Our parents are our first teachers and often are our primary teachers. As such, the responsibilities of parents are great to be “guides on the side”, not “the sage on the stage”. Then, our children blossom into the extraordinary beings they are.
In an essay for People magazine, Michelle Obama shared the following lesson she learned form her mom, which she used to mother her daughters:
…when it came to raising her kids, my mom knew that her voice was less important than allowing me to use my own.
That meant she listened a lot more than she lectured.
Listening with the wisdom of experience, so children are heard and able to wrangle with the good, the bad and the indifferent of their own lives is the enduring gift of confidence, but tricky to actualize.
Mrs. Obama continued:
Growing up, she was willing to endure endless questioning from me.
Kids are naturally curious and full of joy when experiencing what had become mundane to the adults. So, we can take a lesson from them too.
She further punctuated how her experiences are even more relevant today:
In today’s world, it’s easy to hear all that and think that Marian Robinson was bordering on negligent, that she was letting the kids rule the roost. But the reality was far from that. She and my father, Fraser, were wholly invested in their children, pouing a deep and durable foundation of goodness and honesty, of right and wrong, into my brother and me. After that, they simply let us be ourselves.
And, Mrs. Obama’s “take away” lesson is imperative for the empowerment of our youth:
… I see now how important that kind of freedom is for all children, particularly for girls with flames of their own — flames the world might try to dim. … It’s up to us, as mothers and mother-figures, to give the girls in our lives the kind of support that keeps their flame lit and lifts up their voices — not necessarily with our own words, but by letting them find the words themselves.
And, I would add boys and all youth deserve such support. Because, just as Mrs. Obama encourages, being able to be oneself is a core value for Gen Z’ers today, as refected in a recent study of how the current generation defines “inclusivity” at Middlebury College:
Acceptance of everybody’s different lifestyles and identities … Nobody should feel outed or harassed due to their identity. No fear of violence or material that would make them feel less than.”
No matter what an individual’s talents or interests, a confidence in oneself is essential. Only then can individuals manifest into their true selves and benefit all.