Toss out the parenting books, friends. Let's give the Matronly ruminations quasi-religious texture: Four Pillars of Parenting.
Humility: Acknowledge your place in history -- fireflies, we flame and expire. The nanosecond of eternity in between is what matters. Make yours count. Remember, that in many ways it doesn't. Sometimes lessons we think are for our children are really ours, especially the ones we resist. Someone else has a better answer, idea, or philosophy. Except, of course, if you are the Matron because as this post would indicate, she alone posses Supreme Wisdom (bestowed by Oprah). Listen. Whatever genius or grace you possess burns brighter elsewhere. Keep looking in that direction.
Memory: What terrible urgency to be eight years old! Secrets flicker in every adult conversation or set brow: what do they know that I can't yet? Go back to the thrill of not knowing and the fear that someday, you will. The sigh and cast of eye, the frown or indifference tossed (casually, perhaps) toward a child settle in as history -- evidence of how the world works. Remember the first time you fully felt the reality of your own death: distant, impossible, annihilating-- fear narrowed the world to one primal cry for mercy. Emotion and philosophy, not time, mark childhood. Pick an age--any of them or all -- and consider the unspeakable universe that was your psyche then. How slim a percentage, really, of thoughts and feelings went beyond the timbre of your skin toward another?
Kindness: Carry memory with you at all times. That small child at the core of your history finds her/his counterpart in the child before you, now. This is not being weighed down by the past or pretending everyone is the same as you were: it is exactly the opposite. Memory used artfully -- held and rolled about, examined-- lets us address the singular, inarticulate geography of a child- parts of the self already locked and sealed, other undeveloped, fertile or raw. That's where you aim, that pulsing center. Who among us would knowingly do damage? Sometimes we so indeed engage just with the person we see during a scolding or a cuddle or a simple lunch, but sometimes (more often than not?) the experience we're creating is received and understood somewhere else, foreign and inaccessible.
Imagination: Here is the bridge between memory and kindness, between what appears to be real and what is not. This is the space where we understand another, and the space where we create the future first. Paint a world replete with possibility and joy as you define these; show this world and its malleability to your child. Memory, kindness, and humility stretch the corners of imagination, not as limits, but possibility. Imagine your day-to-day life with your child as informed by memory, kindness and humility, and it can be. Purpose is a imagination's transient partner. It's pleasant to dream and difficult to manifest. But history and future are nothing but imaginary spaces made official. Neither exists in the present moment and are perhaps the best examples of our collective imagination. Employ the power of that kind of creation--constructing entire realities that may or may not exist - in your own life and teach that power to your child.
Well. Now that she has avoided much, much work and many, many student papers AND pronounced something "The Four Pillars," she can safely proclaim this a successful evening. Plus, honestly? The above is pretty much actually everything she believes. At the moment.