Older sister Jackie and I agree:
Our problems in life are directly related to our parents and the way they brought us up.
They raised us to think about others, respect our elders, and take responsibility for our actions. They often taught these lessons as casual interactions with them or others outside the family. There was more humor involved than there were raised voices and blatant reprimands shaming us in front of others were unheard of.
We ran this theory by the other three siblings and they agree: If only our parents were still around so that we could dump our issues squarely in their laps—right where they belong.
Yep, Mary and Gilbert did a lot of bad things to us, and we’re here to tell you that at 61 and 59, we’ve decided to rebel against being nice and thoughtful people. I mean, gee willikers, life’s been a tad hard keeping up with these lessons:
“Treat people the way you want to be treated.”
We heard this adage a lot and on the surface, it makes a lot of sense. But we have realized that we can be nice and helpful to someone and have them turn around and smack us down. What the heck, we ask ourselves. Yet, we can’t seem to avoid continuing trying to be good people.
We were taught to say, excuse me or pardon me, when wanting to make a point in the midst of a conversation. Stunned would be the word to describe how we feel when we start to tell something to certain people and are interrupted so many times that our point of view is totally derailed and in frustration we simply cease to speak.
“Stop making that face or it will freeze like that.”
To a little kid, that was a really interesting concept. How many of you tried keeping your face in just that contorted expression to see if it would happen? Never mind.
“Do as I tell you, not as I do.”
I often wished I had had kids for the sole purpose of using this line on them. At least Seester got to say it to her kids. Parents, good parents, do know best and when they say this, it’s from that vantage point of being older and wiser than their children. It goes along with the fact that we can all have wisdom that we choose to disregard, but we sure want to see our protege follow our advice.
“Be nice. Don’t be selfish. Think of other people first.”
Gee, how many ways can you slap the self-centeredness out of a kid? As a grown up, things would go a lot better for us—sometimes—if we’d put ourselves first. Making ourselves a priority can build self-confidence and self-trust while putting others at the head of the line teaches us kindness and generosity.
“What if someone did/said that to you?”
Ouch, that was a particularly effective one. We were never allowed to be mean to disadvantaged kids or people with a physical restriction. They taught us that there is a why behind a person who is slow, or someone walking with a white cane, or who has a hook for a hand. Our parents explained that while a person may be wearing their “disability” on the outside, if we treated them with anything less than proper regard, we wore our meanness in the open for the world to see. And that was worse. In this day of cyber bullying running rampant, this is a good lesson to keep teaching children.
“Respect your elders.”
Now that I’m elder (to anyone under 50, at least) I want to know why my generation stopped teaching this to our kids. It might be one of the main tidbits I was looking forward to benefiting from. It also probably explains one of the reasons I have such affection for the elderly. We were taught to respect those senior to us because they have lived longer, seen more, and as a result, are far more sagacious than children.
“If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
What a way to control being a bully! There may be times when we (still) should keep our mouths shut as grownups since not everything we say can be a shiny pearl of wisdom. That admitted, there are times when we owe it to ourselves to say, “Hey—you hurt my feelings/ticked me off/bruised my heart/acted like a jerk.” But we don’t, we hold it in. Or, sometimes a worse thing to do and harder because we’ve had little practice saying the bad things, words come flying out with rage instead of rational language. Better to remind ourselves: shut it.
Oh boy, is that a hard one. I distinctly remember lying to my dad when I was about seven years old. He knew the truth of the situation and knew I was lying to him. I knew he knew I was lying. Around and around we went until he finally asked, “Now, are you telling me the truth?” I burst into tears and admitted no, that I wasn’t. What a lesson in honesty! Seester, being naturally a sweeter person than I, probably never tried lying to mom or dad. Us, having learned this so clearly, are the first to tell the truth when one asks the other: “Do these pants make my butt look big?”
Our parents were married on September 1, 1951.
We miss them daily and are thankful for the life-lessons they instilled in us and the love they shared.
Our parents shared a seriously warped sense of humor.
Read: More fun family stuff, Owning the Idiot Grin