I’ll never forget something my Dad told me before he sent me off to my freshman year at college.
“If you come back with a 4.0, I’m going to be disappointed.”
What… whaaa? Did I hear that right? Did THAT just come out of the mouth of my Dad who was the rulekeeper/disciplinarian …. and not to mention my COACH in basketball for eight years who always encouraged me to be my best…. Did he just tell me to NOT get a 4.0?
After seeing my facial reaction that expressed those sentiments, he continues, “If you come back with a 4.0, I’ll know that you spent too much time in the library stressing over a test… and not enough time enjoying the “life” experiences.”
I’m not sure if my Dad even remembers telling me that, but I can tell you it’s one of the best lessons I ever learned from him. Did I think he meant that I should just skip class, blow off studying and be off getting into trouble? Of course not. He taught me better that that. He was just letting me know that there was another kind of education that was just as important to get in college… which are those lessons learned when you’re on your own and experiencing a new phase of life.
Looking back on my college photo albums, it’s pretty obvious I took his advice to heart (and also that someone should have spoke up about that outfit I thought was cute) While I still came out of school with the educational things I needed to start my career – I learned a heck of a lot more outside those classroom walls. Like that didn’t-see-that-coming friendship I made with a dorm-room floormate from DC with whom I couldn’t have had less in common, but found a way to build a really neat friendship. Or those I-80 drives to-and-from school with my best friend eating sunflower seeds and talking about boyfriends. Or my mentor/friend at my internship who taught me through example not only what it meant to be a strong woman in a man’s industry, but how to find joy, laughter and meaning in every moment.
The reality is… My Dad was right all along. I couldn’t name half of the classes I even took in college, but I CAN give you countless examples of memories, lessons learned and friendships I made along the way… and how THOSE things have impacted me, my character and my career path.
This recollection of my Dad’s lesson came up recently because of a conversation I had with an Uber driver who was talking about the challenges of parenting a teenage daughter. I was telling him about some of the awesome lessons I learned from my parents growing up (even though I didn’t understand them happening at the time). And my parents have shared similar stories with ME about their own parents and the things they took away from them.
And (surprise) it allllll got me thinking…
What are my kids going to remember about me?
What words of mine are they going to remember? What actions of mine are going to send a message that will stick with them. What parenting techniques are they going to take from me? How will they be impacted by something I did or didn’t say?
I think about this a lot when I find myself “parenting from the book” (aka – doing whatever “research” out there tells you to do) versus doing what’s in my heart. Like when the book says that you shouldn’t lay with your kids while they fall asleep because it will create bad sleeping habits… when my heart tells me to remember how safe MY Mom made me feel when she’d pet my head by my bedside because I was scared of a thunderstorm. Imagine if my daughter ever asks me in the future why I wouldn’t lay with her … do I really want to tell her it was because some “Top Ten Things You Shouldn’t Do To Have A Good Sleeper” blog I saw on the internet?
Here’s the reality, guys. Our kids are watching us every day. And they are listening. And the things they see and hear will impact them. Just like the things our parents said and did impacted us. And we can choose to parent authentically, or we can choose to act by what the “textbook” tells us. It’s not an easy choice sometimes… I don’t always choose to go with my heart. It’s hard… especially as parenting gets to be more and more under a social microscope… and more and more “research” comes out proving certain methods. But that 4.0 lesson my Dad taught me… I can guarantee you it didn’t come from a parenting book. But look at the amazing message around it.
At some point, our kids are going to be asked, “What did you learn from your Mom/Dad?” and while none of us can know what their answer is going to be, one thing I know for sure is that I want to work really hard to make sure that their answer is a result of choices that I made out of my own maternal instinct. Out of my own heart. Out of my own life experiences. Because my other hope? That my kids will have the courage to make those same choices when they are parents one day too.
(Love you, Mom and Dad.)