Flipping through a copy of Parenting magazine, I came across an article in which staff, readers, and a handful of writers were asked, ‘What is the one life lesson you want to pass on to your child?’ The question made me think about my life and what I have learned, and the ways in which I learned them. Life lessons are often learned through mistakes, far too often our own. I am the type of parent who loses sleep worrying about whether I am adequately preparing my child for the “real world.” My son is only two but already I tell myself often, ‘You can’t protect him from everything. That is not your job.’ I have to accept that he will have to step out on his own and learn.
One way in which I try to impart life lessons to my son is by writing to him. When I was pregnant with him, I started keeping a journal. It was initially a way to chart his progress, as well as my own. I wrote about his developments, what his heart rate was at the most recent check-up, what my weight was, (actually I stopped recording those numbers somewhere in the second trimester when I began to disagree with them), and how I was feeling, physically and emotionally. As I got bigger and bigger and began to realize I was about to give birth to a person, I began to write to him, not just about him. I began to write to him as if I were talking to him as a teenager, the time when I will likely need him to listen to me the most.
Writing provides a way for me to speak to him without being interrupted, without having to stop and find the right words. It allows me to be open, honest, and understanding, as I hope to be as a parent later when those qualities are needed. I accept that I can’t protect him from everything and that he will have to learn many things on his own and (cringe) go through his own mistakes, but in writing to him I feel that I am providing the best advice and guidance I can give him.
I think if I could tell my son one thing, give him one piece of advice; it would be to let Allah guide you. People say when you are in a difficult situation to ‘listen to your heart’ or ‘go with your gut.’ But I think what we call the heart or the gut is really the soul, what I often think of as the way Allah speaks to us. We can go in any number of directions, but our soul, if we listen to it and let it guide us, only ever points in one direction. My son can learn from me, his father, anyone, but anything good he is learning from us isn’t really coming from us, it’s coming from our souls, from the times we actually listened to our souls and let them guide us. It is coming from Allah, the Eternal and All-Knowing.
So if you could give your child/children only one life lesson, what would it be?
Ambata is a native New Orleanian and mother to a two year old son. She is currently working on a master’s degree in English Literature. She has just started blogging at MORmama.