Empathy First. Confidence Second. In that Order.

December 6, 2018


“What book do you recommend on raising children?”


A sweet, young mother in the midst of raising her first baby of nineteen months asked me that question yesterday. I told her I had four children so I can only wonder if she thought I had read the good books on child rearing and surely one of them could give her some useful advice on raising kids.


Without even thinking about a response to her question, “Experience”came flying out of my mouth. I know it's shocking that I said something without thinking. I'm just shocked I didn't say "Fucking Experience." I've been known to drop an F bomb or two.  Okay.  More than two but I stopped counting a long time ago.


In the most innocent way, she responded, “Oh, I haven’t heard of that one.  Who wrote it?” I wanted to tell her every mother out there today wrote that book.


She told me she is a member of a book club so I’m thinking she must read a lot. I wondered if my recommendation would be the next read at her book club. I should tread lightly here. I may have written a book, "The Shelf Life of a Secret," but I'm not exactly a voracious reader. I’m sure there are plenty of books out there on how to raise kids but I didn’t read any. I was given plenty of them for Christmas gifts. I'm sure I started but didn't get past page two as I was too busy making sure my ultra adventurous foursome stayed alive. Getting a book, and thus advice, on child rearing from a relative who doesn't have any is like taking advice from your male gynecologist, who tells you, "This won't hurt," as he puts the clamp in you to take a swab out of your uterus for your annual pap smear. Ummm.  When was the last time you had your vagina swabbed? Oh, that's right. You don't have one. Nothing worse than opening a gift and faking your excitement. "I can't wait to read this one!  Thank you so much!" No wonder Half Price books has so many books on their shelves about child rearing!


I didn't need a book. I just did it. Hell, I’m still doing it. I hope I didn't disappoint her when I told her I couldn't recommend one.  With one in college, two in high school, and one straggler in middle school, I still don’t have all the answers. Not even close. She asked me for any advice I could share with her. I’m not one to tell anyone how to raise their children, but since she was brave enough to ask, here goes.


The two most important gifts we can give our children are empathy and confidence. Empathy being number one. It’s so vital to empathize with other people, especially today with so much hate and division out there. It’s almost as equally important to give them confidence because they are going to need it to survive in this world as we know it now. Of course, there is the obvious which is love. Do I really need to emphasize that? If that’s not innate in you, it should be.


Let's not forget the basic human needs--oxygen, food, water, heat, and energy. We all need those things so if you don't smother your children (trust me, there are times you want to), you're giving them oxygen. And no, I haven't taken them to any oxygen bars. If you feed them, you're giving them food and water. Hopefully, your kids' first choice isn't sushi. Do you know how much it costs to take a family of six to eat sushi? If you're giving them shelter (a Highland Park address not required) and clothes (name brand clothing not required), you're giving them heat. To get the best, purest energy, I suggest the beach or the mountains. Dallas isn't ideal for that kind of energy but we get away when we can. The Bahamas is better than Galveston (no comparison) but sometimes, we're on a budget and we all have to sacrifice. Anything to get to a beach.


Aside from the intangible gifts and basic human needs we give them, I'll end this with one of the life lessons I feel is imperative to teach your children. It's one of those simple things I'm adamant about. And, that's how to properly use a fork. I just hate it when people stab their food with a fork. Knives are for stabbing. Not forks. So please, don't stab your sister. Even if they deserve it. With Thanksgiving upon us, I'm not in the mood to play referee. I'll just be grateful that no one stabs anyone.  Even if it's done with confidence! That way I'll know their father and I must be doing a good job raising them.  Book or no book.

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