They did… I did … I hope she does…
We consciously and subconsciously carry through our lives pre-conceived ideas, learnt behaviour and negative influences from our upbringing. It’s up to each of us to choose what we carry forward in our lives and what parental lessons we will pass on to our own children.
There are multiple things in my own upbringing that highly influenced me. I almost ‘can’t help’ but pour these out onto my own, now teenage, daughter as they were so strong. But, my hope is that she will also model these to her own children…
That is, the highly positive influences my parents had on me that affected me the most.
Do any of these 5 parental lessons align with what you hope your children will learn from you?
1. We (I) will always come
I saw my parents live this out for years with my older brothers and as a teenager felt it first hand for myself time and time again.
Once we started going places without our parents and needing to make certain on-the-spot decisions for ourselves, it was drilled into us, repeatedly… call us if you need us and we will come.
It was said, no matter how much trouble you have got yourself into, no matter how mad you think we will be, no matter what end of the country you have gone to unbeknown to us… call us, we will come.
Middle of the night… call us, we will come…
Christchurch, when you’re meant to be in Timaru… call us, we will come…
Friend’s started drinking when she was meant to be the sober driver.. call us, we will come…
Scared, or feel uneasy, or your friend needs help… call us, we will come and we will take care of your friend too…
Had too much to drink when you weren’t even meant to be drinking… call us, we will come…
And they did. Every time. When things were normal and planned accordingly, they would come and when plans went astray, they would still come.
One of the most influential key things of my upbringing, I could always count on that, they would come…
It didn’t mean I wouldn’t get grounded, it didn’t mean there wouldn’t be lectures; it didn’t mean there were no long-term consequences… as there always were…
It meant they would come; we would deal with the aftermath later… once you were home safe.
My teenager is 16 now; I have been building this into her life from an early age.
Yes, just tell me where you are and I will come…
2. Help when your heart feels it, even when the world tells you not to care or is facing the other way
The guy was dirty, grunted when you walked past and considered by many in the area as a nuisance sleeping under that bridge near our house growing up.
My Mum even agreed somewhat with these comments.
But she couldn’t get past the thought and the heart-pull of the fact he would always be cold at night, and probably hungry.
She would pass him on her walks each morning and she felt it deep in her heart every time, but everyone else said don’t bother.
She ignored them, acting on what she felt and bought him a brand new, super-warm, sleeping bag and good food and took it to him. I don’t think he replied with much more than a grunt back. That didn’t matter. Giving it to him was what mattered. Acting on that heart-pull that she knew was right was what mattered.
I was 11 at the time when Mum told me about it through her tears of emotion.
This, along with my parents inviting friends to live with us when they had nowhere else to go, and it was too dysfunctional to stay in their own homes. As well as picking strangers up from airports in the middle of the night and making arrangements for them, because they were friends of friends of friends, and because they needed help.
These were the types of things that were considered normal to me and influenced my life so fully.
When they felt the heart-pull, or God’s gentle voice, or that invisible shoulder tap, or that need right in front of them, that they couldn’t have walked away… they responded to it, regardless of what the world said.
My hope is that I am modelling the same to my daughter through people, events and the times I have responded to against the world. That through my own tears for people and situations that she sees my own heart.
I’ve seen snippets of my daughter responding to those heart-pulls herself and it makes me so-so proud. Sometimes still even my own reluctance gets in the way. But as soon as I hear it’s from her own heart-pull, that instantly takes precedence even to the discomfort of myself, eg. makes us late for work, or we go without, or it takes time we don’t have.
So many things, like she has asked me to turn around the car and go back to check someone was OK that she saw out of the corner of her eye.
She has given freely from her own pocket to other people’s needs, completely unprompted from me, that has blown my socks off…
She has worked with that ‘person’ in her class that no one ever wants to because she felt it in her heart that she was meant to and she couldn’t bear to see them suffer like that.
3. Come as you are
This was one of the very early lessons from Church that I ever remember actually really hearing with my kid ears and it actually sticking to me, such that I couldn’t shake. But it’s a good one and one that my parents modelled throughout our lives, time and time again.
I remember it being delivered as a sermon, but then my Mum quietly summarised if for me afterwards in kid terms and kid visual cues and it just stuck.
Come as you are…
Come to Church as you are. Yup, great if you can shower and clean yourself up, but don’t ever let that be the barrier. Don’t wait until you can sort yourself out and clean yourself up… Come as you are.
This played out in our lives too, our friends no matter how messed up things had gotten for them; they could come to our place as they were.
