This week's Listicle prompt was "10 Things My Parents Did Right." I hesitated at first to participate because, while I love my parents, we have a complicated relationship. They meant well, but sometimes they really f-ed up. We all do, God knows I do, but my parents did a special job of it in some ways, and it has taken a long time to move past it. I've forgiven and learned to set appropriate boundaries with them so that we can have a relationship, but it's not easy. I've read Philip Larkin's "This Be The Verse" and listened to David Wilcox' "Covert War" more times than I can count. Because I didn't heed Mr. Larkin's advice and did have kids of my own, I have spent a lot of time in therapy and self-reflection trying to make sure I don't repeat the same patterns with Tweak and Tink. I do OK, but I don't take any of it for granted.
To make matters worse, now that the kids are more than adorable lumpkins, I see some of the same toxicity leaching through to my parents' dealings with them. That makes me so, so sad, and also sometimes angry like a mama bear on meth. I looked at the prompt this morning and thought, if you don't have anything nice to say ... and yet. The Momalog posted a beautiful, moving list of things she learned from her alcoholic parents. Her ability to see past the bad parts and find positivity and love really inspired me. My parents weren't alcoholics, nor were they intentionally cruel; they were just way in over their heads, and they did not handle the stresses life dealt them well at all. I know they did the best they were capable of doing, and I don't blame them for my own occasionally poor choices in life, but I've spent so much time walking the battlements over the years that I have sometimes lost sight of the good things I learned from them.
So, here's my list of 10 things my parents did right, in no particular order. Thanks to Stasha for hosting the Listicle and prodding me, however slowly, into a moment of personal growth.
- My parents gave me a great love of language, which led to a lifelong passion for books and reading, not to mention a useful vocabulary, an instinctive (usually) grasp of good grammar, and the ability to turn a phrase.
- My parents taught me the many and varied joys of sarcasm and other forms of dry humor.
- My parents taught me to value education and to excel in school.
- My parents gave me an interest in all kinds of food, and a willingness to try new things.
- My father made sure that I knew how to change my own tires, check my own oil, and maintain my car faithfully. I know he did this for me so that I would be safe.
- My mother made sure that I knew how to cook, do laundry, and clean up after myself. I've met lots of people who didn't leave home with those skills, and it wasn't pretty.
- My parents worked hard and made sure I learned to do it, too.
- My parents showed me that you can continue to love your children even when they disappoint you by completely rejecting your religious and political views and forgetting to write thank-you notes.
- By growing up with my parents, I learned to be extremely sensitive to others' emotions and to what might be going on under the surface of a situation, and to triage. This had a negative side because sometimes I failed to assert myself for fear of upsetting anyone, but I am very good at dealing with distraught people and calming a contentious situation, and in an emergency, I'm totally your girl.
- I learned from my parents that people will surprise you - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Everybody, no matter how they present on the surface, has his or her demons to fight, and his or her angels struggling to get through. It's always best to keep that in mind, tread softly, and err on the side of kindness, but also to watch your back, just in case.
That has to be worth a few therapy sessions. Have a good week, everyone.