Friday, February 21, 2014

Lessons I Learned from My Parents

What a day yesterday was! I woke up before 5 am to the poor kitten trying to cough up a hair ball. He's never had a hair ball in all three and a half years we've had him, so it's still unnerving to me when he starts coughing. You'll notice yesterday was the second day in a row that he has woken us up before the alarm; I can only assume he's preparing us for taking care of an infant. (Although we do not anticipate any hair balls from our child, it's best to be prepared for everything.)

After work yesterday, I did some apartment hunting until I picked up Terry, and then we ventured back up to West LA to check out an apartment together, which turned out to be another disaster of an experience.

Next up was the really exciting part of the day: happy hour to celebrate Jenn! Jenn has been working toward her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education for almost five years, and yesterday she officially defended her dissertation. I could not be more excited or proud; it's been so interesting to watch Jenn complete her research and become such an expert in her field. Terry and I joke that she's our child-rearing guru, and we're already bombarding her with questions. Congratulations, Jenn!

While happy hour was a blast, I struggled with another of my stomachaches for almost the entire afternoon and evening, and I finally had to head home around 8. I think the stress of apartment hunting was getting to me, so it'll be nice to have a weekend off. I'm going to Vegas this weekend to visit my friend Amanda! We have big plans to check out her favorite Vegas spots, hang out in our PJs, and watch Pitch Perfect. It's exactly what I would plan for a girls' weekend!

Lessons I Learned from My Parents
I'm not sure what inspired this part of the post, but last night as I was doing dishes I got to thinking about what my parents taught me and how those lessons still affect me. I guess as I anticipate my own impending parenthood, I can't help but imagine what types of lessons I want to teach my own children. So here are a few lessons I learned from Mom and Dad, either directly or through examples, over the last 28 (and a half) years:

  1. Everything happens for a reason. My mom says this phrase almost every time I talk to her, and it never gets old. I can't tell you how much faith I have in the universe's ability to sort out what's "supposed" to happen and what's not. Yesterday, when we found out that the apartment we wanted doesn't allow cats, I felt so discouraged and frustrated. But I quickly reminded myself that it just wasn't meant to be. Anytime I face disappointment, I  rest assured that the universe is looking out for me and making sure I'm headed in the direction I'm supposed to. It sounds a little like denial when I type it out, but hey, it gets me through the tough stuff.
  2. Go out of your way to be kind. I learned this one through my dad's example. I can't even remember all the times he made some small gesture to help someone else, even if it went without thanks or recognition. He took out and put away our elderly neighbor's trash cans every week without expecting anything in return. We had some workers come to our house once and he suspected that the assistant wasn't getting his fair share of the money, so my dad paid him separately and asked me to translate to Spanish that the money was only for him. I've learned that this type of kindness--selflessly helping others--does not need to be repaid. It just makes you a good person, and it makes the world a better place. People know they can depend on you and that you will gladly help them. I hope to set the same example for my kids.
  3. Invest in your future. Time and time again, my dad has lectured me to put money into retirement, to keep a healthy savings account, to build up my credit. I had no idea how grateful I would be for his advice, and I'm sure I still don't completely appreciate it. But I look at how my parents have managed to retire very young and still live full, exciting, adventurous lives, and I'm eager to be able to do the same. Right now, my parents are building their dream home (less than a month until they move in!), vacationing in Hawaii, and planning an extended visit for when their grandchild arrives, and they aren't even 60! I am so proud of what they have accomplished and hope I can do the same.
  4. Continue to enjoy your own life, even after you have children. My brother and I grew up knowing how proud our parents were of us and enjoyed a childhood full of family memories. We took family vacations, my parents attended Chris's baseball games and my dance competitions, we spent holidays together. But we also knew that there were times when my parents needed to be away from us and to spend time together or with just adults. Back then I viewed it as time for me to be away from them, but now I see the reverse was true as well. My parents took vacations here and there without us, went out to dinners just the two of them, and cultivated relationships with their own friends. I think there are different ways to strike the balance between being involved with your kids' lives and having your own life, and Terry and I will have to figure out what that balance is for us, but I'm glad to have my parents' model as a starting point.

  5. Speaking of balance, Find a healthy balance between work and family. To be honest, my parents did bring work home with them sometimes (I remember some dinner conversations where they would actually speak in police code to each other about what happened during the day), but I still think they found ways to make sure family was the priority. While their hours were unconventional, they still demonstrated that family came first. They also communicated clearly to my brother and me that sometimes work does interrupt (like when Dad had to work on Christmas and we had to wait until his break to open presents), and that's a valuable lesson, too. We learned patience and saw that sometimes a sacrifice is necessary in order to provide for the life you want to live.
  6. Stay active. My mom sets an example of one extreme--working out almost every day--and my dad sets a more moderate example, but I do believe a large part of my appreciation of physical fitness comes from my upbringing. We were always an active family: water skiing, snow skiing, family walks, hiking, swimming in our backyard, riding bikes, going to the gym. I cherish those memories with my parents, and Terry and I are already excited to teach our kids to swim and ride bikes. My parents have virtually no health problems, and I attribute at least part of their health to the fact that they stay so active! They still go on crazy long hikes, ski, go to the gym, and even try new things (my dad texted me yesterday that he stayed up on a paddle board for a record time!).
  7. Have a sense of humor. Okay, Dad takes the credit for this one. Don't get me wrong, my mom has a sense of humor too and is always the life of the party, but Dad tends to look for the humor in every situation. When I'm upset and talk to my dad, he forces me to lighten up, even if I'm reluctant to do so. It keeps things in perspective, and I've found myself learning to enjoy life's irony and annoyances rather than getting down on myself.

  8. Always have a drink ready for a guest. This one is Terry's contribution to the list. I asked him what lessons he's learned from my parents, and this was the first thing to pop into his head. It is true, though, that anytime we show up at my parents' house, Mom immediately asks, "What are you drinking?" So there you go.
What lessons have you learned from your parents or other mentors?


  1. One thing I learnt from my parents is that family always comes first - no matter what - and that some friends count as family too. It doesn't matter whether they really "want" to, or even if they have the time - when it comes to family, my parents will drop what they're doing to help and I really respect that