“Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you,” I sang quietly given that I was in a crowded airport. Our tradition of forcing family members to sing their age to the same melody hasn’t changed. “I am 85 years old, I am 85 years old. Today is my birthday. I am 85 years old!” my Father sang back with gusto.
Dad loves to sing and never misses an opportunity. It wasn’t uncommon to have him bust in the middle of a knock-down fight my sister and I were having and belt out “Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters” (Irving Berlin’s lyrics featured in the movie White Christmas). When he wasn’t in the mood for a show tune, it wasn’t uncommon to hear, “If I have to come up there, I’m going to crack you both!” and mean it.
They say children don’t always listen to what their parents say, but they’re always watching what they do. As someone who works diligently to model the behavior I want to see in my own teenage daughters, I love this truth. Unless of course, I’m doing something I wish they wouldn’t! (Cue up Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55!”)
In celebration of my Dad’s birthday and my Mom’s 75th around the corner, I’d love to share with you a few key life lessons from my folks. Not what they told me, but what they showed me.
“One is Silver, the Other is Gold“: This Scout song speaks to friendship. And like the song, my folks who moved over 8 times (twice to a new state), immediately begin socializing and building new friendships no matter where they land. They don’t wait for people to come to them, but rather look for ways to reach out and get involved. And the list keeps growing as they never lose sight of the connections they’ve made along the way. Both are blessed to have people in their lives they knew in school, and they nurture those friendships. No matter how busy you are, why not commit to calling a gem of a friend or client this week?
“Macho, Macho Man” by the Village People: Even though my father could have played the macho card given he had played professional football prior to meeting my mother, he was a true team player and parent. Wanting to build a secure future for our family, both my parents worked outside of the home and took shifts with housework and childcare. Whether changing a diaper, swirling a toilet or grocery shopping, no job was beneath my Dad and hugs were plenty. How can you show your true strength by allowing someone to see your softer side?
“Independent Woman” by Destiny’s Child: My Mother never sat around waiting for someone to take care of her, nor did she waste time trying to win other’s approval. She’s a scrappy, creative, practical go-getter who showed me how to manifest what you want in life. Decide what you want, visualize and take disciplined daily action. And she’s the epitome of a multi-tasker. Even at her age, she chooses to mow her lawn. “It’s good exercise!” What action can you take to bring you fulfillment?
“School’s Out for Summer“: Yeah, well, as much as we loved Alice Cooper’s lyrics when we were kids, we know now that school is never out for the pro. No matter how much you know, remain curious. Mom went back for her Masters when I was in college setting the example it’s never too late to gain knowledge. The day after I told her I was pregnant (18 years ago), she bought a computer and signed up for classes. “I’m going to need to be computer literate to keep up with my Grandchildren.” A few years back she took up knitting with a passion. Now she creates her own patterns and sells them on consignment at an upscale boutique. Is there a class or subject matter you’re interested in pursuing?
“Money“. My parent’s savings philosophy did not resemble Pink Floyd’s lyrics, “new car, caviar, four star daydream, think I’ll buy me a football team.” Rather, they subscribed to the cash is king theory. Aside from a home purchase, they never bought an item on credit that couldn’t be paid in full when the monthly bill arrived. You saved to buy a new car and paid cash. You waited until you earned the gratification. In the meantime, you did with less or without. Where can you cut back on your wants in order to have more financial freedom?
“I Love to Laugh” from the film Mary Poppins. My family was far from perfect, just like most other families. We yelled, we fought and we teased each other mercilessly at times. BUT, we always loved one another, told each other often, and found laughter in the most ridiculous moments. Love requires being open-minded, and my folks have loved us through both our wise and moronic decisions. They didn’t hold back their opinions, but they stood by us and accepted our choices. And as they’ve gotten older, they laugh a lot sooner.
I can only hope my own teen daughters recognize some of my parents in me.
What did your parents “show” you growing up? Let me know here.