Wednesday, February 21, 2007

THE EXISTENTIAL QUESTION OF THE WEEK

sea street

There's one thing I've really missed since I've gotten kind of busy, traveling from bookstore to bookstore, and marveling that my book is here! and there! and sometimes even that other place, too!

What I've missed is the existential question. Or more specifically your responses.

I particularly missed the Existential Question when I came upon a rather strikingly named blog in which the blogger posed a question about how our parents' deepest beliefs formed--or provided a contrast to--our own.

Much as I was tempted to uproot the question and replant it here, I won't. But it did get me thinking about a lot of things. For instance:

1. How much fun it is to blame your parents for everything that's gone wrong in your life when you're young. (Did those callous people ever stop and think about how their actions were effecting your future mental health?)

And:

2. How much less fun it is when your children start doing it to you! (Don't they realize you did the best you could? After all, you're only human!)

Anyway, this question isn't about who's to blame. It's about who did something really great and why and what it is.

So here's the question: What's the one thing your parents did absolutely right in raising you?

49 comments:

Irene said...

hmm... I grew up in a dysfunctional family and I have very complicated relationships with my parents. I think the one good thing my mother did for me though was letting me marry the man I truly loved (and still do!) when I was only 23.

Marilyn said...

Right?! That's no fun. ;) The one thing that comes to mind is something I got from my schoolteacher father. Not because he told me--I learned it from his actions. I shared this when I spoke at his retirement party many years ago (and completely surprising him in the process). It's this: To always stand up for what you believe is right...even if it means that people aren't going to like you for it.

P.S. Got the invitations yesterday and sent them out today. I'd earlier sent an email for people to hold the date. Can't believe it's only a few weeks away!! :)

floots said...

the best thing my dad did for me was not tell me that i'd turn into him :)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it a strange human thing that we hang on first to all the "done wrong" things? My parents are human and did both the good and the bad-- but did so many lovely things right.

My favorite of my dad's was telling us stories he would make up at bedtime with characters all his own (a magic zebra, etc)

And my mom's (who did so much) made me a costume for my 2nd grade play where I was the lead; Mrs. Santa Claus and she cut down her beautiful red winter coat and put white ruffs on it for me. I can get misty just thinking about it.

~bluepoppy

Sam said...

Raising kids isn't an exact science. My parents were cool - they left me alone and let me do pretty much as I wanted. I loved that, and thrived. But my sister wanted more attention, and my brother had a bad few years when he lost control of his life.
So everyone is different.
My parents tried their best, and the best thing they did was tell me they loved me, no matter what.

kate said...

genetically . . . they gave me some really solid tools to navigate the world: high functioning mind, empathy, lots of energy

emotionally . . . they taught me to rely on myself, not to allow work to consume the entirety of my living, and to embrace the creative force in the world . . .

(ps - i am in a huge tilt-a-whirl with amazon.com as they mailed your book to my old address and of course it takes freakin weeks to resolve stuff . . . don't they know this is a serious artist's first book?!?!?)

Sara said...

You know, I couldn't stop at one thing. One way or another, and not always by the nicest way, my parents made me resilient, able to work hard and survive, and since people in my family tend toward emotional fragility, this was no mean feat. They also gave me art, nature, literature, music, and cuisine, and those are almost all the things I live for in the first place, you know, besides other people. Relating to other people, on the other hand, is not something they taught me; it's something I've had to learn on my own. (You could say, though, that no one learns this on his/her own, because we all learn it together as we go.)

A wise ex-boss of mine used to say that "by the time you're 30 you really need to stop blaming your parents for whatever's 'wrong' with you." Her theory is that, with only very rare and notable exceptions, by the time you've turned 30 you've had ample opportunity to discover most of the damage and/or deficiencies inflicted upon you by their parenting and to have begun attempting remediation and repair on your own. And then after that, as an adult, whether you've already started in on fixing up the problem areas or not, who you are really is mostly up to you, because after that, your life is more predominantly comprised of choices you yourself have made.

And you know, even though this may seem glib and smug and a little too easy, I've found it useful. It's inevitable that we should blame our parents to the grave for one thing or another, and sometimes it's even constructive. The thing to avoid is the wallowing, and the endless chain of self-defeating excuses that can keep us from having our own lives, from being our own best selves and giving our own best gifts.

gerry rosser said...

My dad died when I was quite young, and I have few memories of him. My mom (widowed at 33 with 6 kids) raised me (us). The one thing she did right (well, the biggest thing) was that she kept us together, housed, fed, schooled, etc. In short, just bringing us through what must have been hard beyond my understanding tops the list.

Fred Garber said...

My mother always kept ice cream in the fridge. My father kept good chocolates in his desk drawer at work.

Left-handed Trees... said...

My father loved to tell stories...this was a gift, making it sound like it was a part of our Irish blood (so I try to use this on down writing days to convince myself).

My mother loved us, even when we were unlovable...

Love,
D.

Sustenance Scout said...

