CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I realized the other day that out of the thousands of people I've met over the years, my absolute favorite is the one I made myself. Who'd have thought? I mean, I can't even cook a decent omelet, so pulling off something as complicated and time consuming as assembling a person, and having that person be someone I actually like --that's quite a feat. It's even more remarkable considering this person happens to be in her teens, a stage most would agree is not the most enchanting part of the human assemblage process.It's astounding how fast it's gone. In just a little over two years, she'll be out of high school. I know being a parent doesn't end when the child hits 18, but it feels like the ride is beginning to slow, that it's drawing to a close. And there's still so much I want to share with her, things I learned the hard way or didn't know to value until I was so much older than she. A few months ago, I started jotting down and saving little insights -- notes written on the backs of checkbooks and receipts, emails and texts I'd send to myself, pages torn from magazines or copied from websites and books. What I've been saving has already grown too large to share in a single column, and I hope readers will share wisdoms of their own. Tidbits they want their own children to know. Shortcuts to a happier life.
• If something you're about to undertake looks too big and scary, try not to look at the entire staircase. Just see a single step. Break whatever is too big into do-able parts. Take on one at a time, then move on to the next. • Be curious. Replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity. • If the person you're with ever treats a service person bad -- talks down to them, cheats them into getting something for nothing, makes a ridiculous mess, or doesn't tip -- walk away as fast as you can. And be on the lookout for those who go out of their way to do kindnesses for strangers. They are the people you want in your life. • George Burns once said, "It is better to be a failure at something you love than a success at something you hate." This is what I want for my child more than most anything. Find what you love and want and come up with a game plan to get it. Do what makes you come alive. Find a way to make that your living. If that isn't possible, find a living that funds your life well enough to let you do what you love.• Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams. Negative people have no place in your life. DO NOT SETTLE.• Losing or failing at something doesn't have to be a bad thing. You generally learn more from failing than you do from succeeding. I love how writer Tom Burns (from "The Good Men Project") put it:"Winning is fun, but it teaches you nothing. Failure is the best teacher in the world. Winning is a trophy, failing is an education. The key to surviving failure is to not take it personally. This is why video games make great educational tools. Mario doesn't rage at the world when he fails to jump over a pit. He just starts back at the beginning and tries again until he figures out how to rescue that princess."• Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things will happen and people will be drawn to you. The only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude toward it.• Learn how to enjoy being alone. If you're OK with yourself, like your own company, can entertain yourself without assistance, your life will be so much richer.• There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. There are lessons to be learned from everything that happens to you, although you sometimes have to look hard to figure out what it was.• My girl already seems to know this one, but there's a power in not being afraid to look ridiculous. It opens you up to so many things you might've otherwise missed. It you aren't afraid to look stupid, your children (when they're small) will be endlessly entertained and (when they're teens) will fear screwing with you because they will recognize your limitless willingness to look like an idiot. • Debt is evil and smothering and can suck the fun out of life. If you're going to go into debt for something, make sure it's absolutely worth it.
• If I could give you one thing in this world, it would be the ability to see yourself through my eyes. Only then would you realize how special and amazing you are. To share your parenting wisdoms, email Karin Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.