My parents are rockstar human beings. They are encouraging, adventurous and brilliant.
So when I started researching and writing about the love between parents and children – and how that love motivates Opportunity International clients to work tirelessly to create bright futures for their children – I couldn’t help but think about the many things my parents have taught me. I could probably fill a book with wise lessons from my parents, but in the interest of time and space, in no particular order, here are 10 things my parents taught me that I will never, ever forget:
Books are a life-source. Reading is not a chore, it is an opportunity to explore and dream and learn about the worlds inside of our heads and outside of our walls. My parents taught me to love reading. They let me choose books that I found interesting. They fostered in me a deep love of the library. They asked me what I was learning.
It didn’t take much to convince us that books were cool – my parents’ bookshelves were all the proof we needed.
Eating spiders? Not weird, just different. Speaking Chinese? Not weird, just different. That village in Rwanda? Not weird, just different.
Just because I don’t understand something does not mean that it is wrong. In fact, you just might discover that the different actually looks a whole lot like us.
As a student, I was taught that smart and cool were the same thing. It was never about the grades or the college admissions – it was about owning your intelligence and making full use of the brain inside of your head.
As a kid, I didn’t understand why we would wander aimlessly around a new city without a destination. Now I do. It’s because the destinations can get in the way of the experiences. Understanding a new place requires experiencing a new place – off the beaten path of tour guides and guidebooks. It requires exploration.
My mom never loved cooking. Instead of spending hours preparing a meal, we would laugh and eat and spend time together. And we would dance. Because really, there is no better place to have a dance party than in the middle of the kitchen.
I learned that sometimes fun beats formal. My mom taught me that spending long amounts of time doing something you don’t enjoy is usually not worth it. It’s far better to invest in relationships than worry about doing things the “right” way.
First, figuratively. Set big, crazy, how-will-I-do-this? goals. Don’t settle for dreams that are easy to accomplish. Tell yourself you are going to sail around the world.
Second, literally. Travel – often and much. To places far away and around the corner. Never, ever stop exploring.
My parents taught me to save my money by telling me that someday, I would need to have enough money to buy a couch. While they couldn’t have predicted that I would inherit a couch for free, they were right about saving. Forgoing silly purchases in favor of a savings account allowed me to afford a cross country road trip and a backpacking adventure in Asia – it was totally worth it.
Like most kids, we were taught to be kind – but we were also taught to care. My parents showed us that other people, regardless of their circumstance or personality, were valuable. People have stories that are worth sharing – and it is our privilege to bear witness to these narratives.
If there is one thing my parents always encouraged my sister and me to do, it was this: do what you love. My parents fanned the flames of my interests, allowing me to explore and discover what I truly loved. And when I found those things that made me come alive, they cheered me on to do more of those things – as much as possible.
And as if they could see the future, they knew that someday, that passion would convert beautifully into a career.
I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am loved.
Independent of any of my successes or failure, I will always be encouraged, supported, cheered on and loved. It is the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.
As I think about families around the globe, I am confident that my experience is not unique. Our parents or guardians or siblings or friends teach us to be the people we become. In a careful combination of biology and circumstance, we develop personalities and craft our future identities.
My hope is that every child has the opportunity to learn positive lessons from their family. It’s why I believe in sharing not just my family’s story, but other families’ stories as well.
Check out more incredible parents believing in their kids on the Opportunity blog!