My dad was driving me home one day and pulled over to the side of a busy road to pick daisies for my mom. Since I was the seventh child in a big family and this happened when I was a teenager, my parents were hardly newlyweds at the time. I'll never forget how tickled my dad was to do that. :)

I loved reading the comments here. K.

Anonymous said...

My mother always kept us laughing. My father taught me to love books and told me I could do anything I wanted. And they both stretched way outside their collective obsession with tidiness by letting me have dogs. Come to think of it, they were also pretty good humoring me while I pretended I was a dog in the early years.

woof.

Tish Cohen

Brenda Oig said...

My mother challenged me to read books that were different and not to just stick with the easy ones. I'm glad she did that.

Patry Francis said...

Thanks to all of you for reminding me
exactly WHY and HOW MUCH, I missed the existential question. These comments are amazing. They should be required reading for all who are contemplating parenthood.

p.s. Since I went to Beta blogger, I haven't been able to get in and edit after I've written a post. If I could have, I would have linked to the blog that originally inspired this question. http://fetchmemyaxe.blogspot.com

Avus said...

I shall always be grateful to my mother for introducing me to quite advanced books at a very young age. We were not rich and my father was away in the army (WW 2) but she bought many classic boys' books for me at sales and has left me with a lifelong love of (amongst many others) Kipling's works (particularly his poetry).

Thank you Mum.

(Wasn't it great that no-one mentioned Philip Larkin's "This be the Verse")!

Kathryn said...

Only one thing? But there are so many! Foremost, I think, is that my parents were big readers, owned books, and heavily used public libraries. I developed a passion for reading and writing and an eternal curiosity about life. Another thing they did right was SAVE a lot of my childhood efforts: drawings, poems, humble clay bowls, and so on. I have these now and they are important touchstones.

They also let me be their "fey" child. I was a huge daydreamer, and had many imaginary friends. I was a pretty fragile child emotionally, but I was not ridiculed for my sensitivity ever.

Another thing they did right was allow me to adopt a kitten my elder sister brought home from college. We camped every year, and one reason we couldn't have bigger pets than hamsters (easily taken to a friend for care) was the question of catsitting. Who? Well, even after my best friend copped out after the first year, we coped. We even took the cat camping with us! Kiki was a delight in our lives, and having her cemented my passion for all things cat.

paris parfait said...

Gave me a good education!

Therese said...

My parents were very...human (read: errant, absent, misguided) in their parenting, with me especially (I'm the youngest and they divorced just as I was on the cusp of adolescence).

But, yes, they did a few things right first, one of which was this:

When I was nine I wanted to play Little League baseball. No girls played back then. Our town had a perfectly good girl's softball league, and my parents suggested I play softball. I refused. (There *is* a difference, and that difference mattered to me, what can I say?)

So my parents, rather than tell me "tough luck," appealed to the Little League commission on my behalf--and after a hearing and a vote, I was granted permission to try out--and I did, and I got in!

My years as the only girl playing baseball gave me experiences and lessons I never would've had if my parents had stuck with the status quo.

Terri /Tinker said...

You number one and two questions made me laugh! Oh, yes, when the shoe is on the other foot, it does pinch a bit :) Though I really don't have any big complaints about my mom.

We were raised by my mom with my grandparents help while she worked - my dad was absentee, they divorced before I was old enough to remember him and he went his own way...Considering she was our sole support, my mom did everything she could for us - of course there were things I wished had gone differently along the way - but she did so many good things for us it's hard to pinpoint just one. She gave us a love for books and reading; for art and music and theater and films. Took us camping and fishing (actually I didn't care much for the fishing part :) All on a very limited budget - I'm still amazed when I think about it, and realize how much she sacrificed to do those things for us and with us. When I was little, she had exactly one outfit for each day of the week. Which explains why clothes-shopping was one of her favorite things to do, once we were finally out on our own!

KG said...

The one thing from ALL of them (divorces, remarries, etc.):

love and appreciation of all kinds of music.

kenju said...

My mom forced me to get a good education and I am forever grateful for that. She also taught me consideration of others. Dad taught me (by example) to be stoic in the face of anything, and especially in the face of a nagging wife.

sonicido said...

With an agnostic mother and an atheist father who constantly provoked my frustrated older brother who used me to get even with both of them-I was very thankful that my parents pretty much didn't care where I was or what I was doing. I escaped into the woods for days and sat in trees with my best friend, Mary.

rdl said...

They bought me the complete Nancy Drew series and Cherry Ames/nurse books. And they bought me a piano.

Anonymous said...

My family puts the "diss" in dysfunctional, so one thing I inadvertently learned from them was the power of silence in the face of ridicule.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I think (I hope) it's a given that all parents love their children unconditionally. My parents also believed in me unconditionally. I grew up with a very strong sense of self because my parents told me, and showed me, that I could accomplish anything. They prodded a little when necessary and they always held out a hand to grab if I stumbled.

robin andrea said...

My parents taught their four children to love each other, and it has been so for the all of my 54 years. They allowed us to speak our minds, to take positions that they did not agree with, to march against the war in VietNam, to go to Woodstock (even though they though it was a crazy idea). They loved us even when we were acting out, self-centered, and thoughtless. They forgave us for making a zillion mistakes. If I had to sum that up into one thing they did right-- They created a safe home for us, safe enough that our friends would visit with them even when the kids weren't home.

