The Gifts My Parents Gave Me

Lesson number: 

Being a parent is perhaps the most important responsibility any human being can engage in. There's little or no training received by most prospective parents, on how to do the job right or how to do it at all. Throughout history and throughout the world today, children in their teens who can barely fend for themselves are forced into parenthood. Yet the beat goes on and too many babies are brought into this world, to individuals who will have a difficult time being responsible and nurturing parents.

In this lesson, I would like to share some insights on why I feel I was so fortunate to have very special parents. Parents who provided what all children really need, which is to lay the groundwork for your child to become an independent, responsible, mature adult. However, first let me set the stage by saying that I believe that great parents and wealth have very little to do with each other. I think that many baby boomers of this world have lost sight of this fact.

Too many families consist of both parents working constantly, in order to provide themselves and their children with every imaginable material item or "EXPERIENCE" available. Like adults, children will rarely be satisfied with the things they NEED as opposed to the things they WANT and MUST have. There just are no limits to the WANTS of men, women and children. As an example we can all agree that Jay Leno is a diligent and accomplished host of The Tonight Show. He earns lots of money for performing his job well. He maintains a fairly low profile and leads a simple life compared to other stars in Hollywood. And he happens to love collecting cars and motorcycles, which is his passion. However from a practical point of view, it would be difficult to say he needs 85 high priced cars and 70 expensive motorcycles. However I am sure if you asked him, he would like to have 50 more of each. Similar wants are true with children. Regardless of how many toys; video games; clothes; or other material goods or experiences you can afford to bestow upon them; they will always be asking for one more wish that they MUST have granted. Thus, a few more hours at work for Mom and Dad might be necessary, in order to keep everyone happy and content.

I believe I was quite fortunate, that my dear parents were not able to shower me with everything my little heart desired as I grew up. I surely was not any different than any of the children growing up today. If I believed it were possible, I would have gladly taken every single thing I really didn't NEED, that my parents were willing and able to buy for me. The difference between me and the kids today was that I knew that my parents couldn't afford to shower me with non-essentials. Thus I never expected them to. Nor did I expect anyone else to give me anything.

Luckily most of today's material items like ridiculously expensive toys, video games, cell phones, computers and i-pods didn't exist when I was growing up. If they did I may have been considered one deprived little guy. As I grew up, my new clothes (not of the designer genre) were bought for Christmas; birthdays and possibly a new suit every Easter. I received a new pair of shoes only when my old pair no longer fit or the old shoes were too worn out for the shoemaker to repair. Yet I always believed that I was quite rich since we ate well and lived in a warm cozy house, filled with lots of love.

Looking back at my relationship with my parents, I can only say that it was wonderful. The real gifts they gave me never got old or outdated like cell phones and i-pods. The gifts they provided me lasted my entire lifetime. And actually became more valuable to me as time passed, like fine wine or expensive cognac. Their gifts were the values they bestowed upon me to be honest; fair; caring; proud and responsible. They knew how to bring out the best in me, by constantly preaching to me about "doing the right things that they would be proud of." And their preaching actually worked. They weren't checking up on me every five minutes to see if I was following their suggestions and I really wanted to make them proud of me more than anything else in the world. If they saw me fail or fall they would suggest I'd better get up quick and figure out why I failed so that I wouldn't repeat the same mistake again. In contrast to today's parents, if a child fails at something, their parents are looking for someone else to blame instead of teaching their kids to get up and try harder the next time.

As an adult from my 20's through my late 40's my parents did everything humanly possible, not to burden their children with their own problems. They were married for close to 60 years and totally took care of themselves their entire lives. Likewise from the time I went away to college, I never burdened my parents with any of my own problems. They never knew when I was ill and I never discussed my daily disappointments or challenges. As far as they were concerned I was always doing just fine! I learned to handle my difficulties early on and only shared all the great stuff about my family and career with my parents. For decades we exchanged positive gifts of pride and inspiration that made for a wonderful, respectful relationship. To this day, my memories of my parents just ooze with all the love and respect we had for each other.