My dad taught me a lot about being a parent. After all, he was the one who raised me for the majority of my life. But funnily enough — it was my mom who taught me a lot about being a dad. I was a young kid when she died but dang, did she ever model some lifelong lessons I use every day as a dad.
1. Smile when you see your kids.
My mom visibly showed her love every single time she saw my face. In the morning. When I walked in the door carrying wet, smelly fish. She showed it when she was tired. Frustrated. And even angry. And experiencing that feeling many times a day — no matter what — mattered.
2. Say what you mean and move on.
My mom never beat around the bush. Tap-danced. Tiptoed. Dropped subtle hints. She rarely moped around the house. She didn’t make you guess. She simply trusted her feelings enough to say what she meant. But she was always thoughtful. Never mean. And she was always abundantly clear.
3. Make time to play and laugh.
I don’t remember my mother’s voice anymore. But I remember her laugh. And I remember how her eyes smudged and crinkled together when she laughed. Her cheeked puffed out. And when she laughed hard her eyes would fill with tears. These are the memories I have of her. I cherish them. And I can only hope my own children have similar memories of me.
4. Kids need to be held accountable and experience failure.
My mother balanced her warm and tender side with the skills of an Army drill sergeant. I hated it at the time. She was firm and did not budge on the “important” things in life. My brothers and I were all held accountable for an abundance of age-appropriate things. We were expected to learn from our mistakes. Failure was nothing to be ashamed of, but it was something we were expected to grow from.
5. There is true value in the mundaneness of parenting.
My mother was peaceful. She was proud of her role in life. She found no value in comparison with others. She measured her life and her own self-worth based on an internal checklist of those things she knew was important. She knew that life and lessons happened in the nooks and crannies of each day. And she made sure she was present and available for each and every one of those moments.
6. How you treat others matters.
My mom showed interest in everyone she encountered — and I mean everyone. The store clerk. The bus driver. The mom across the street. My friend, Kirk. The nameless guy who changed her oil. Everyone. She had zero tolerance for hurtful actions. Or exclusion. She not only modeled these beliefs, she enforced them religiously with her children. We were not above anyone. And because we were fortunate in so many ways, ourselves, we were expected to always help and support others.
Parents matter. That’s what my mom taught me. She showed me that no matter how long we all have on this planet, we have the ability to impact our children. Forever.
That’s a good reminder, isn’t it? Especially when we feel slumped in the routineness of the life we’re living.
Little things matter. We matter. Don’t forget that. Okay?