Advice I never thought I’d thank my parents for…

When we were kids, our parents were devastating. They embarrassed us, they constantly reprimanded us, and were always giving us awkward talks. Absolute turmoil, right? Well…maybe not. It’s not until later in life that we realize that stern scolding was actually preparing us how to be the best employee at the company; or how that awkward dating talk was going to come in handy with this latest significant other. So we asked our own parenting experts: What’s one piece of advice you never thought you’d thank your parents for?

“My sister is three years older than me, and she often took advantage of that fact. She was generally smarter, stronger, and more accomplished. To fight back, I had to be extra meddlesome and annoying. We bickered like most siblings. Whenever I complained to my mother about my sister’s treatment she would say, “work it out yourselves.” It used to drive me insane because it meant that my sister got away with her antics. In hindsight, I realize so did I.
Now as a parent of two, I recognize my mother was ahead of her time. Her demand that we work it out on our own accomplished many goals. She removed herself from the equation, forcing us to work it together. Sometimes that meant compromise. Sometimes it meant one of us just had to deal with frustration and anger. But we learned to get past our disagreements ourselves. She also never took sides which is inevitable when parents get involved with petty sibling fights. Her equal treatment of us guaranteed that we both always felt secure with her affections.”

Catherine Pearlman, Ignore It!

“One day when I was 15 and going through an especially difficult time, my mom and dad pulled me aside and said…….well, something. I don’t really remember what. Honestly, I spent so much time rolling my eyes when they talked that eventually my head started making a noise like a slot machine. Which was fine, because my parents were just so awful back then. My father had a stupid job he’d tell me about and my mother was even worse with her awful habit of asking my friends personal questions about what their lives were like and how they felt about everything.

I suppose I should say I wish I could go back and hear what they said, but honestly, I think that’s overrated. What influences people isn’t what you say, but how you live. My father talked about his job because he loved it, and, now in his 80’s, he still does. My mother asked probing questions of my friends instead of just making small talk because she was, and still is, intensely curious about….well, everyone. While I can’t specifically recall what advice they gave me when I was determined not to listen to them, I’m fairly certain it had something to do with making sure you found work and people to love and that you made it your business to discover everything you could about anything you could. Of course, I could just call my parents today and ask them what advice they gave me back then, except as it happens, they are, right now, at a combined age of 163 years old, taking a tour of Portugal. And I can hear them loud and clear.”

– Claude Knobler, More Love, Less Panic

“In third grade I came home from my first day of school brimming with excitement. “Mama. I made lots of new friends!” I exclaimed. We’d recently moved to a new neighborhood and the daunting prospect of meeting new schoolmates had been stressing me out all summer. With nary a beat missed and no hint of her usual solicitous twinkle, Mama said: “No one is your friend until they show you they’re your friend.”

The words stung. It was the single most wretched sentence my nine-year-old ingenuous ears had ever heard. I rejected Mama’s despairing social construct for years. Then came motherhood—and with it, Mama’s unparalleled wisdom began to sprout like wandering dandelions. Thanks to her decades-old advisory, I was able to shield myself—mostly—from the all-consuming wiles of hysteric parenting. I recognized early that the mothers surrounding me—many equal parts charming and cunning—were largely pals of convenience or happenstance. We all had offspring. But friends? Not so much. The third grader inside reminds me that they are not the boss of me and their opinions and judgments can only guilt me if I let them. Mind you, I have my moments, but thanks to Mama I can live in our culture of Mommy Mania without being of it.”

– Ylonda Gault Caviness, Child, Please

Read more: Ask Our Experts – What was the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

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