I remind parents regularly that nothing affects our children as strongly as the way that they observe us living our lives. I didn’t have perfect parents, and I don’t believe that anyone does, but I did have really great ones. I wanted to point out a few of the seemingly small choices that they made in my childhood that had a profound impact on me, and helped to make me the person that I am today.
*Thank you for loving food; for cooking at home, for teaching me how to cook, and for having a deep and abiding respect for food culture.
*Thank you for being readers. I am sure that I was read to often as a child, but it is not something that I remember. What I do remember is that both of my parents often had reading materials in their hand. I remember going to the library and checking out books together.
*Thank you for encouraging travel. My parents loved to go to new places and see new things. They were brave enough to send me to France when I was fifteen, and it had an overwhelming impact on the way that I see the world.
*Thank you for exposing me to the outdoors. I still have trouble with outside. The sun can be hard on me, bugs can be hard on me, allergies plague me, and dirt is still difficult for me. If they had not had such an abiding love for the outdoors, I may have ended up hiding inside with a book perpetually.
*Thank you for teaching me to respect art and music. We didn’t have a lot of television going on in our house unless I was the one watching it. My parents didn’t really do sports, we weren’t fans, and we didn’t go to games or anything. My mom crafted, and my dad gardened. We went antiquing and listened to music. We skied and hiked. I didn’t learn anything about football until I was in my thirties.
*Thank you for teaching me work ethic. Neither of my parents was ever lazy or apathetic, and they taught me how rude it was to sit and watch people work without pitching in.
*Thank you for teaching me respect. We all go through a phase when we are children when we are little pains in the butt. I am sure that they worried that I would never pick up on the respect that they always showed to other people, but of course I did. Our parents are our largest influence at the most impressionable time in our lives. If my parents had been the type of people who treated others poorly, then I would very likely be the same way today.
Be the kind of human being that you want for your children to grow up to be. It is as simple as that. If you want for them to grow up and be happy, then figure out how to be happy, right now, so that you can set that example for them. As parents we do the most absolutely important, and socially undervalued job in the world. Do it well, and you will be hearing this sort of appreciation coming from your kids one of these days. Most important of all, you will know that they are happy.