Kids & Company Blog

A Note About Independence to My Sons

I was raised to be independent by a mother who had experience in the field. Fiercely entrepreneurial, she took on the business world once my sister and I were entered school and with some high-risk hard-work undertakings went from one investment to countless. Semi-retired, she still runs her own businesses, real estate and investments. She’s demonstrated time and time again that working with others, caring for people, knowing when to get help and a partnership mentality is at the heart of a successful and independent person.

I always felt prepared to pass on this drive for independence to daughters. Education, mentorship, ambition and gritty, hard work can open up a world of choices, and I have a deep-rooted belief that we need to continue encouraging our girls to pursue these things and strive to work with others instead of depend on them.

And then I had a boy. And another one. It’s been remarkable and exciting and I love it. But it’s flipped my ideas of what I can pass on about independence to the next generation because it’s less familiar to me and their experience is different than a girl’s experience. But then again, are the fundamentals really that different? When I stop to think about it, here are the things I want to pass on to my children:

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Give it to yourself and those around you because without it we are a chaotic species. Even when you think someone has proven they don’t deserve it, take the high road because you can never fully appreciate their experience and thinking. Only fight ideas, behaviour and choices when you can do it respectfully. (We try not to use the term ‘that’s not nice’ with my young boys when explaining why hurtful words or physicality is an issue. Nice, defined as agreeable in the dictionary, is not our ultimate goal – respect is.)
  1. Aim for interdependence. That ant who went out on his own is not going to make it through the winter trying to do all the work that needs to be done in the summer, but the ant colony is. We can always achieve more together. Ha! Even as I write that I am laughing because I’ve spent a lot of time being that dumb, dead ant. I’m overly self-reliant and reluctant to seek help even when I really need it. But every time I’ve let go of my instinct to ‘do it myself’ I’ve reaped the rewards. It really does take a village, and not just to raise our children – to learn, grow beyond what we could, reach goals and create real change in the world, we need to give of ourselves and rely on others.
  2. Learn about money – how to earn it, track it, save it and invest it. Rufus Griscom cleverly observed on Fatherly.com poverty is freedom in youth, but money is freedom in adulthood. Never make your life’s goal about earning but know enough about money to have the chance to choose your pursuits instead of being tethered to a pay cheque.
  3. Care for your brother. I have estranged relations with a half-sister and have only recently reconnected with a half-brother, and this is sometimes profoundly heart-breaking to me – perhaps because I’ve also reaped the benefit of being close with my other incredible sister, so I have a sense of what I’m missing out on. You can’t choose family but you can make efforts to create a strong connection, and those important relationships will give you strength to be strong and independent when you feel weak. No one can understand like someone who shares your DNA, shared a house, shared a childhood or shared important moments, and that can lead to unconditional love. Care for your siblings and make an effort, even when it’s hard.
  4. Choose good friends when the opportunity comes. You actually don’t need to go to the same lengths to stay connected with friends as you do with family, because having some friends come and go over your lifetime is fine. But the core ones will simply last naturally in a lifelong dance of interdependency – so make sure they’re really good. As you grow older, the smart independent man or woman has a network of smart, independent people to lean on for guidance and support in business and personal life. Friendship-building is a hilarious thing when you’re young (“Oh, you like block towers too? This could be the start of something wonderful!”) but the premise is the same: approach those who share interests, challenge your ideas, jumpstart your admiration and make you feel good.
  5.  Find your voice and use it. I’m still working on this as are a lot of people, which is why doing it well can make all the difference. Inside our heads are a jumble of cross-pollinating ideas, pre-conceptions, weird agendas and tug of wars between instincts and information; as Mark Twain famously said, he would’ve written a shorter letter but simply didn’t have the time (to boil down his ideas into something accessible and concise). Having a vocabulary, knowing how to communicate an idea succinctly and being able to incite passion in others will go a long way in being able to stand up for yourself.
  6. Hug your mom every day. It does wonders for your independence.

    Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Community Marketing Manager for Kids & Company in Alberta and BC. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered three years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at msawatzky@kidsandcompany.com.