So many people have parenting all wrong. Being a good parent doesn't mean buying your child everything they want. It's not about your child having the latest and greatest toy. It's not about keeping up with technology and getting them the newest DS or iPod. It's not about spending loads of money. It's not about having an excessive amount of Christmas presents under the tree and making sure that everything off of their Santa List is crossed off. It's not about buying them a shiny brand new car for their 16th birthday.
Being a great parent has everything to do with making memories. I can't tell you a single birthday present my parents ever bought me until my 18th birthday. It's not because they didn't buy me presents.. I'm not even sure if they bought me what I wanted or what I needed. I can't even remember.
If you want to know about my childhood, I wouldn't tell you the things they bought me, I wouldn't be able to tell you how much money they spent on me, I would tell you about the things we did.
Every summer my parents took us to Martinez Lake. Before we left our house, my dad would make a list of all the meals we would be eating and a list of all the things we needed to take with us. The list would sit on the counter in the kitchen and I always enjoyed watching my dad cross things off the list. My brother and I loved the drive out to the lake, we enjoyed the dips in the road and would beg our dad to drive faster so that we could feel our stomachs up in our throats and laugh. My dad always drove faster and he always laughed along with us. My parents spent all day swimming with us and taking us on the boat, teaching us how to tube and later, ski.
I did girl scouts for 4 years. Girl Scouts was something that my mom and I did together. My mom was active in Girl Scouts every year I did it. My mom went to Girl Scout camp with me, she did Brownie over night, she took me door to door to sell cookies.
When I was a little girl, my mom used to watch a ridiculous soap opera. I shouldn't say when I was little because she still watches the same show. When I was home from school on breaks, my mom would come home and fix us tuna fish sandwiches and we would sit on the couch and watch her show. And as silly as it sounds, I looked forward to watching it with her. That show stuck with me all throughout college. I don't watch it anymore, but when I'm flipping through the channels at 11:00-12:00pm, and I see it on, I still watch it. My brother, Chris, is 36 and he still watches it sometimes too. He told me that it reminds him of being a kid and watching it with mom.
My dad taught me how to make a fortune teller with a piece of paper one night when I couldn't fall asleep and mom taught me how to draw a star on newspaper the day that my dad went to get us a family dog.
The year after I finished 6th grade my parents bought a family pass to Six Flags and we went a few times that year. My dad and I waited in line on the Superman ride so that we could be first in line. When we got to the top we'd always wave to Superman.
In elementary school, my brother, Steven, and I came home early from school on Wednesdays and waiting on the fridge was a list of chores we had to do. My parents involved us in cleaning up our home. I am appalled at how many kids don't have chores anymore. I was responsible for cleaning my room, the bathroom, sweeping and mopping the kitchen, and unloading the dishwasher. Sure, I hated the chores when I was younger. However, I was apart of a family and my home and as children, we still have responsibilities. I'm already looking forward to having chore charts for Ryan and Jake and giving them responsibilities too.
My mom used to make a lot of my baby clothes with her sewing machine. I played with dolls for quite a while when I was younger... I loved my dolls. One day my mom surprised me with a baby bassinet that she had sewed for me, along with dolls clothes and hats, a pillow and a blanket. Mom mom made a few of my Halloween costumes too. In 4th grade I wanted to be a cheerleader and I remember my mom sitting in front of her sewing machine taking the time to make the cheer leading outfit that I wanted and matching it with the colors of my school. Now that I have children of my own, they can enjoy my mom's sewing too in their baby blankets, crib skirts, and Christmas stockings.
My dad used to take me to McDonalds to get Happy Meals. I'm sure my mom did too but I specifically remember it being my dad. My dad was in the military when I was younger. He went to Saudi Arabia for a year and I bought him a birthday card. On the back of the card was a little thing you could tear out and when you folded it and taped it, it became a money bank. I folded that money bank together and put it in my parents room. It sat on a shelf on my parents dresser as I put in my extra change so that my dad and I could go to McDonalds when he came home. Yes McDonalds is gross and germy, but kids love it. They can always take baths and wash their hands. I want Ryan and Jake to love going to McDonalds with my dad as much as I used to love going with him.
Kids remember the things that you do with them. Go on family vacations, go camping, help them with their homework, eat breakfast and dinner together, make traditions and stick to them. Take lots and lots of pictures even if you feel too embarrassed or think you might embarrass them. Pictures are a great way to remember the memories a little more vividly.
Every quarter in elementary school my school had awards assemblies. Since I was such a smart cookie I always received awards. My parents came to as many of them as they could. In 4th grade, my dad showed up and my mom couldn't make it because she had to work. I had gotten an award and after the assembly my dad came up to me to take a picture of me with my award and instead of giving him a big huge grin, I didn't smile at all. Why? Because I was embarrassed that he wanted a picture of me. This silly little memory sticks out in my head all the time because I feel quilty. I never want my children to be embarrassed of me and I wish I never felt this way either. My dad was simply proud of his little girl. So dad, if you ever read this.. I will gladly find that award from 4th grade and pose for you with the biggest smile so you can take my picture.
I did get the car. But it wasn't for my 16th birthday and it wasn't brand new. The summer before I started my senior year in high school my dad told me that he would buy me a car if I took college classes as a senior. Easy enough right? So that's what I did. I took college classes while I was still in high school. That car lasted me ten years. I actually just traded my parents a different car for it.
My parents loved me unconditionally. They were proud of me and they let me know it. They grounded me when I caused trouble. They weren't afraid to put me in my place and they weren't afraid to tell me no. They may have been scared to let me start going out with friends and especially when I got my first boyfriend at 15..but you know what.. they trusted me and they let me do it. As I grew older, I could also feel their love for me get stronger as they became more supportive of my life and every decision I have made.
Today is September 25, 2012 and 41 years ago today, my parents stood up and vowed to love each other for the rest of their lives. Along the way they raised 4 children and became a grandparent 7 different times. I'm sure being married for 41 years hasn't always been easy.. but they did it. They've made it. They beat the odds of marrying young and becoming teen parents. They have loved each other for 41 years and they continue to love each other. They have stayed faithful to the vows they made... through parenting, moving, military, deployments, and every other obstacle they have had.
Happy 41 years mom and dad. I could never put into words how thankful I am for everything you have done for me and my family. I love you both so much.
If I thought they have been amazing parents.. you should see them as grandparents...