Shortly after having my first baby boy, I started worrying about, well, everything: Is he eating enough, crawling when he should be, or getting teeth on time? Then I started thinking ahead to when he’s in school: Will he make friends? Will he be a nice boy? How will I ever be able to keep my adventurous, curious boy with complete reckless abandon alive???
To calm my worries and help guide me in my new responsibilities as a mom, I came up with a simple mantra that I still use to get my parental priorities straight: safe, healthy, happy, loved.
As a parent, I believe these items, in this order, are my main job:
First and foremost, I need to keep the boys safe, both by guarding them and by teaching them how to guard themselves as they learn to interact with the world. Right now, that’s keeping them safe and warm in the car and later it will be teaching them not to text and drive. Safety is basic to survival and foundational to an overall sense of security. I won’t get anywhere as a parent if the kids aren’t, or don’t feel, safe first.
Next, I need to keep my boys healthy by teaching them to eat well, stay active, and make good choices as they interact with others. I won’t always have control over illness or broken bones, but I believe it’s my responsibility to teach them how to do their very best with what is in their control.
After the most basic needs of safety and health are met, I believe it’s my job as a parent to not only provide many moments of squeals, giggles, games and fun, but also to teach them that happiness is a decision you make – not an emotion you feel. It’s a choice you make every day, sometimes several times a day, and I will strive to teach them to say, “yes!” to happiness.
And, if my baby boys are kept safe, healthy and choose to be happy, how can they feel anything but loved? I pray that they feel love at every turn – at home, school and church – and moreover, that they show love in return.
Sometimes parenting can be so overwhelming we don’t know how to prioritize what we should even be worried about and what to let go of – what’s a big deal and what’s just not a deal at all. This simple mantra of safe, happy, healthy, loved gives me a tool to help me focus my parenting energy on the most important things. Nobody said it would be easy, but with this little mantra in my back pocket, it can be simple.
By Emily Koski