Simply ask any parent who has embraced their role in raising another human being seriously rather than just feed and clothe them and they will tell you how incredibly difficult it is and how much it changes you in the process. Things you never thought of become increasingly important. Things you thought were critically important seem to diminish. You worry about more things and wonder about the magesty of life and the future world your child will make their way in one day. Sometimes you want to shelter your kids from the pain and hardship of the outside world. Then there are times you want them to feel free to run about and explore it in wild abandon. Life is an exhuberant mixture of confusion, exhileration, hard work, laughter, and love. If you are lucky you smile more than you cry and love more than you ever thought possible.
I have been blessed being raised in a family filled with love and laughter. I was raised with the freedom and confidence to explore the world in its entirety. To believe in the notion that the universe offered infinite possibilities and endless opportunities for me to explore with my mind, body, and spirit.
It's how we've raised our kids. Now, more than ever, I am thankful we raised our kids to be thinkers rather than arbitrarily following the path that someone else lays out for them. Given the emmense challenges we face as a nation and the intense bombardment we endure from multiple sources it is easy to get caught up in how we "should" think and feel on critical issues. We are told we are racist if we voted for Trump, an idiot if we voted for Hillary, homophobic if we dont support same sex marriage, and xenophobes if we don't embrace someone else's views. The list of labels that will get attached to us if we venture to speak can render us mute. If our voices are muted out of fear our mind begins to deteriorate. We become afraid to disagree in our speech and that leads to fear to disagree in our thoughts and squelches our inquisitive mind.
Our children were exposed to a lot of liberal mindsets in school and in the community we live in. My husband and I tend to be more conservative in our approach to politics but did not want to force our kids to do as we or think as we think. We saw the intrinsic value in nourishing their own thoughts. As our kids grew up we exposed them to a variety of perspectives rather than keep them sheltered in our singular perspective. We had great discussions with them over diverse political, social, family, and personal issues. We gave them our perspective, of course, but we also tried to honestly convey the opposing perspective too. We did not want them simply pick up the cloak of our faith or our political mindset and adopt it as their own. We encouraged them to research and think on their own and made them feel comfortable to explore other perspectives, religions, etc. We made them feel safe to discuss their thoughts on their journey to form their own opinions. We assured them that changing your closely held opinion because you acquired new information or insight was a good thing and changing it arbitrarily was a bad thing. We raised them in a God centered, loving, and conservative household because it reflected our values. We raised them with the caveat that they needed to respect our values even if they did not embrace our values just like we would respect their values even if we did not embrace them. We could not control their individual choices of what to value and what to disregard but we each needed to live an authentic life true to our individual values and trust that sharing our true selves with one another without fear was the purest definition of love.
I have known many families who have told their kids if you vote for (fill in the blank) I will disown you. I have been told to cut off family ties because someone announced they loved someone of the same sex. I have been told that someone abusing their spouse, child, or animal is none of my business and shouldn't change my desire to invite them into my home for dinner. I have been told that I should tolerate someone condemning me for my beliefs yet still respect respect them for their beliefs. Somehow in all the craziness of the world we managed to raise two intelligent and dynamic daughters who can and do think for themselves and in so doing cause Joe and I to think we did a pretty amazing job raising them.
I would like to think I taught my children well and gave them the tools to navigate a complex changing world using compassion, wisdom, and love. But, truth be told, my kids have taught me much more than I have ever imagined they could and far more than I could ever hope to teach them.
Raising my children to be strong independant thinkers has at times been extremely frustrating and difficult. But seeing them be able to think for themselves make me less fearful of the harsh realities of a troubled world and focus more on the tremendous good I see in people who think differently than I do.