Monday, January 25, 2016

A Valentine to Mom and Dad

    Recently I was chatting with two friends who were recounting memories of childhood.  One talked about her mother’s three divorces.  The other remembered how afraid she was to be home alone while her mother worked, and then how it was to live with an aunt for a while.  When they turned to me and asked about my childhood stories I explained that I had a very ordinary childhood with very little drama to share.

    “I grew up in a home where we always knew mom and dad loved each other. Dad brought Mom flowers and Mom baked Dad’s favorite pies. We went to the beach in the summer, to the canyon on Saturdays and we visited both sets of grandparents every Sunday night.  Pretty ordinary,” I said.

    My friends sat quietly for a minute and one spoke up and said, “That sounds pretty remarkable to me; maybe no drama, but definitely not ordinary. I would have given anything to say I knew my mom loved my dad.”

    I’ve thought of that several times since then.  Growing up in a home where people showed love to each other truly is a wonderful start to life.  What a gift from my parents!  They are both gone now.  Mom passed away at age 67 from a sudden heart attack.  Dad visited her grave almost every day for almost 8 years before his health wasn’t up for that anymore.  He missed her terribly, and now we miss them both.  But what a legacy they left.

    Mom and Dad were not two peas in pod.  But there was a lot of give and take, and first and foremost they were part of a team.  There was no score keeping about personal irritations, or who was right and who was wrong, or who deserved what.  They were truly partners. A win for either is a win for both.  Even better, they were sweethearts who also liked each other and had fun together.

     Looking back I’m impressed by what a valuable template my parents gave their children for a happy family life and being a kind person. The positive effects of that template have rippled through several generations now.  For instance, every single year my mom delivered Valentines to her children and grandchildren, door-bell ditching them on the front porch.  Dad drove the car and Mom ran up to make the drop and run.  Her children do the same with their siblings still because how could we not?  My children do the same with their siblings, even though it’s mostly the U.S. Postal service who has to make the drop off in other states.  The ripples go on.

    For a child, few things can match the stability, security and role modeling that comes from having parents that love each other and are kind to each other.  Single parents who demonstrate loving kindness to their parents, siblings and neighbors also provide that stability and role modeling. The old expression that “It’s the thought that counts,” might apply sometimes, but our kids can’t read our thoughts very well, and it’s the things our children see us do and hear us say that imprints lessons in their memories.
     Families are all different but children all have the same needs.  When parents don’t stay together for whatever reason, it becomes even more significant for a child to feel the security that comes from adults who show civility, respect and cooperation as they co-parent or grandparent.  We don’t always choose circumstances, but we can choose to teach our children by example how to be kind, loving, and happy, no matter what the challenges.

     If you didn’t grow up in the kind of home where Valentine’s Day was a big deal, channel Dave and Donna, and practice saying the kinds of things you wish you had heard your parents say when you were young. Maybe door-bell ditch a Valentine card, bring home flowers, bake a pie, or tell the funny stories of days gone by.  As kids, my siblings and I used to love hearing how my parents met at a canyon party when they began flipping watermelon seeds at each other.  Give your kids a template to work from of what happy and kind people do, and they will thank you for it someday.

     Thanks, Mom and Dad, and Happy Valentines Day! 

© Diane L. Mangum