The Most Important Lessons My Parents Taught Me (and that I'll be teaching my daughters, too!)
When I was editing the throwback pictures from last week's post and they inspired this post. My parents have taught me so many things and it's true what they say...being a parent yourself makes you appreciate those lessons so much more. Every day that I'm a parent, I find myself saying, "Wow. They must have dealt with this, too. How did they do it?!"
Of the many lessons my parents taught me, these are my five favorites. :-)
You are beautiful.
There has been a lot of debate on the internet these days about whether or not we should tell our daughters that they're beautiful. But do you know what? I have friends whose parents told them they were beautiful and friends whose parents didn't and...the ones whose parents didn't are not more confident because of it! Quite the contrary! I went through my fair share of awkward stages growing up, like any kid, but I always knew that my parents thought I was beautiful. And when I wasn't sure if I believed it myself, knowing that they believed it so strongly kept me going.
You are wanted and loved.
My parents didn't have an easy time getting pregnant, and it took them many, many years of suffering from infertility before they were blessed with twins. You better believe that we were told that, often, when we were growing up. We were constantly reminded that we were the answer to prayer.
Now, as a parent, I know that there are some days when you feel taxed to the max and it's easy to forget how much you do want your children. But, it helps to take a deep breath and remember what a gift they are. Watching my parents taught me that. I don't know how they did it, but they had a way of making us feel so wanted even though I'm sure there were days that we probably tested the outer bounds of their patience. They chose to love us, even on those hard days.
I think what made the biggest difference was their ongoing effort to say those magic words, "I love you." Those words were heard very frequently around our house. And they weren't empty words. They were an underlying chorus to our days. They were a reminder. They reminded me that, no matter how annoying/stubborn/awkward/needy/difficult I was at times...I was loved. And my parents weren't going to give up on me.
My parents weren't perfectly patient with me, and we certainly argued. But I knew that I was loved. And that confidence helped me to make it through a lot of challenges that I faced in life. I want the same for my girls. I want to smother them with tenderness and affection, so they know how treasured they are.
Seek God, and you will find Him everywhere.
Okay, major disclaimer? My dad went to a Franciscan minor seminary in high school (when he was discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood). He became a third order Franciscan while there. He loves St. Francis so much that he gave him as a patron to one of his daughters. So, I imagine that some of this is an off-shoot of his Franciscan spirituality.
My parents, as I've shared before, really did a good job of making our Catholic faith a natural part of our lives. Part of that was helping us to see the fingerprints of God wherever we looked. My parents are both appreciative of beauty, and they instilled that in us as well. They helped us to see beauty in grand things - beautiful churches and monasteries, the ocean and the Great Lakes, the Rocky mountains, etc. But they also helped us to see beauty in the little things. They were quick to note and acknowledge when they saw God at work in their lives. I hope to instill the same sense of God's closeness in my daughters' lives, too.
You belong right here.
Life is full of ups and downs, isn't it? There are some amazingly kind people in the world, some amazingly unkind people and everyone in between. Encountering hurt and rejection is unavoidable, and I experienced my fair share growing up. But my parents instilled something in both my sister and I - we had a place where we would always belong. We belonged in our family! We had a strong family culture, which included inside jokes and happy memories.
Thankfully, Andrew had the same experience growing up, and our own strong family cultures has reinforced for us the importance of establishing our own family culture. We want our daughters to know that, when the world overwhelms them they can always come home! We want home to be a place where they can feel they belong, just as we did in our own homes when we were growing up.
Talk. I'm listening.
Something that I underestimated about having daughters is how chatty they are. Even before they can talk, they have so much to tell you. (Maybe this is just my daughters?) At any rate, I remember the many time that my mom was cooking dinner, or my dad was working on something at his desk, or I was driving in the car with them...and I just needed to talk about something. When I was little, it was often a barrage of questions (can't imagine where my oldest gets that from!) and when I was older it became discussions about more serious things. But my parents both made one thing clear - they were there for us to talk to. And they wanted to hear what we had to say.
Now, as a parent, I know that you can't always do that perfectly. I certainly don't and I know my parents didn't either. But the overarching theme of my childhood was that they were there and they did want to hear what I had to say. And I hope to help my daughters to know that, too.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. I hope I can do as good a job as you both did!!!