The idea for this blog came to me while I was reading a book (shocker! Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE to read!). The book is called Strong and Kind: Raising Kids of Character by Korie Robertson. At the beginning of the book, Korie explains that when her children were little, she was asked what two character traits she most wanted her children to possess as they grew into adults. This got me thinking about my own family and what traits my husband and I wanted Madden to embody most. One night after reading some of the book, I brought the topic up to my husband. Since then, we've had many discussions on what those traits are for us (we agreed on three) and what we can do to instill them in Madden. Throughout Korie's book, her husband Willie Roberston provides his feedback on the topics Korie discusses. So, I had an idea! What if just like the book, my husband shared his thoughts on the subject! Lucky for me, Phil is a good sport and was very willing to contribute his thoughts for my blog. He may try to lie and say he isn't great at writing, but he has written many things to me over the years, and I have to say he is better than he lets on! I think you will agree! Below is what he wrote me when I asked him to put the pen to paper:
In case anyone reading this is not aware, I am a math teacher by trade. I say this only because creative writing is not necessarily a skill that I would consider one of my strengths. When my wife asked me to write a few words regarding the three character traits we agreed to be most important when raising our daughter, I put away my calculator, and this is my best attempt at writing from the heart.
When Alex first brought up this discussion over what character traits we both want Madden to exemplify most as she grows, we practically repeated the first quality in unison. We both very passionately want for Madden to be KIND. "Please" and "thank you" are important, but we both wish for a much deeper kindness. We want her to exude a genuine kindness in the way she treats all people, whether her parents are watching or not. We want her to care about others' feelings and be willing to sacrifice her own desires at times in order to treat others kindly. We want her to understand that you don't need to blast it on Facebook, Twitter, or tell the world when you do something nice because kindness is the expectation, and treating others with respect and love is what is right and valued most in God's eyes. We want her to always know that we love her more than anything in this world, but the world does not revolve around her. Our job while we are on this earth is not to focus on selfish goals and desires but to spread Gods love and do our best to glorify Him in all we do and how we treat people. I believe the greatest compliment a parent can receive is to be told that their child is kind and cares about others, and that is exactly the type of quality we will do our best to instill in Madden.
Although KINDNESS was the first trait Alex and I agreed upon, we both want Madden to understand that there is a significant difference between kindness and weakness in this often-harsh world we live in today. For that reason, it is very important to both of us that Madden grows to be WISE. To me, wisdom is a quality that spans several different characteristics in itself. The word WISE (as per Google) is defined as "having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment". As Branch says in Madden's (current) favorite movie Trolls, "the world is not all cupcakes and rainbows". It is our job as parents to impart our wisdom to help Madden navigate this challenging world and learn from her "experiences" and the experiences of others around her. Even though we wish for her to be kind, we do not want her to be naive. We want her to know how to take care of herself so that when she one day goes off on her own, she can negotiate this world without being taken advantage. As a teacher, it is also incredibly important to me that Madden knows that a big part of the definition of wisdom is "knowledge". We want her to value her education, put great effort into learning, and respect her teachers and the learning opportunities she is presented with each day. She does not need to be valedictorian, but she should understand that knowledge will make her stronger, and the more knowledge she gains, the more opportunities she will create for herself in life. She should strive to focus each day on doing her absolute best and improving the person God wants her to be. With that said, the "good judgement" part of the wisdom definition stated above lends itself directly to her faith. For us, to be wise in her faith means that she makes decisions not based on how the outcome will affect her own wants and needs, but rather what is right and just in the eyes of God. She can trust in God with all her soul and know that He is more wise than we could ever imagine. In His wisdom and glory, He has a plan for her, and it is her responsibility to stay faithful even when that plan may not be crystal clear.
As for character trait number three, I said HAPPY, Alex said JOYFUL...I lost that debate (shocker), but to me they are one and the same. I am still mentally chalking it up as a win for Team Dad. In either case, the second Madden came into this world, every part of my heart told me that Alex and I must do anything and everything in our power to bring true happiness (JOY) into her life. She is only two, but when I see her laugh and smile now, I can't explain in words how much it makes my heart want to jump out of my chest. She is still at that point in her life where she cannot be jaded by the evil and sin of the world, and I so badly wish I could freeze time and keep her an innocent, joyful two year old forever! But I can't. For that reason, it is up to Alex and me to teach her how to be truly happy. We need to teach her what matters most in life...Faith, family, true friends, and although material things can be nice for a time, they never really last or bring you genuine happiness. I have always been a firm believer in the saying that it's not where you are or what you have but who you are with that brings you the most joy. That is sometimes hard to teach a child when you are walking through a toy store or when their best friend gets a brand new BMW for their sixteenth birthday. I read a quote the other day that really stuck with me and closely emulates the philosophy Alex and I have for raising our little one. "Too much love never spoils a child. A child becomes spoiled when we substitute presents for presence". Although our parental instincts tell us to spoil her with toys or whatever it is she may want at the time (I'm sure clothes and makeup before we know it), we plan to bring true joy into her life by being loving, joyful, and most importantly present with her every day of her life!
By no means do I want these words that I've written to give anyone the illusion that Alex and I are perfect parents or that we know the three ideal character traits for every child. Far from it!! We've both made tons of mistakes in our lives and in our relationship, and we continue to make more each day. I know that I fall short at times in mirroring these three characteristics for her, but I need to keep reminding myself and Alex both that Madden's beautiful little eyes are always watching and her cute little ears are always listening. If we want her to grow in character and exemplify these traits I just mentioned, then we need to model them to her constantly in our own daily behaviors! It is our job to learn from the mistakes we've made and do all that we can as parents to teach Madden to be KIND, WISE, and JOYFUL!