There are really only three major things I’d like to instill in my kids. Three things that, if they manage to pick up, I will feel like I done good. These are:
1. Be kind. And really, I’ll settle for “be polite”, most of the time.
2. Be at ease in the wild.
3. Be a reader.
There are other important things of course. I would like them to be tolerant, empathetic, multilingual members of the Democratic party, focused in school, curious about the world yet suspicious of dudes handing them candy from solid-sided vans. But when I pare it all down, I’m left with the Big Three. Kindness, because kindness is more important than intelligence, ambition, success, or talent. Ease in the wild because the wild can give you both solace and adventure. And reading, because reading can teach you tolerance, empathy, curiosity, and the answers to your curiosity.
Whenever I think of anything else that I might want them to know, it turns out to fall under the umbrella of these three.
This past week, there were several moments when I got a bit of feedback on all three of these goals from the boys themselves.
1. The kindness goal: Malcolm got a book out of the library called “All About my Brother” written and illustrated by a young girl with an autistic sibling. Malcolm has asked for it repeatedly, and I often find him looking at it on his own. He likes the pictures, he says, because they’re drawn by a kid. And, he says, “I like to read about the boy with autism. I like his story.” Prep, I hope, for when he encounters this kind of non-verbal, severely autistic kid in the real world. If my boy can be someone who sticks up for such a kid, and not the jerk face who bullies him, I’ve done good.
2. The at ease in the wild goal: We work on this a lot. My kids are getting to be good hikers, they’re excellent swamp walkers, amateur entomologists, and adaptable to sleeping in a tent anywhere. Yesterday, Simon, playing in a sand hole at the beach in Maine, found several sea worms (small ones, not the big ones that can deliver a strong bite). He cupped them in his hands and said, “Mom, are these worms stunning?” My heart was already full to bursting. Then he looked out toward the ocean and said, “Mom! The waves are scurrying right toward me! It’s so beautiful!”
3. The reading goal: there’s been no question on this one; we read every day, sometimes all day. We read before bed, after lunch, in the car, under a tree, while camping, at the beach, and definitely at the kitchen table. While the boys breakfast on Kix and almond milk, they require me to stand tableside and read to them. The other day, I looked up from the book and saw that Malcolm had not touched his cereal and was gazing off with his spoon poised above the bowl. “Malcolm,” I said, “You need to eat your breakfast.” “Sorry Mom,” he said to me, “The story was just so interesting, I forgot to keep eating.”
I think I’m doing alright.