The Lessons We Learn

29 Dec

Tonight I have been contemplating lessons, specifically those I have learned from my parents. A lot of what we know is what we we have gleaned from those who have birthed us. Whether we come from traditional families, single parent homes, homosexual couplings, adoptive or foster homes, and so on, we take away basic beliefs and values from whatever it is we have as our roots. I was blessed and cursed to have been raised by my two biological parents (as far as I know). They, miraculously, remain married to this day despite the many, MANY ups and downs that have comprised their pairing.

If you haven’t guessed because my sarcasm doesn’t come across via textual portrayal, my parents have not always been able to call their marriage a happy one. In fact, most of my upbringing was marred by arguments and unhappy compromises. This may in fact be because the human brain biologically and infallibly holds onto the negative more than positive (side note: did you know it takes seven positive compliments to counter act one negative remark? Lesson: compliment EVERYONE you meet, even if its to say they have a nice button on their sweater), but regardless, I remember more ways to make a bad marriage last than a good one. Remind me to tell you the story of the Christmas tree being thrown out the window one day (ornaments and all).

I think this post is sounding rather negative right now, but trust me when I say most of the lessons I have chosen somehow turn out positive.

Lessons I have learned from my parents:

1. The real meaning of what love is.

My parents grew up in a faith-based world. Both of them. This has lead to many other contributions to my lifestyle, but the one I want to talk about here is the meaning and value of real and honest love.

Growing up in a society where there are marriages that are based on touchy-feely butterfly-eske  emotions that dictate when we commit “forever” and then later when its justifiable to then leave the one we made that commitment to, I have come from a world where love is a choice we make, an action we take, rather than a whimsical emotion we guess about. I believe that Kim Kardashian and Brittany Spears marriages are avoidable and fake. I don’t aspire to have a Hollywood marriage, I want what my parents had, just better.

Don’t get me wrong here and think that all of my other posts about relationships are made up. I’m still terrified of commitment and run away every time something good comes along, but that’s a me thing I’m working on. Part of me still wants to be Cinderella, part of me still wants to wear a big ol’ white dress and walk down an aisle, there might even be doves, its just the getting to where that can happen that is the problem. BUT, when it does, when I finally make that huge commitment, it will be based on a mutual agreement that isn’t going to fall apart two year down the road. I will make the CHOICE to be with that person, through all of life’s challenges, despite how I may “feel” at any given moment. Real love grows through the bad and reaches new heights in the good, but both are necessary for a beautiful story that we can be proud of. Its not something to be given up on when things don’t go just the way they do in the movies.

2. Credit cards can quickly escalate to crisis situations.

Financially I am a responsible and mature individual. There are times I struggle to pay the bills, but that’s because I chose to be a social worker (who does that?). I started a  budget, planning ahead, and a savings account all before I was 18. I have exactly one credit card which is more often than not paid in full each month. However, all of this was accomplished not because my parents were model financial blueprints, but rather the opposite.

Growing up I never wanted for anything. If I asked, and the request wan’t outrageous, I got. Birthdays, Christmas, and random times during the year were met with a plethora of gifts. When I was young I was unaware that this was an issue. As I grew up I became wiser, or my parents worse at hiding the burden of the debt they were sinking ever quicker into.

It was later in my life I realized my mother had issues beyond compulsive spending habits. That she felt inadequate and felt that if she couldn’t be the perfect mother who could connect with her children,   then maybe she could buy their love. The guilt was something I dealt with before I had this perspective, and somewhere in my early teens I learned the difference between “want” and “need.” This has proved invaluable and I’m glad I have this lesson in my repertoire, I just wish I could give my mother the same lesson.

3. When basic needs are met sometimes you just have to be content with what you have.

We moved A LOT when I was a kid. Many things came as a result of that. Number one is my core desire to have roots. I often stay where I am even if its not perfect because I just don’t want to make the huge changes that I had so often in my childhood. Its like some part of me just wants to be still. Again, not to discount anything else I have said to this point, I still am in my mid-20s and want to live a life of adventure…its just nice to have something stable to come back to when I need to recharge.

Beyond that there is also this feeling of contentment with just having that. I think it connects to the want/need lesson. I’ll always have things that I want, but as long as my needs are met, then I really don’t have much to complain about. The rest can come with time.

4. If and when you have kids, your whole world changes.

My dad had kids at 21 and he’s practically the best dad ever. Of course he has made his mistakes and of course he’s no where near perfect, but he has rarely let me down and I always know I can turn to him and my mom when times get rough. I think I admire him even more knowing that he had me when he was so young. I mean I’m 25 and I can’t imagine having children even now. I panic every time my period is late (and that’s often since I’ve never been very regular…TMI?)

Working in the metal health field, I work with so many families in which the parents weren’t ready. This has so many rippling consequences on the parents, on the children, and society as a whole (well that escalated quickly). Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t parents out there that weren’t ready and managed to step up to the plate, I just don’t get to see them very often. The point is, if you have a kid, you are responsible for developing a new human life. I will grant that some things are out of the parent’s control and there is a very delicate balance to learn around where that line is, but on a basic level your children learn the values and ethics you instill. That is a big deal! I was blessed with parents who taught me to be a caring, loving, hopeful individual and although I may have fucked up elsewhere, that core belief system exists because of their diligence.

Finally,

5. Once a cheater DOES NOT mean always a cheater.

This is especially important to me considering how my relationship with Mr. Wrong ended and something I constantly have to remind myself.

A few years ago I was devastated to learn that my father had an affair. I was in college and it felt like my world was thrown into an abyss. It hurt us all and made me very unsure of a great many things. I had already been through my bout of infidelity, however, so I was a little more understanding and if I wasn’t convinced everything happens for a reason before that, I was after.

The point is that it wasn’t the end for my parents. My mother found it in my heart to forgive him and my father renewed his devotion to being the best husband he could be. They say that women look for men like their fathers. Not only do I think this is true, but I honestly believe that that is a large part f the reason I am still single.  I just have too high a standard.

My parents frustrate the shit out of me often, but they are solid figures in my life and I am thankful for the upbringing I had despite its shortcomings. Am I who I am with the dreams that I dream because of the family I was blessed with.

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