I like to “date” my kids. In a family with so many, it’s nice to have one on one time with them. You know – to get to know them a little better. Because they’re pretty damn cool people and I played a small part in that. Gabi was next and she decided to run errands with me and go to lunch at a place she chose and I’ve wanted to go.
I asked Gabi (who is a Senior in high school this fall) what her thoughts on college and life after high school were. She’s a shy, sweet, funny as hell, set in her ways kind of young lady which I respect. She hesitantly told me she didn’t want to go to college. She wanted to travel and live places with local people to be able to experience other cultures. I think she was a little surprised when I applauded her desire. She shared that she wants to live her life without regret – as an old woman to be able to be proud of the life she lived. She asked me if I could go back in time and make different choices, what would I do? She clarified that it was understood I still wanted my kids exactly the way they are, so take that out of the equation. If I could still have them no matter what, what would I do differently. Gabi, I would live with less regret. You’re on to something.
On my 19th birthday I was offered a record contract that I turned down. Honestly, I was too afraid to sign it. Everyone thinks that’s where I would make the change, but it’s not. I’d go back to the summer before my Senior year in high school when I was 16. I wouldn’t go to the party that ultimately ended in my hitchhiking home after being raped and left in the woods barefoot with only my bathing suit on. I’d kick ass my senior year – not much differently than I did but with less baggage. I wouldn’t have searched so desperately for reason in my life by church hopping and I wouldn’t have joined the Mormon church that I would ultimately leave. That’s a shocking revelation to my daughter, but it’s the truth. In college, I would have gone for a journalism degree – which is what I wanted – instead of communications and psych which I eventually dropped out of. I would have stayed at the college I went to my first year and gone for what I wanted. I had dreams of travelling with Greenpeace and being a photojournalist for magazines. But I didn’t. I listened to other people instead. So Gabi, I get you girl. Here are some things I’ve learned in life that I hope my kids figure out earlier than I did:
Figure out who you are – you already know – and be that person
I did or didn’t do things I wanted because of other people’s suggestions, my baggage and wanting to be a good person, good mom and good example. In the end that was a mistake. I am a good person, a good mom and a good example in spite of holding back the real me. Don’t do that. Be you authentically without apology and those who love you will really love you. Don’t half ass it. Put your entire ass in the game. No college and travel? Awesome. Do. It. Be you. I would have gotten tattoos far earlier, piercings, stopped trying to control my potty mouth and hugged more even if it was awkward. Now it looks like a mid-life crisis when actually, I’m just finally being me.
People are assholes and that includes you
Yup. Good people do shitty things. All of us are guilty so give people the gift of forgiveness. Then forgive yourself. If you’re being a good person you’ll screw it up eventually. We all do. So go easy on yourself and others. A little slack every once in a while is a good thing. Don’t be malicious, show kindness and give yourself the luxury of knowing your imperfections are what make you perfect.
If you don’t want to be a parent, don’t be a parent
It’s the best and most difficult job I’ve ever had. It’s where the most joy in my life has come from and the most pain and struggle. If there’s a quota for screwing up as a parent – even the best of us meet and exceed that quota. Kind of goes with knowing who you are un-apologetically. I’ve loved it but I will always feel like my kids are amazing despite me. It’s hard. And there’s no manual. Wait until you’re ready (and at least 25) if you’re ready. And if not, it’s OK.
Take care of yourself first
That’s a must. Sometimes I’ve been a good example of this. Use lotion liberally. Take bubble baths. Have a glass of wine. Stay fit in whatever modality way makes you happy. Eat healthy. Take care of your body. Get a massage. Put self-care as a must and not a maybe. You are important. Treat yourself that way. It should never be a special occasion to put yourself first. You can’t take care of anyone else if you aren’t good to you.
Let go of things you can’t control
And focus on the things you can. Life’s too short to give away a good day to someone’s actions you have no control over. The things you can control – do it! Embrace that shit and let the rest go. It’s really not important.
Will you regret doing it, or not doing it?
If you’re not affecting anyone else adversely, how will you feel? Gabi thinks if you’re old and in a retirement home, will you lay there and think, “I shouldn’t have done that”? Nope. Don’t think about it, don’t question it. Do it. And have fun. Life’s too short.
Manage your money
I do think it’s possible to be anything you want. Within reason. Don’t work so you can do the things you love. Do what you love and let it make you money. I would have invested in real estate and tried to keep my credit good. Manage your money well and remember you’ll enjoy experiences and adventure far more than stuff. Bypass all the stuff and take a trip.
Tell people you love them
Often. Hard. And show them. Often. Actions speak far louder than words. Keep in touch with your family. They may be jerks you’re forced to grow up with, but they’re pretty great too. And hey – we’re all assholes sometimes.