No matter how much of a mess we had gotten ourselves in, come to them and they would help as we were. We didn’t have to clean it up, fix it, find the answer first… just come as we were, and we would take it from there.
This is a newer lesson I’ve been trying to instil in my own teenager as she makes more of her own decisions in life.
Come as you are, and that people can also come to her as they are.
4. There is always a way… and there is always an answer
From a very young age, my Mum always told us…
“If you ever find yourself pregnant, please do not have an abortion, come to us, we will help, there will be a way and we would raise the child, it is not the end.”
Now hear me out. My parents did also instil in us no sex before marriage. So it might sound against the grain to then say, if you ever find yourself pregnant…
But, hear me out further. It’s also very true that they didn’t want us to go through the emotional and physical pain and trauma of abortion and loss of life…
But stick with me and hear me out more. They didn’t really want to become second time around parents by inadvertently raising their own grandchild like their own…
This is the KEY… it was way-way-way more than any of the above.
It was the WHOLE message in that that was key!
It was, don’t make a hasty life-changing decision based on a narrow view of what you may perceive in that moment as being the worst thing that could have happened.
It was so-so-so much more, as it was saying, there would be ways, there would be answers, there would be a way through, this was not the end, and you are not backed into a corner, even if it feels like it.
That we never had to feel on a ledge. Never had to feel there was only one narrow escape route leading to only one door… that they had our back, even if we messed up big time, we would work through it, they were our soft place to fall, they were doors 2, 3, & 4.
We’ve just recently been going through our own ‘Teenager to Parent Agreements’ with our teen as to what our normal expectations of her everyday behaviour is around drugs, alcohol and illegal and legal substances and driving in cars, so things are clear and everyone is on the same page and to build a base from.
As an extension of the Agreement, we also listed a bunch of real-to- life type scenarios of where things have completely gone wrong, from the mild situation to the Gate crashed- Snoop-Dog- Police-called- style-Party scenarios and asked her to talk us through how she would begin to handle those and at what stages to call us, and ask for help.
This was an opportune time to reinforce those key messages my Parents instilled in me. Knowing full well that at some stage, my teen will totally mess up, that she sometimes won’t be able to see the woods for the trees and won’t know what to do next.
There is always a way. There is always an answer.
Sometimes I feel guilty.
My Parents have had, and still have a loving devoted marriage. We were fortunate to have grown up within this and have had love heaped upon us.
We also knew we had many family members, Aunties, Cousins and Friends we could turn to, go to or ask help from. This was because it was talked about frequently. We even openly talked with my parents about if they were to die, what would happen, who we would live with, who would take care of us and continue loving us. We knew it matter of factly and never doubted it.
Sometimes I feel guilty, as I know not everyone experiences this growing up.
I also sometimes feel guilty that it’s not quite what I have been able to give my own daughter.
I’m a Single Parent and have been for near 9 years and don’t have ‘within one home’ a structure of a married devoted Mum and Dad… and living unfortunately far away from family and cousins.
But I impressed this importance of LOVE to her, and knowing she had so many people around her that love her, from a really early age.
It started with with strings of pegged up photos in the lounge, kitchen and her bedroom and us frequently walking up to the photos and saying, ‘OK, tell me, who loves you’. Then we would point to each picture in turn saying who they were, and that they loved her, as she got older she could say it herself.
‘Auntie Sue loves me. Poppa Jack loves me. Roshie loves me.’ At the end, ‘wow, you have so many people that love and care for you…’
We would make it a game in the car, who she could remember without pictures who loved her so much, and sometimes it was funny as she would insert in people that didn’t quite belong like the nurse at the doctor’s office or the lady at the supermarket.
Whenever we saw those key people we would try to capture new photos with my daughter in them. As she has grown, those same phrases still come up. ‘You are so fortunate you have so many people around you that love and care for you’. ‘You have so many people to turn to, for if any reason you can’t come to me, or can’t go to your Dad’.
I’ve ensured to cover people within her Dad’s home and wider family also, so she’s knows it like the back of her hand now that she can go to those people too, they each love her dearly, there is no doubt.
Love makes you feel secure, that there is a way, that anything is possible.
And, how about you?
Today, I am celebrating my Parents.
What they did… what I do… and what I hope my teen will do with her own children.
Thanks Mum and Dad, you guys seriously Rock!
Think about your own upbringing… what have you carried forward and are instilling in your own children?
If there were negative influences in your upbringing, what have you been able to flip, remove the power from to make it a positive for your children?
Do any of the above parental influences resonate with you, if so, which ones and why?