I was very fortunate, I grew up with 2 loving parents. Many others are not so lucky for a variety of reasons. Be it death, divorce, illness or work – many children, through no choice of their own are not blessed with living with two parents on a day to day basis. Sometimes it can be difficult – as a family we all fell out many times, but we knew that when things were hard, we would always be there for each other.
My parents, the day they got married 66 years ago!
So what did my parents teach me?
1. When things are tough, you will get through it.
My parents had some extremely difficult times. Life definitely didn’t turn out the way they had planned. My Dad lost two brothers when he was 13, his father when he was 24, a sister when he was 40 and his other sister just a few years later. He was the only child to survive his parents. His mother lived through the deaths of four of her children. My Dad had to cope with losing his mother and his last surviving sibling all within 3 months. As I write these words, I don’t think I had truly appreciated the enormity of that before. (I was only 14 at the time, so my parents definitely protected me as much as they could)
Hence by the time my Dad was 50, he had lost his parents and his four siblings. While it happens to many, the impact is severe, whatever age you are.
My Mum saw her own mother bedridden for several years, unable to talk or move through a series of strokes.
Then life threw them another curved ball, my brother died when he was 18, and I was 17. I will be honest, that was a really tough time for everyone. I don’t know how Dad, particularly, got through it, given everything else that had happened before, but his motto was, you just have to get on with it. The Monday after my brother’s funeral, he was back at work, and I was back at school.
Just 4 years later, my Dad was hit yet again. He saw his family home that he grew up in, and ran his business from, totally destroyed as a result of a terrorist attack. He had to start up again from scratch, just when he would rather be thinking about retiring. When talking about it, his comment was often – it was only things, no-one died.
So I learned from them, that it is OK to be upset, and that you might have to carry your grief for months or years, but that at some stage the pain eases, and you can move on. Just forcing yourself to get up and follow some sort of routine, however hard it is, is often the first step in that recovery.
2. Money is not important, but it helps.
As children growing up, we didn’t have much money. We owned our own house, but I know paying the mortgage was difficult. When I was 6, my mother bought a refrigerator from the electric company by paying for it over 3 years on her electricity bills every quarter. The ‘never never’ as it was known. But she had reached the limit of trying to keep food fresh in the outside mesh cupboard and white goods had become more affordable. (It was a good buy – it lasted more than 25 years…) We did a lot of Make Do and Mend Both my parents had grown up in fairly well off families, so they really didn’t know how to scrimp and save, but they got good at it! There was always food on the table (Be it sausages or leftovers…)
Some years later, my grandfather died and left my Mum some money. That money was used to provide some essential luxuries, (if that makes sense), an automatic washing machine because it made life easier, a car, because it allowed my Dad to take on extra work, farther from home. The rest was saved and put by for a rainy day. It certainly wasn’t wasted, and it provided many treats over the years.
They didn’t have a lot, but whenever they felt they could help, there was often a wee cheque for my husband and I. It might be for a pair of new glasses for one of us, when things were tight, or a bit extra when we were moving house, something for their grandchildren. It didn’t matter as long as they thought it was a good use of money.
So as a child, I learned to save, put money away for a rainy day, that going without could be tough. I should try and avoid ever being in the position of having to borrow money, except for a house. However, they also taught me that there is a lot more to life than money.
3. Do good things for other people.
My Dad was a volunteer on the Lifeboat for 30 years. In the UK, there is a charity called the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), and in Ireland the CRBI (Community Rescue Boats Ireland) which between them provide all sea rescue around the coast of Britain and Ireland, totally voluntarily. That means the crews regularly risk their lives going out in all weathers to rescue people in difficulty at sea, unpaid and often unrecognised. So when there is a gale blowing, torrential rain, and the phone goes, you know it is not going to be an easy night, either for the person going out on the boat, or for the person staying home waiting and worrying. My Dad is the one in the bow.
Source; My photo of the front page of an RNLI Magazine 1977
Not only did my Mum work full-time in the family business, she looked after my Grandmother and Great-aunt who lived with us, and she also looked after a couple of elderly cousins of my Dad’s who lived nearby. She helped neighbours and friends, and was always someone whom people would turn to when things were tough.
Many years later, my parents moved themselves hundreds of miles away from their friends, because they decided they would like to help my husband and I look after our children. And very welcome they were too!
They were an example to me, of how even small things make a difference to other people. A smile, a pleasant greeting, even if you don’t know the person lifts both of you.
4. You make your own path through life
While obviously you can’t avoid things like death (see Note 1 above) & illness, but how you react to events, and move on is important. You can do things to protect yourselves by saving for the future, not expecting handouts, being nice to people. As my Mum used to say – it doesn’t cost anything to be kind.
Work hard, be it at school, college or your job. Encourage your family to do their best at all times. Take the opportunities you are given and do the best with them.
5. Above all Have Fun
My Dad always said – you only have one shot at life and you might as well enjoy it. He had a wicked sense of humour, and used to torment me as a child by teasing me endlessly. I would always fall for it! If there was a practical joke on the move, he was usually behind it. He was expert at winding up my boys, usually just before bed, and then leaving me to sort them out – Thanks Dad!
Has it worked?
Over the years, I have tried to follow their example. I have been very fortunate, in that I have not had to cope with a fraction of the adversity that they had to, but when things are difficult, I face up to them, I metaphorically ‘square my shoulders’ and get on with it, whatever ‘it’ is.
I like to think that my focus on having solid finances, but at the same time, not letting money rule my life, is their legacy to me. I believe you get back what you give, and more, so I give generously to my favourite charities and give of my time in other ways.
I definitely agree that you make a lot of your own path through life although sometimes things are outwith your control, such as ill health, but if you make the most of the cards you are dealt, you won’t go too far wrong.
And finally – I definitely have fun….
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