you. Be better than that. Treat them with respect. Buy them a sandwich if you can. And give to charity as often as possible. You’ll always have a few bucks to spare.

9. I’ll say, pay attention to the news. And politics.

Don’t spend all your time on social media and TV and movies and sports. Devote your attention to things that actually matter. Be informed and well read. Don’t ever be forced to stealthily object from conversations about current events.

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10. I’ll say, be ruthless. Don’t go with the flow.

Find something you want and put in the work to become exceptional. So many people dream big, but they’re afraid to sit down and do the work. Don’t be one of them.

11. I’ll say, don’t text and drive.

Seriously. There’s nothing that can’t wait. I mean it.

12. I’ll say, put your family first, above everything.

When they need you, be there. Don’t ask questions. Don’t let being tired from work become an excuse. They’re all you have.

13. I’ll say, don’t ever wish you were anything or anyone else.

Embrace your flaws, because everyone has them.

14. And I’ll say, if you fall short of anything, even everything on this list, that’s alright.

I’ll still love you. I’ll always love you.

People keep asking me if I’m scared. And I guess  – even in light of everything I said above  – the answer is no.

I know that there’ll be times when I have no idea what to do with this kid. When I reach into my bag of morals and values and come up empty. And for times like that, I’ll look to my wife. I’ll remember how, standing in our dark, half-packed apartment, on one of the most important nights of our life, she put the pregnancy tests down on the table, smiled, and said:

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“Of course we’re still doing the fantasy draft.”

A small reminder of why we fell in love in the first place. That what we’ve created together didn’t happen in spite of our flaws.

It happened because of them.

And knowing that, there’s really nothing to be scared of.

About The Author

Evan Porter is Lead Copywriter at Nebo, a digital marketing agency in Atlanta. He’s also a blogger, a freelance writer, and a screenwriter.

Things I’ll Teach My First Kid Or, 14 Reasons Why I Suck | Medium

Featured photo credit: Ajay via flickr.com

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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