1. That we really should do our homework first
Pretty soon, homework will turn into papers, and papers will turn into cover letters, and cover letters will turn into actual jobs. To slack off on any of these things could be a recipe for disaster, and it’s better to know how to prioritize and get stuff done. And once you do, kicking back with the knowledge that you’ve earned your downtime will be all the sweeter.
2. That we need to eat our vegetables
That childhood metabolism doesn’t stick around forever, and while you should take advantage of it while you still can, you still need to prepare for its inevitable demise by starting good habits early. Besides, as you grow older, you realize that some vegetables are actually pretty freaking tasty — or at the very least, these days, you can turn instantly them into a smoothie or juice for a passive way to get those servings in.
3. … and that dessert should be special
One of the greatest small victories of adulthood is the day you come home and realize you could eat chocolate cake for dinner if you wanted to and nobody could stop you, but there’s still something special in desserts that have a lil’ love in them. Cake still tastes better on your birthday. Pie will always taste better at the holidays. And homemade cookies will always beat Oreos. (That sounds like blasphemy, I know, but it’s true.)
4. To shop from the sale rack first
Whether your mom was trying to stretch her money to clothe you, your siblings, and herself, or whether she was just a pragmatist, the sale rack was Mom City Central. Buying from the sale rack also taught you how to ignore things that were only trendy for one season, and to invest in stuff you’d actually wear time and time again. Though my own mom swore by the sale rack at TJ Maxx and Target, her bargain sensibilities taught me how to score blazers at J.Crew for $40 rather than the usual $200.
5. To always say please and thank you
Because even though they taught you to never talk to strangers, you could at least still be polite to people no matter the circumstances. And being polite would always get you a lot farther thank being rude. Mom or Dad might have gotten stern every once in a while, but they were usually pretty kind (or at least fair) about it. That is the art of politeness.
6. That the day would come where our siblings would be our built-in best friends
So, you know, it’s probably not the best idea to beat them into a pulp at every chance you get. One day, they’re going to be the person listed in your phone with all emojis, and you’re going to run to them about any small issue because even though they may have their own lives however many miles away, they’re still the people who know you best.
7. That you don’t have to be related to care about someone
The kindness our parents extended to our school friends, how they’d comfort them if they were homesick during a first sleepover, how they’d always remember the names of their crushes, and how they’d usually develop friendship (or at least a camaraderie) with our friends’ parents taught us about about how far a human heart could stretch. They had no obligation to like our friends — and indeed, sometimes they made it known that they didn’t like them in the least — but they’d let us know when they thought we found a good friend in how they welcomed them in as one of their own.
8. That this heartbreak would pass, and you’d find something better
If I heard the adage, “the people who are worth your tears are the ones who won’t make you cry” once, I heard it a thousand times, but it’s true. Your first heartbreak is significant because it doesn’t always have to come from your first love — it can just as easily spring from your first unrequited crush — but this ache teaches you how to recover and try again. No one will ever love you like your parents will, but the kind of love that comes close is not the one that wrecks your world when you’re 13. (And if it really is, there will always be more.)
9. That you should try your own hand at something (but asking for help afterwards is okay, too)
And even if you do ask for help, sometimes you’re still left trying to figure it out together. (My calculus homework regularly stumped my parents, and they’re both accountants.) But if I ever just asked for help without trying, they’d asked if I’d at least attempted it on my own first, and usually if I did, I’d get it. Even if this was their way of having to do the work themselves, it taught me how to rely on myself and trust that I could get stuff done on my own.
10. And that sometimes, it’s entirely worth it to put other people first
Because that’s what you do with the people you love, whether they’re the family you grew up with, or the family you curated out of friends and coworkers and signifiant others later on in life. That is the blueprint of creating a community of people whom you care about, and sometimes, all it takes to make yourself happy is to try to do your best to ensure that they’re happy, too.