At the New Year, we often start thinking about resolutions. We set goals to lose weight, to work out more, to eradicate a vice or two. This year, one of my resolutions is to be more intentional about sharing my thoughts with the important people in my life. We often wait too long to say things to those closest to us. We have all heard beautiful eulogies and wondered if the person being so lovingly described had the pleasure of hearing those thoughts articulated to them during their lifetime.
And in contrast, I have often heard from friends who are loath to criticize a child for fear of "hurting their feelings" who then regret failing to make their values understood or sharing their expectations.
My overall takeaway as I was reflecting on this topic was to recognize the importance of seizing the moment to say what is on our minds: To take advantage of every opportunity to communicate our values to our children and to tell people in our lives they are loved and appreciated.
Think about how you feel when someone recognizes you for a job well done or acknowledges the significant role you have had in their lives. I remember hearing about the passing of one of my favorite high school teachers and writing to his sister to share my condolences and my gratitude for what I had taken from my experience with him. When I finished that letter, I took out a second sheet of paper to write a letter to another teacher who had made a profound difference in my life -- a teacher who saw value in me when I didn't recognize it in myself. I didn't want to wait to hear about her passing and tell her surviving family. I wanted her to know how I felt now, while it she could still appreciate the sentiment.
If you are blessed to experience your child's bar/bat mitzvah or wedding and you get to toast them in public, please don't squander the opportunity. Take advantage of the moment and share the sense of wonder we parents feel when we watch our children grow and achieve and stumble and persevere and love. Consider the precious opportunities we get to talk publically about our children. Don't think for a moment they aren't listening and be very mindful of the fact what we say matters. I have often heard my words parroted back to me by my children; words shared with a friend on the phone or over tea in the kitchen when I thought all children and their ears were upstairs. This year I want them to hear me when I am speaking directly to them. Sharing my words of love, praise, disappointment, fear, desire and expectation.
We should all take time to do this. When you send that birthday note to a college friend or colleague, or your mother, take an extra minute to share something about your relationship or an observation about them as a person. Imagine the richness of the card conveying to the reader a sense of your appreciation of the friendship or the comfort you receive from having them on the other end of the phone when you just need someone to listen.
And, please don't be afraid to take a stand. My 20-year-old son may tire of my repeated conversations with him about my position on drinking and drugs, but we will continue to have them. He may not always listen to what I say, but he will know how I feel and understand when his actions are divergent with the values I have taught and the expectations I have shared. And I am modeling the kind of honest interactions intended to instill in my children a willingness to engage in dialogue about any and all topics.
So, this year, join me and share your thoughts with your loved ones while you have the time to do it and the time to enjoy the deeper relationship you will have created with your openness. We have so much to gain by clear direct communication. However, please resist the temptation to misinterpret my words as a grant of permission for meanness hidden in the guise of honesty or full disclosure. Share your admiration, your love, your values, and your beliefs, always being mindful to be constructive in your criticisms and fair in your judgments.
Wishing you all a year filled with health and happiness and opportunities to communicate honestly and directly with those who matter the most.