Monday, December 31, 2012

I parent because I was parented


I spent a little time with my grown nephew this week. He told me he once asked me how I was able to raise so many well-behaved children. He said my answer was: “with love in my heart and a wooden spoon in my back pocket.” That sounds like something I would have said. I have been reflecting a little on that this week and decided to blog about why I parent the way I do. I parent because I was parented. I have learned from the best. 

Most of the truly important lessons I learned in life I learned from the people who love me the most, my own parents. Of course, my earliest teacher was my mom. My mom taught me about love. She almost never seemed to lose her patience. When I was small, she could read me book after book after book while I sat on her lap or next to her in her chair. She did really good voices and read with great expression. I am sure I love to read now, as an adult, because of my mother’s love of books. The love of books and her patience were just lessons within the lesson though. What my mom was really teaching me was how to be a good mom and a good person. 

When I was older and on occasion got sassy or rude to my mother, she did not often raise her voice or show disgust. She treated me nicely even when I did not treat her nicely. She wasn’t afraid to spank me when I needed it but she didn’t ever abuse me. I knew I was loved, even when she had to resort to a spanking to get my attention.

Lisa Fish
I remember asking my mom when I was very young who she loved the most. I had five siblings, and figured she had to have a favorite and it was probably me. My mom’s answer was a surprise and I remember it stinging a little bit. She told me she loved my daddy more than anyone else in the world. Over the years I would occasionally ask her again and her answer was always the same but it didn’t sting at all as I got older. If fact, it made me feel very secure. I knew in a world full of divorces and cheaters, my parents were there to stay. My mom and dad showed affection to each other in front of their children often. By showing me how much she loved my dad, my mom was showing me how much she loved me. One of the most important lessons a mother can teach her children is to love their spouse.  God commands men to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and women are commanded to submit to their husbands. My parents believed it, taught it, and practiced it. 

My mother and father married at a very young age. My dad was nineteen and my mom seventeen. My mother knew how hard it was for a seventeen year old to be a wife. My parents’ rule was that we were not allowed to date before age sixteen. Long before I began to date, my mother talked to me about love and the kinds of feelings being married requires. I specifically remember her telling me that a teenager was not capable of knowing the difference between love and infatuation. My mom talked to me about the things that were important in a husband, specifically ambition. Did I want a husband who liked to lay on the couch, content to live in a crummy neighborhood, or one who worked hard so we could raise our children in a nice home? Because of the things my mother was not afraid to say to me, I grew up knowing I would search long and hard for the man I wanted to share my life with and I would not confuse infatuation with love. Nor would I “settle” for second best. I found Mr. Right in my early twenties but had the mind-set that I would never marry at all if I couldn’t find someone as wonderful as my own father. 

My college graduation, 1985
My dad is a good man and one of the hardest workers I have ever known. I rarely saw my dad sit down and watch a television show while I was growing up. He worked hard at his job and worked a lot of overtime so we could have nice things. He wanted to put us all through college and he couldn’t have done it without working the overtime. When my dad wasn’t working, he was still working. We had one of the nicest lawns in our neighborhood. He gardened and grew vegetables, which my mother canned. He kept his tools clean and his garage organized and he always seemed to have a project going on his workbench. My dad had a recliner but seldom sat in it. As a matter of fact, one of the only times he did sit down was during a worship service. My dad taught me that we never miss a worship service, ever. We only missed if we were sick; not sick with just a little cough either, but really sick. My dad liked to fish and he liked to hunt but he did not miss worship services for those activities either. My dad taught me that the Church ALWAYS comes first. God comes before family, friends, education, recreation, and everything else, with no exceptions. 

I don’t remember my dad lecturing me a lot or having long talks with me about many things. He taught me so much by example. As I said earlier, I looked for a man to marry who was like my dad. Had I settled for less, I would have been forever comparing the two and have lived a pretty sad married life I think. 

I was a little bit afraid of my dad growing up. Don’t feel sorry for me. That was a good thing. A little bit of fear is also called respect. I knew I had to obey or suffer the consequences. We are told to fear God and keep His commandments. I know my children have had the same healthy fear of me that I had of my own father. If only more kids today respected their parents…

I don’t have a lot of memories of my dad playing games with me growing up. My memories are better than that. Although, he did play Monopoly with me occasionally and he did like to play Canasta a lot so we did that sometimes. I was a Tom-boy and loved to fish and shoot guns so my dad let me tag along on fishing trips and occasional hunting trips. One of my favorite memories is fishing in a little boat he had on a small lake, near my grandparents’ home. We did it as often as we could manage every summer. Once in a while I got to go with my dad and grandpa on a coon hunt. I am sure I slowed them way down and they had to help me over fences and creeks but they never made me feel like I was a hindrance. My dad set up a target in the garage so I could even practice with a bee-bee gun and pellet gun in the winter. 

My dad showed me he loved me by providing for me and working hard. I remember my mom saying many times the reason daddy worked so hard was because he loved us. My dad taught me that I should always return things I borrow in the same shape I borrowed them in, if not better. 

I am going to be fifty soon but my parents are still parenting me. I know I often frustrate them. My dad has one of the nicest lawns in the county. I live just a quarter mile from him and my yard is weeds. He drives past it every day. I know he must look at it and wonder how I can stand it. I leave my nice things out in the yard sometimes and they get rained on. My dad taught me better and is still teaching me by his example of stewardship. He takes really good care of his things. My dad is fifteen minutes early everywhere he goes and I am five minutes late. I know that when I am tardy it drives him crazy. I try harder because I have his example. Even though my yard is weedy, my kids’ bikes are out in the snow right now, and I was five minutes late yesterday, I know my dad loves me. I can see it, feel it, hear it. I parent because I am parented. 

How many children are being brought up in single parent homes? How many of dads do you know who are dodging child support payments? How many people do you know on welfare who will most likely be grandparents of people on welfare someday? I am very outspoken about my political and religious views. I believe the increased entitlement programs are a bad thing. The cycle needs to be broken. It must be very hard to parent differently than you were parented. History shows us that. I don’t want to break my cycle. I parent because I was parented. 


My mother tells me she wouldn’t have known how to do for special needs kids the things I have done for mine. Perhaps not exactly because it was a different time and there was different information available and fewer resources available. I believe my mom did parent a child of special needs and she didn’t even know it. It was me. I was painfully shy and insecure. I had such horrible separation anxiety that I cried every morning before kindergarten. It made me feel better if I could see my mom a little bit longer so after she put me on the bus in front of the house, she would run around to the back porch and wave to me as the bus went up the street behind our house. I could catch one more glimpse of her between the houses and she knew that would help me get through the transition of home to school. My mom SHOWED me she loved me in so many ways. I show my kids because I was shown. I parent because I was parented.
Sarah and Sam Fish, in their eighties now.
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