Thursday, February 21, 2013
Writing Prompt #4: Your Parents
Aw, aren't they cute?
This is a hard prompt for me. Not because I don't have anything to write, but quite the opposite. I have so much I could write that I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts. What do you say about the two people who are not only responsible for giving you life, but then provided a great life for you? Where do you begin when describing two of the people that you thought owed you everything only to learn that they were the people to whom you owe the most? How do you describe two people who molded you into the person you are today? I'm not really sure... but let's start at the very beginning. (a very good place to start)
These two lovebirds are high school sweethearts. I'd love to get my hands on a copy of their yearbook photos but haven't had any luck yet. (Sister and Aunties, can you help me out with this?) I promise to update this post when/if I find myself in possession of such gems. The two of them were born and raised in my hometown, and 'knew of' each other while growing up.
As I write this, I realize that I don't actually know many specifics of "their story". How many of us know our parents' stories? (Perhaps something to work on?) My dad is always quick to point out how nerdy he was compared to my sweet and cute mother when they were in high school. He loves to downplay his strengths and always fails to mention the fact that he's pretty darn intelligent, was a good basketball player and golfer, and also had some great hair that complimented the late 60's/ early 70's era. (I have got to find a picture.) And honestly, I've never really heard my mom say much about high school other than mentioning how short the skirts really were in the late 60's.
After they graduated from high school, they both set off for college. However, they didn't attend the same colleges, so they do have some entertaining stories of hitch-hiking their way across the state to see each other and keep their romance alive. (Sorry, I just added that last part. Ew.) Anyway, regardless of their high school and collegiate history, they ended up marrying in June of 1973 and have been together ever since. Yep, you did the math correctly-- that's 40 years this coming summer.
Their story is not mine to share, and I know that it has had moments of serenity and moments of turbulence. But they've weathered forty years together, and raised a family of two (fairly functional) daughters, two rabbits, four cats, and numerous toads, frogs, snails, etc. (as most parents probably do at some point). Since they are really the only two who can recount their story, I can only share what I know of them and especially what I've learned from them.
I'm lucky enough to say that I spent my entire childhood in the presence of both my parents. This is such a rarity anymore, for so many reasons, and I always feel grateful for the childhood that was provided by my parents. Our family was by no means rich, but I grew up feeling safe and secure. My sister and I were well provided for, but within limits that we knew about. We were taught about the value of patience, saving money, and differentiating between needs and wants. We were taught about the importance of education, regardless of your age. I remember attending Montessori School when I was Charlie's age and I can recall my parents furthering their college degrees as adults. We were surrounded by books, books, and more books.
I remember our family being active yet recreational when I was growing up. My parents were involved in the YMCA, playing rec basketball and attending work out classes. (I know, that comes as a shock to many reading this.) They encouraged Sister and I to do the same-- and we both participated in Y sponsored activities like swimming lessons and gymnastics and dance. Believe it or not, we even were involved in some sporty things like softball and middle school volleyball and basketball. They encouraged us to participate in music and dramatics-- both things that Sister and I actively enjoyed throughout high school. On school nights, they washed dishes together-- Mom washing and Dad drying. We were not allowed in the kitchen, for this was their time to talk and our ears were not welcome. They regularly looked over our homework and checked our backpacks for "important" things. They both helped us study for tests and quizzes-- Dad taking on Social Studies and Math, while Mom was always responsible for Reading, English, and Science. On the weekends, we often went on outings as a family. Sometimes this meant picking apples at an orchard miles away, or just hiking through a local nature preserve on the east side of town. They were involved and invested in our lives, though not to the point of helicoptering over us or rescuing us from our own mistakes. They didn't attend every single class activity or lesson or extra curricular event, but we knew they cared and supported us and would attend when they could.
Of course, as a kid, I didn't agree with every decision they made. And even now, I look back on some of their parenting choices and decisions and feel that I would have made different ones. But throughout it all, I do know that the choices they made were in the best interest of Sister and me.
While my parents and I have never had that 'best friend' relationship, I do think that we have a tight bond and we do enjoy each other's company. As you might expect, this really started happening more after I graduated from college-- right around the time when it dawned on me that my parents are actually people-- not just my parents. They have real feelings, trials and tribulations, hobbies and interests just like me. Man, was that an epiphany!
I'm proud of my parents for who they are and who they continue to be. They are educated, professionals, and active in their community. They have many interests and hobbies (reading, golfing, exercising, going to movies, playing the violin, gardening) and they commit to many civc duties (city council, volunteering, active church members, school board). They are some of the only parents I know who train for half marathons and triathlons and think a little 20 mile bike ride around Lake Okoboji is something normal to do on any given summer day. They've mentioned before that all this activity helps keep them young-- and helps them keep up with the little ones in their lives.
Right now, it's these little ones who are clearly a priority in their lives. The role of grandparents is something they both highly anticipated and looked forward to. Judging by the way they interact with C and Miss N, they couldn't be happier as grandparents-- and they are great at playing that role. (I must point out that things do change though. Things like bedtimes and schedules and healthy food...things that were so important to these people as parents are now so trivial to them as grandparents.)
Just like their views on kids and health food, our relationship has changed with time. I'll never agree with 100% of what my parents say and do, and I'm pretty sure the same holds true for them. I'll never fully understand why they made the parenting decisions the way they did, but I know that they always tried their best. When it comes to parenting, I look at my parents' example constantly. There are so many things I want to duplicate when it comes to raising my own child, and of course, there are things I want to do differently. This is the beauty of generations. I have no doubt that Charlie will someday be thinking something similar if he choses to have children. And if that day comes, I hope that he knows that his daddy and I are doing our best, making the decisions we hope are best for him at the moment-- just like his grandparents did for his mama.