You didn’t ask for it, but you’re going to get it anyway: unsolicited parental advice — from me, your family, your friends & neighbors, co-workers and total strangers on the sidewalks, in parking lots and in stores and restaurants. As if you would listen to a total stranger in a parking lot. Or me, for that matter. But to quote singer-songwriter James McMurtry on giving advice, “Knowing better never kept me out of trouble — I don’t care, I’m gonna tell you anyway.
I’ll leave you alone on the little matters like food and discipline and schooling and toilet-training (yes, you have a lot of fun ahead for you). My advice consists of 3 simple little items.
Travel — near and far; plane or car; bicycle, hiking, kayaking or canoeing. We took Lucas to visit family and friends, both near and far. We took Lucas to the mountains, the woods and the beach. When Lucas was 3 we drove from Austin to New England and back. By the time he was six, we ventured up to Alaska and back.
The greatest gift you can give your child is the world and its myriad experiences. Don’t hold back.
Read aloud: daily, nightly, routinely and with great passion. If seeing the sights of the great, wide world is the greatest gift “in the world,” feeding their imagination expands those experiences into even bigger worlds of storytelling and fairy tales and fantasy and make-believe.
Pardon a quick brag, but I still believe I am one of the very few people who has ever read the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit aloud. Consider that a challenge, if you wish, and let me know when you’re done.
Finally, there was one last thing I did for years as Lucas grew up. I’m not sure where I first heard the idea, but someone once suggested the world would be a much better place if every child everywhere were to hear these words every day:
“You are a wonderful child (girl/boy).
You are a beautiful child.
And we love you very much.”
So I decided to do just that. Long after he was fast asleep, just before I went to bed, I would slip back into his room and softly say those words to him. He’d breathe a deep sigh of relaxation, and settle deeper into sleep with a beatific smile. He’s 22 now, and long-gone from our nights together. I hope those words remain with him forever.
Final piece of advice: Have fun! Nothing else compares — nothing else comes close.