Top 10 skills my parents taught me – Part 2

My parents tried to teach me a lot. Some of it stuck. Some of it didn’t. My fault, not theirs.

Anyway, these are the top ten I can think of now, the ones that actually stuck, the ones I want to pass on to their grandchildren someday (continued from Mother’s Day).

6. They taught me to have my own ideas.

We were kind of a weird family growing up. My dad moved us all from California to Kentucky to start a church. My mom homeschooled us. We ate strange grains for breakfast before that was cool and washed them down with almond milk. We knew we were different from the kids down the street. I still feel that way.

Granted, I went through a (long) phase in my life when I tended to follow other people with my preferences: music, movies, and so on. Now, though, although I’m not going to pretend no one influences those decisions, I feel like I understand the value of coming up with my own. Alternative ideas don’t scare me just because they’re alternative. In fact, I seek them out.

7. They taught me to learn on my own.

Closely tied to #6 is the skill of independent learning. The way I see it, there are two ingredients that are necessary for independent learning: the desire and the ability. The ability largely came through being homeschooled. Seeing classes made up outside of a school environment taught me the mechanics of learning on my own and also conditioned me to think of learning not as something that’s done at school but at home. We didn’t go to the teachers to learn – we learned on our own, particularly as I got older. It’s been a natural extension then to continue learning at home beyond typical school years. And I’ve kept up the enthusiasm for it in part because of the value my parents placed on it when I was growing up.

8. They taught me how to live with people.

Part of this came from growing up in a large family. Part of this came from growing up so connected to the church. Either – both, really – consistently put me in situations where I didn’t have much choice about getting along. It was just kind of expected that we’d work things out. I’m not perfect. I still have ups and downs. But in general, I’ve taken that perspective with me and can usually get along fairly well with people.

9. They taught me to choose my friends carefully.

It’s one thing to be friendly to everyone. It’s another to be friends with everyone. The first might be a good idea. The second is definitely not. My mom, I think, told me about a group of friends once who decided to pull up a bunch of stop signs around the neighborhood. One guy didn’t get involved, but he still hung out with that group. When they got busted, shortly after an accident as a result of the missing stop signs, the friend who was “only hanging out” went to prison too. I think my parents tried to guard against putting me in that kind of situation. As a result, I value the friends I have all the more, knowing how much they influence me and can add to my life.

10. They taught me to care about my family.

This has come in two parts also. The first part is by example. Both my parents sacrificed a lot for our family. I once hammered holes in the wall of our garage just for fun, and this seemed okay in my mind because there was a small hole there already, I thought. That’s family life: insane most of the time but worth it partly because of the insanity.

The second part of how I’ve learned to care about my family is through how much they care about me. They’ve been such a valuable part of who I am. They’ve shown me how good it is to be part of a good family. They’ve shown me what’s possible. I guess this includes everyone in my family, but none of that would have been possible without my parents.

Happy Father’s Day, Poppy! Thank you for all you’ve taught me.

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