I watched as my daughter stopped and stood in front of the audience at the Holland Center so they could announce her full given name and she could receive her high school diploma. And here is what I thought to myself as I did: Life. You son of a bitch.
Maybe we as parents give ourselves more credit than we deserve. All the fights, the knockdown, drag out screaming matches, the I hate yous, the mistakes. Oh, the mistakes. Thousands of them. Sure, she made some too, but that is expected out of people new to the universe. We got here though. We made it this far. I think in the end, the only thing that really mattered was that we loved each other fiercely.
Watching her walk across the stage and grab that diploma–it was in there, I checked—I realized that I had witnessed a young woman come of age. My daughter has come to a remarkable place in her life. I was filled with joy for her, knowing that she can deal with whatever comes at her. She is smart and well-rounded, will look you in the eye and talk to you with passion, is painfully funny, and is dead-honest. What the hell happened? Life. Life happened. And really, they have to get there by living through it. We all did. But maybe. Just maybe. All those brilliant life philosophies that you as a parent had been teaching them from the top of the mountain (or your dining room table) and that you didn’t think they were hearing, well, maybe they were. They just filed them in the back for later use.
Accomplishments are important. Goals in life are important. Ambition is of great importance. Get off the couch. But I would rather not judge my kids’ life by what they accomplish or base it on our societal definitions of success. You know the ones: income tax bracket, size of house, type of and number of cars, shoes, purses, number of places visited around the world, how many wives, how many therapists, etc. Of course I will celebrate when they do accomplish something they have worked hard for, because that is the point isn’t it? To celebrate all their grit and sacrifice to reach the end of a journey? I have always been proud of that and always will be of those moments.
But what I hope they know, and I have been pressing this into their stubborn little bonces since they were adorable little elves, is that if we are going to keep score, then let it be of how much they give, how much they love, and how much they learn.
Give. Love. Learn.
If you wake up each day intent on actively living out these three, I can’t think of a more fulfilling life. If you don’t believe it so, just consider the opposite of each one. With these three ideas will come some pain and eye-opening, there will be suffering and stress, but it will be well short of the return in reward. You can define them in your own terms and make them exactly what you wan them to be. For instance, creating something and sharing it is giving. A passion for teaching is loving. Trying new things is learning.
Then at the end of the day when you decide to put a close on the one you are on and prepare for the next one, go ahead and ask yourself, What was my score today? Hopefully it was at least 3.