Diving headfirst into the parental pool, I’ve come to realize it’s less about executing a perfect swan dive and more about making sure you don’t belly-flop too spectacularly in front of your wide-eyed audience. Let’s face it: parenting is a bit like trying to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions—confusing, frustrating, and you’re bound to have a few leftover parts you swear weren’t in the picture. But amidst this delightful chaos, there’s a silver lining. It’s the chance to mold ourselves into the kind of people we’d proudly point to and say, “See that? That’s a decent human being, give or take a few quirks.”

Sure, we’ll slip up, accidentally teaching them a new word when we stub our toe on the coffee table or demonstrating the art of a perfectly timed eye roll. But it’s in these moments, these wonderfully human blunders, that we find our greatest opportunity to grow. Because those little sponges are soaking it all in, not just how we celebrate our victories but how we navigate our blunders.

So, as we embark on this wild ride of child-rearing, it’s not just about steering them in the right direction; it’s about showing that it’s okay to use a little duct tape on our moral compasses when they start to wobble. By striving to be kinder, more empathetic souls, we’re not just setting the stage for them; we’re taking center stage in the grand performance of self-improvement. And who knows? By the time the curtain falls, we might just find we’ve become the heroes of our own stories, complete with a few laugh lines and the occasional pie in the face.

Navigating a few years into this parenting adventure, I’ve decided to pause and map out the character traits I’m committed to honing and passing on. It’s like taking stock mid-journey, acknowledging the terrain covered and the peaks yet to climb. These virtues are my beacons, not brandished like trophies but carried like lanterns, shedding light on the path we tread together, amidst the laughter and the occasional misstep.

Kindness

First up, we have Kindness. Ah, kindness—it’s like that warm, unexpected hug you get from someone who doesn’t realize you’re slightly sweaty from running to catch the bus. It’s that tender, almost magical ability to soften the stoniest of hearts with nothing more than a smile or a well-timed cup of tea. And in the realm of parenthood, it’s about as essential as knowing the precise location of the nearest bathroom at all times.

Generosity

Then there’s Generosity, which, in the parental handbook, extends far beyond forking over the last slice of pizza. It’s about giving your time, your undivided attention, and occasionally, your sanity, all in the name of nurturing these little humans who believe every cardboard box is a spaceship.

Curiosity

Curiosity is next, and let me tell you, it’s not just for cats. It’s that relentless pursuit of knowledge, that insatiable “Why?” that echoes through the halls at all hours. It’s about the likelihood of dedicating your dusk hours to understanding the physics behind the perfect slime consistency, just to keep up with your son’s intense fascination with non-Newtonian fluids.

Empathy

Now, Empathy—that’s the real kicker. It’s the ability to tune into the emotional frequencies of a pouting preschooler and decode the complex signals of a toddler meltdown. It’s like being an emotional detective, one who’s realized too late that the pay is in hugs and the occasional sticky, juice-box-stained high-five.

Compassion

Compassion is the superhero cape we wear when the world seems a bit too harsh, a bit too unkind. It’s the power to heal skinned knees and bruised egos with a kiss and a well-placed band-aid. It’s what turns a simple “It’ll be alright” into a beacon of hope in the stormy seas of youth.

Welcoming

Welcoming is the art of opening your arms, and occasionally, your refrigerator, to the myriad friends, foes, and frenemies our kids bring into our orbit. It’s about creating a home that’s less about matching furniture and more about unmatched memories. (This one is… quite challenging for me.)

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is perhaps the trickiest of the lot. It’s looking in the mirror and acknowledging that, yes, those bags under your eyes are designer, and no, you don’t really have all the answers. It’s a journey of discovery, where the most profound revelation might just be that wearing socks with sandals is never, ever a good look.

Optimism

Optimism in parenthood is like believing that one day, you’ll get through an entire meal without discussing bodily functions. It’s a glimmer of hope that shines brightly, guiding us through the darkest of diaper changes and the most catastrophic of public tantrums.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the parental superpower that allows us to look past the shattered vase, the crayon masterpieces on the living room wall, and the occasional fib about who really ate the last cookie. It’s about understanding that mistakes are just part of the package, much like those assembly-required toys that never quite look like the picture on the box.

Silliness

And lastly, Silliness—it’s the secret ingredient, the spice of life in the often bland stew of daily routines. It’s the ability to laugh at ourselves, to find joy in the absurd, and to remember that sometimes, the best response to life’s chaos is a good, old-fashioned tickle fight.

So there you have it, my roadmap to parental enlightenment. It’s a path fraught with unexpected detours, occasional potholes, and the ever-present threat of stepping on a Lego in the dark. But it’s also a journey filled with laughter, love, and the kind of tiredness that’s surprisingly, wonderfully fulfilling.

Here’s to getting magnificently, meaningfully exhausted.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.