Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty big fan of my parents. I always knew, even as a kid when I would grumble about all of the ‘rules’ we had, that I was lucky to have them. While not perfect, as that is not possible, they were pretty doggone close. And before you think that I say this because of how wonderful my brother and I turned out, please know that isn’t it at all (although we did turn our alright).
It is more that as I navigate parenting myself, I’ve gained a better understanding and appreciation for what it takes to try to do it well. It is, after all, our single most important job…as parents.
Anyway, I thought I would share a few lessons that I have picked up from them. Today I’ll start with some of the things I learned from my father:
- Spend more time listening and less time talking. My father rarely spoke when I was very young – at least that was the way it seemed. I didn’t really pay too much attention to this fact until I was older (and my mother did quite a bit of talking so I suppose she made up for it :-)). Looking back on it, I realize that because he wasn’t always talking, when he did speak, everyone listened.
- Have compassion for others, even when they screw up. Especially when they screw up. Whenever I made a mistake, no matter how big or small, I could always count on my father to help me feel a little less like an idiot.
- Teach people how to treat you. The small Texas town that my parents grew up in integrated schools when they were in their senior year of high school – all of the black students were moved to the high school that all of the white students had been attending. One day in between classes, one of white students chose to call my (future) father the “N” word. My father didn’t say a word – he simply went over to him and punched him in the mouth. Now, I don’t typically promote violence as an appropriate response to name-calling (in fact, to this day, Daddy still regrets that he struck the kid); however, I can certainly appreciate that in that particular situation, my father made it very clear what type of treatment he would not put up with.
- You can pick up a new skill at any age. My father earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees after the age of 40.
- Nothing good happens at the end of the party. My father never allowed me to stay at school dances or parties until the end. If something ended at 11pm, I had to be home by 10:30pm. This rule would drive me crazy! So much so that the one thing I most looked forward to when I went to college was staying at a party until the lights came up. And he was right – nothing but foolishness is happening at the end of a party!
- Bravado does not make a man, a man. At 6 feet 6 inches, my father is an imposing figure. I like to call him a gentle giant – he is really the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. I’ve seen him get angry two times in my entire life – both instances involved an adult mistreating his kids (one time it was me and one time it was my brother – both times the adult in question got the message :-))
- If you can dream it, you can achieve it. My father was the first person to explain to me the power of thinking positively and visualization. A very important life lesson!