Raising kids is a tough job but the best job I could have ever had the pleasure of having. When my son turned eight years old, I wrote a blog post titled “An Open Letter To My Son.” Two years have passed and I feel even more strongly today about what I wrote then than ever before. I am not raising my kids to be robots. I am raising them to be good human beings to themselves and to society. Note that I put them first and society in second place. Here’s my open letter to my son, which also applies to all of my kids:
“From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I loved you. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of knowing I had a little human being inside of me. My life changed since that day and from the moment I saw those two lines on a pregnancy test, I committed myself to giving you the best life a child could have. Throughout the pregnancy I talked, sang, played and loved in Portuguese, my mother tongue. Part of the commitment of exposing you to this world was to expose you to my language, my culture and everything I know about where I come from. In these eight years I have never spoken English to you and have tried my best to teach you about your Brazilian heritage. Mommy and daddy were serious about raising you as American and as Brazilian as we could. It makes me so happy to see you understanding my language, loving the Brazilian culture and, of course, being passionate about soccer. Yeah, you can’t say you are Brazilian if you don’t like soccer. 🙂
I always had in my mind that my job as a mother was to raise you to be yourself, no matter what that meant. My job is to raise you to have your own opinions, your own standards and your own life. Independent of what society considers to be right, my job is to teach you to do what’s right for yourself and to respect people regardless of gender, sexual orientation or race. Because you are raised with a blend of two cultures, from an early age you have seen that there is not one way to do and see things. In my mind, my heart and my soul here’s what I want you to learn from me:
1- Love and Be Happy
No matter what you do, do it with love. If there is no love or passion for what you are doing, analyze, reconsider and ask yourself: do I love this? does this make me happy? If there is any doubt or question mark, follow your instincts and do what your heart desires. Nothing in this world can buy you love or happiness. Be the one who defines for yourself what love and happiness mean. Whatever it is for you may not be for everyone else and that’s ok. You don’t have to do what others do to be happy.
2- Ask Questions
Don’t ever accept what comes to you as truth. Be inquisitive, ask questions, try to understand both sides of any argument or idea. You cannot argue for something if you don’t know or understand the pros and cons, the positive and negative, and the two sides of an argument or idea. Even if you dislike something, learn about what you dislike about it and why. Not only will you become more educated but you will learn to agree to disagree in a respectful way. Arguing your points in a biased way without understanding the other side is not really an argument. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and sometimes even defy what’s considered to be absolute truth. Nothing in life is absolute. Always play Devil’s Advocate. Question mommy and daddy. I am not raising you to be a robot and I don’t believe in complete obedience. I am not perfect and I don’t know everything. I am also learning from you so yes, I give you permission to respectfully question me.
3- Travel and Explore
The world is a beautiful place filled with amazing people, cultures, stories, history and places. Travel to different countries, embed yourself in different cultures, talk to people, eat the food, learn about their religion and have fun. No one can take what you see and experience away from you. It’s nice to have “stuff” but nothing replaces what you can get out of traveling. Travel the U.S. There is so much richness and culture in here. Travel around Brazil and learn where you come from even though you are not there. Adapt and assimilate to cultures and that’ll change your life forever. Have I mentioned have fun?
4- Read, Learn and Study
Education doesn’t only come from books. Yes, you need to go to school and get a good education. And no, you don’t need to study just to get a job. I absolutely disagree with that. You need to study to learn, to be open minded, to learn to be committed to doing something. Yes, you will focus on certain areas that will be career related but the point of education is to prepare you to live in the real world and deal with real people. You’ll hear a lot of people saying you don’t need to study chemistry, math, or any other subject because you won’t really use it. That’s not true! You probably won’t use these subjects in a literal way but you live and breathe sciences. We all need to understand geography and history. We can only understand the present if we know about the past. Learn to have a general understanding of everything. This will serve you well in all kinds of conversations and will make you well-versed. There is nothing more beautiful and attractive than someone with a brain!
5- Choose Your Own Religion (Or Not)
I grew up Catholic and you have been baptized in the Catholic church. However, the more I studied, the more I understood that no one religion encompasses everything I am and believe in. Mommy and daddy have decided to raise you away from a particular church however we will expose you to all religions. A lot of people won’t agree with this and again, that’s ok. My dad, your grandpa always told me: “the best religion is to do the right thing, treat people well and with respect, and take care of yourself, others and nature.” He also used to say “God is everything around us.” Learn about other religions other than Christianity. In the end, the purpose of all of them is to live in peace, be happy and do what’s right. Religion is meant to unite but for many reasons, unfortunately, it also separates people, cultures and beliefs. Be true to yourself and whatever you decide, never minimize or disrespect other beliefs or lack thereof.
6- Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously
It took me 37 years to learn this and it may take you less, more or the same number of years. Life is supposed to be fun. We only live once and the truth is, we don’t know what will happen the next day or even the next minute. It’s ok to be serious and do what grown ups do but it’s also ok to be silly, have fun, and just enjoy each day as if there were no tomorrow. There is a song by my favorite Brazilian band, Legiao Urbana that says “We need to love people as if there were no tomorrow.. Because if you stop and think about it… Tomorrow doesn’t really exist.” This is not negative in any way. It simply means today was yesterday’s tomorrow. Live today”.
What’s the best advice you have given your kids?