A friend of ours lost her father recently. Being Jewish, she invited mourners over to pay their respects at a shiva. Not being Jewish, we had never been to one of those before.
But it was a truly lovely evening – family and friends gathered together in her home, reciting traditional Hebrew prayers, singing traditional Hebrew songs and sharing heartfelt stories about their lost loved one (that part was in English, fortunately for us).
The rabbi leading the ceremony told one story that really stuck with us. It was about a time someone asked him to explain the secret of life. Via text message.
Pretty modern stuff for a 3,000-year-old religion, huh?
In his return text, the rabbi wrote that the secret of life is this:
- Do your duty
- Find bliss whenever you can
- When you can’t find bliss, be resilient
- Everything matters
Seems like good advice, right? Well the more we’ve thought about it, the more we’ve realized that it’s perfect advice for parents. To understand why, let’s break down this “secret of life” piece by piece.
Do your duty
Becoming a parent is the most intense introduction to real “duty” most of us ever experience. As soon as your little baby is born, you are responsible for providing every single thing that child needs to remain alive, from giving it food and clothing to cleaning up all of its other “doodies.”
And there are a whole lot of those.
Parenthood is not like some job you can call in sick to whenever you need a day off. And it’s not like being a student, when a bad performance would only hurt yourself (and your grades). It is a full-time, round-the-clock, every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life responsibility, and if you screw it up, you could be screwing up a real, live person’s entire life.
So it’s important to do it to the very best of your ability.
Find bliss whenever you can
Taking care of kids can be challenging, thankless and exhausting work. But man, are there some really amazing moments too. We’re not even talking about big stuff like holidays and family vacations – we’re talking about the small, special flashes of pure magic that can be found amidst the hustle and bustle of any parent’s everyday routine.
It’s the quiet calm of reading a book together, a brief hug to reconnect in the middle of the day, the smell of your child’s hair right after a bath. All those things that are so easy to miss, and so very blissful when you don’t.
Remember to pause and enjoy the little things. Because they’re the things that can instantly remind you that all your hard work is totally worth it.
When you can’t find bliss, be resilient
There will be some days so dark that you won’t be able to find the silver lining. You will run into parenting challenges that seem insurmountable and tiny tears you just can’t dry.
Although those days will be the most difficult, they’re the ones when your children will need you the most.
So strive to parent even harder. (Or at least hug a little longer.)
Even if they (or you) don’t care to admit it, your kids are watching every single thing you do. They’re taking it all in. And the example you set is slowly but surely shaping the kind of people they’ll grow up to be.
Will they believe in love, generosity and truthfulness? Will they be hard working, loyal and responsible? Will they show empathy toward others, appreciation for all that they have, and a joyful excitement about making the most out of their lives?
We can certainly all hope so. But we can also do more than simply hope.
Let’s set the best examples possible. And let’s try to fill every day, every hour, every moment we have with our children with as many laughs, lessons and love as we can.
Because every single bit of matters – to us, to them, and to the world they’ll help create.
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