Monday, October 19, 2015

My daughter turns 9 today, and I look in disbelief and wonder at this little butterfly spreading her wings and think of years ahead of her. As every parent, I want her to be happy. But what qualities lead to a happy life, and how do I help her today develop these qualities? This quest continues every day in our family and in families around the world. Here are my thoughts on these qualities.

1. Be Healthy

When our children are young, responsibility for their health belongs to us. Now at 9, Smarty took on most of basic self-care jobs such as washing hands, taking a shower, brushing teeth and hair, flossing. We work hard on making certain healthy habits (such as brushing teeth twice a day) completely automatic. We also hope that even though she loves to read, she will continue to engage in some sort of sports as she gets older and that she will learn to make good choices about what she eats.

2. Be Kind

I will be honest, this is something that I find really hard, because, after all, Smarty is the only child and doesn’t have a chance to share and negotiate with her siblings. However, she does have a naturally sweet disposition, and we try to notice and praise her being kind to others or helpful to us at home. We also try to model kindness in our interaction with others, which is not easy for us, since we both have judgmental tendencies. This year, I want to introduce my daughter to random acts of kindness ideas and let her experience joy of giving to others more often.

3. Be Curious

I recently found a good anonymous quote saying, Knowledge is knowing the right answers, intelligence is asking the right questions. I want Smarty to never stop asking questions about the world around her. Granted, nowadays she often does not ask questions aloud going directly to books in the areas of her interests, which currently include space, workings of our brain, and how we got to now.

4. Be Persistent

Smarty is an intelligent child, which comes with perks and with dangers. She does not have to work hard in school to grasp the material, and sometimes I worry that she won’t develop discipline and grit needed for the times when the going gets tougher. Again, we try to specifically recognize the times when she does demonstrate persistence and stress successes that she achieved through practice and not through inborn gifts, for example, her learning to swim or ride her bike.

5. Be Respectful

Being respectful is not just about manners to me. It’s also about respecting other people’s opinions and learning the art of disagreeing respectfully and not saying, This is just stupid. Both manners and the art of diplomacy require years and years of practice, corrections, trial and error, and also a certain degree of maturity that some people do not even reach as adults. I am sure we will continue to work on manners and respectful attitude even through teenage years.

6. Be Independent

I find Smarty’s birthdays to be a bittersweet countdown on the road to her independence. Every year she develops new skills that take her closer to that date, not that impossibly far away now, when she will be an independent adult. Right now she still cannot imagine wanting to leave her safe and cozy nest at home, but it’s our job as parents to teach her how to cook, clean the house, and shop before she is faced with the daily tasks of independent existence.

7. Be Adventurous

This generation of kids is growing in a risk-adverse society. At Smarty’s age I was taking public transportation to school on my own, went shopping, and stayed home alone for hours. We want Smarty to be able to experience independence and to have adventures of her own, hopefully without taking any foolhardy risks. We hope that by the end of this school year she will be able to go to school on her own and come back unsupervised (walking about 20 minutes, crossing one relatively busy street). I think it’s a realistic goal for this year.

8. Be Creative

Smarty is lucky to be able to have access to all kinds of art supplies, building toys, etc. The only thing that she is lacking is time, because some creative projects cannot be accomplished in small increments of time. Balancing structured time for after school activities with unstructured time is not an easy task, especially since Smarty wants to do so many things and often ends up spending her entire free time reading instead. Still, we believe that the best gift that we can give to our daughter is a gift of free time to develop her interests and pursue her passions.

9. Be Yourself

What we really want our daughter to be is to be herself. As the famous quote says, “everything else is taken”.  Even though she inherited my husband’s strive for rules and my love of reading, she is her own person with her own strengths and her own weaknesses. She shouldn’t change herself just so someone likes her. The right people will love and respect her just the way she is, just like we, her parents, do.
Happy birthday, Smarty! We love you very much!

Your Turn

What I want my daughter to know on her 9th birthday

What are the qualities that are important to you when you think about raising your kids?

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JL said...

Happy Birthday!! What a great assortment of photos of her growing up and list of intentional parenting!

Ticia said...

Happy Birthday!

I think of respect as both of those aspects, both being polite (because it's a way to show you value the person) AND respectfully disagreeing.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

This is what I want for my children, too. Happy birthday, Smarty!