Becca said...

I was lucky enough to have parents who loved me unconditionally and showed it, who made me feel that I could accomplish anything if I set my mind to it, and were always there to back me up no matter what the situation.

Thanks for reminding me to remember all those things today, espeically while I still have a chance to thank them both in person :)

zhoen said...

I was fed, clothed, sheltered, given a solid (parochial) education. None of my parents mistakes or abuses were permanent, until they made them so for me when I grew to adulthood. All the miscommunications were forgivable, if only they'd shown some interest in the results.

I have taken all of it, and become exactly who I am.

melba said...

they had me!

How are you?

When ever I see your book I get a thrill! How are the parties going? When things slow done lets get together. Sean and I went to the bookstore, sat at that same table, and Maggie asked, where is Patry? :)

XO,
Melba

JT Ellison said...

Everything. They did everything right. There's nothing that I can say they did wrong.
And as they get ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary in a few weeks, I'll continue to worship them.
Yes, I am blessed. I can only wish that kind of magic for everyone, though I know it's not the reality.

Patry Francis said...

I had the new experience of being interviewed on local TV today. I was supposed to be talking about the book, but I found myself waxing poetic over the wonders of the blog instead. The responses to this post came up; then I came home to find even more answers...loving, heartbreaking, strong, lyrical, and many a combination of all those things.

Thank you.

Kerstin said...

They got divorced.

P. A. Moed said...

Hi Patry.
My parents gave me reading and that became the means of my escape and liberation.

Mia King said...

I love this post, and this question. There is always something right, even if they didn't intend for it to be that way!

For me, my parents gave me the gift of creativity and created an environment where I learned to be self-sufficient. Of course, there's the flip side to that - it took me a while to learn to trust other people and know I could count on those closest to me. All great lessons that help me become a better ME.

Congrats on the success of LIAR'S DIARY!! It's doing so well everywhere!!

Devon Ellington said...

The big rule in our house was, you never do or want anything because "everyone's doing it" or "everyone has it."

You make your own decisions, based on research and individual wants/needs.

Natalie said...

It's a difficult question because the pros and cons are so interwoven it's impossible to pull them apart. So I won't even try, at this moment. But it's food for thought.

Patry, your book finally arrived after a very long wait and I sat down and read it at one sitting. It's certainly a page-turner and I'm positive will be made into a film. Apart from the introspective passages, it's practically a film script already. Very clever twists of plot, planting of clues, keeping up the mystery. I couldn't identify with Jeanne at all because I come from a family where everyone talked all the time and asked endless questions, so it's hard to imagine a character who puts off talking and asking for so long. In fact, all the characters in the book are secretive and deceitful, which fits well with the title. Well done Patry! May you have huge success and go on to the next and the next book, but please keep going on the blog too.

sylvia c. said...

Raising me with confidence.

Hands down.

I was raised to believe I could do anything I set my mind to.

I still believe it!

Great Question!
truly,

Sylvia C.

Lorna said...

I can't figure out which is better, the framing of the question or the answers---I think that means that my family gave me an open mind.

Kelley MacDonald said...

My parents taught me that love, and loyalty to those you love, is absolute. Maybe they weren't perfect (buy hey, they're both gone, so they seem more perfect now...) but they taught me this. Also to never let circumstances define you.

Patry Francis said...

Thanks for the kind words about my novel, Natalie. Like the idea of it becoming a film--as long as it was done well.

And Mia: Yours, too! Practically a B&N bestseller!

Marewheeee said...

Patry,
thanks for the visit to my Nova Scotia photos. I think it was rdl who introduced me to the blogosphere after she was invited by yourself. Life's not been the same since, in such a great way!
I'm looking for you in the book pages of Naples Daily News.

colleen said...

They accepted us for who we were. There were so many of us that we were like volunteer plants as opposed to the potted ones. The flip side (can I mention that or is it against the rules) is that we were not groomed or guided much or given much special attention.

sarala said...

They never doubted I was smart, as smart as any boy, even in math and science.

AMAZING GRACIE said...

They truly loved each other...

landgirl said...

My father gave me a sense of the virtue of hard work; my mother gave me a sense of whimsy and both gave me a love of reading and words.

Jess Riley said...

Since my father is also a writer, he taught me to love the written word and pursue the wild world of publication in the first place. My mother, a person who is "nice to everyone," inspires me to do the same. (That one can be harder!) They both instilled in me empathy for others, appreciation for education, and a good work ethic.

Melissa Marsh said...

They instilled in me respect for other people, something I'm trying to get through to my kids. And they also showed me that you don't need lots of money or things to be happy - yet ANOTHER thing I'm trying to teach my children in this materialistic society.

sarala said...

Patry,
I finished Liar's Diary today and posted a review. I really enjoyed your book but did mention a few flaws in my review. Just thought I'd let you know.
sarala

Amishlaw said...

They taught me to question, although it was purely inadvertent.