Probably the most impactful lesson I've learned from the six years that I have been working with kids is that our society teaches them from a very young age that there is a right way and a wrong way to live their lives.
To me, it's very interesting. You see, as a young adult, society's standards weigh heavy on my shoulders every single day. As a young adult, I understand that I "need to" obtain my college degree, look for a full-time job, find a husband, buy a house, have a family, and keep ticking off check marks on the to-do list of life. At least, this is what society tells me that I need to do, but what totally baffles me is the fact that children I babysit, as young as five years old, they see and understand these societal standards too.
Well, I've always been one to do my own thing. From a young age, I know my parents worried about my rebellious nature. Not in a sense that I would get into trouble, but in the sense that I have always been my own person, not necessarily concerned with what the rest of the crowd is doing- more of a free spirit, more of a wanderer.
I think it's safe to say that I was born that way, and although I grew up in a household where my parents definitely didn't necessarily force me to conform to the specific way they lived their lives, I think my motivation to be different and unlike the rest of the crowd was something within me, not necessarily something that was taught.
I enjoyed playing in the mud and catching salamanders with my cousins. I liked building rafts to test out on the lake we grew up on. I liked camping and playing sports. But don't let all of that fool you. I also like Barbies and playing house. I liked the color pink and wearing bows in my hair. I enjoyed a range of activities that would be considered both masculine and feminine. I stopped eating meat when I was younger, and the initial reaction of my parents was nervousness for my health, but ultimately they allowed me to stand by what I believed in after a bit of explaining myself. My parents never told me I could or could not do something because I was a girl, and for this reason, I never really thought it was odd that one of my girl classmates played on the boy's football team. They honored my belief system with regards to recycling and eating local and so forth, even if they didn't necessarily understand it, and because they allowed me the opportunity to safely make decisions like these, I grew up understanding that the way I choose to live my life, the decisions I choose to make, they're not necessarily the right or the wrong way, so I never believed that anyone else was necessarily living their life wrong.
Also from a very young age, the number one thing that I always wanted to be when I grew up was a mom. I grew up in a big family, with siblings who always had friends coming in and out of the house. It was never quiet, and there was always something going on. I was the little girl that, when playing house, had ten babies crammed in my stroller, wrapped tightly in blankies and well taken care of. I have diaries from elementary school where I used to write all of the baby names I liked. I've always known I wanted to be a mom some day.
Being a mom is such a cool concept. The way I see it, you have created a living breathing thing, who, in all aspects, you have the ability to shape and provide tools to, in order for them to form opinions, learn and grow.
You have the ability to shower this little human in so much love, so that they may, in turn, shower others in love, too.
You have the chance to pour into them and humbly teach them everything you know about life while still making sure they understand that you don't know it all, and you don't have all the answers.
You have the power to teach them tolerance and acceptance so that they might mimic and mirror the same tolerance and acceptance as they grow older.
You have the chance to instill morals and manners and respect from a young age, so that they grow to be an individual of character.
You have the ability to shape the future of this world, and the amount of love within it, based upon how you encourage your child while their brains and perspectives and views of this place are still developing, and they have yet to be soiled by the sheer ugliness of societal standards and unspoken "rules" of life that each of us perpetuates each time we make assumptions or accept stereotypes as truths.
The day I become a mom, I will be overwhelmed by the potential I have to impact my children. I'll lead by example. I'll live my life with love at the center to prove to them what you can accomplish with kindness in your heart. I will inspire creativity. I want to encourage open-mindedness in my future kids. I want to instill tolerance and acceptance and above all, love. I want to teach them that it isn't up to them to decide who a person is, nor is it up to any person to tell them who they are. They will know that the power to become whatever they want to be lies within themselves, and I will commit my life to encouraging them and never stand in their way.