Thursday, October 02, 2008

the best advice my parents ever gave me

I have decided to move out of my dad's house next year. For many reasons, including that I can now afford it, and that it seems a bit odd to be doing a masters and still be living at home. So I've started looking at flats, and there are at least two places near university where friends of mine need a new flatmate next year - exciting.

Recently on the radio, whenever they interview someone slightly, quite, or very famous, they've asked the question, "what's the best advice your parents gave you?" Often it's something like, "never give up", "believe in yourself", or "work hard".

It got me thinking - now that I'm moving out of the family home, what advice can I take with me? What catchy little slogans have been inculcated in me over the last twenty-two years by my parents?

Actually, nothing. I was talking to my dad about this last night, and he said he never wanted to be the type of parent who is always telling their kids the best way to live. He thinks it's more important to set the best possible example, instead of preaching slogans he will never live up to.

My mum was the same, pretty much. She'd advise me on very specific things, i.e., "if you don't work harder on your exam study, you will fail Calculus" (a prophecy which came true). Probably the most bittersweet memory I have of her is our talk soon before she died, in which she knew she was supposed to give some pithy, meaningful advice but found the idea so funny and alien that she advised me to "wash your clothes, keep your room tidy, and be patient with Dad", with a slight twinkle in her eye. But neither of them ever said, "y'know, Allie, life is just like a [insert metaphor here]. You've got to [insert instruction here] or you'll [insert horrible fate here]. But if you [insert unlikely task here], you'll be blessed with everything you ever dreamed of!"

Both of them were more likely to go out of their way to help others on a regular basis, to work hard for people that weren't going to give them anything in return, to care about people in practical as well as vocal ways, to be responsible yet generous with their own money, and to keep things in the ultimate perspective that God comes first and that fame or success in the world isn't really what we should be trying to achieve. If it came, good for you, but if it became the most important thing in your life, there was no point in having it. Neither of them ever told me this in so many words but I think I could fairly say that that's what they have taught me - and I'm not sure I would have listened if they'd said it in so many words.

It may even sound a bit corny having put that into words. For me, however, although there are things about my parents I don't want to be like, everything I've written above is something I will try to keep in focus for the rest of my life.


Tusk said...

That's a good point, about the advice giving. The best way you can get your kids to live a good life is by showing them how.

LEstes65 said...

I love your parents. Real life examples have gone further than pithy slogans, for me anyway.

The only thing I wish I had listened to my mom about was "Never date anyone you can't picture marrying." The problem with that is, when you're 16, you can't picture anything realistically. I also wish I had listened to her when she tried to tell me that credit cards will try to take you to the dark side of The Force. Well, she didn't use Star Wars terms. I just do to make it funnier in my head.

I don't have pithy slogans with my kids. But I recently had this conversation with my 4 yr old:

HIM: Mom, I'm NEVER gonna smoke. It makes you die.
ME: Good. You know another reason you'll never smoke?
HIM: Why?
ME: Because if you do, I will totally kick your butt.

I'm not sure that falls under Good Parenting. But it was from the heart.