*8 Things: Good Things My Parents Taught Me

8things from Magpie Girl It’s nearly Mother’s Day and my mind has been wandering over to my dear, sweet parents halfway around the world. My Mom and Dad are just a joy. Their special talents are macadamia-encrusted grilled salmon and mojitos on the back deck, or micro brews and antipasti on the sailboat. Obviously, everybody loves them. So here as a ‘thank you’ to my folks, are *8 Good Things my Parents Taught Me:

 1. Practice Hospitality. When I was a teenager my Mom used to stand the kitchen, shake her head and laugh while she said, “I should just install a revolving door!” Our tiny track house in California was home-base to all the teenagers in our circle. My siblings and I knew our friends were always welcome, and pals who were going through a rough time at home had a safe place to land. Now that my kids are school-aged, ours is the house everyone comes home to. In addition we take in stray teenagers, dogs, and wandering souls. That hospitality impulse goes on…

2. Tithe.  My folks became Christians in their mid-20’s and from then on at least 10% of their income went to charity. I can remember lean times in the house, but a little money always went into the offering plate, and a child was always supported through World Vision. Sometimes my Dad would feel suddenly compelled to give someone a $20 and he’d be walking across the parking lot towards their car with cash in hand. This taught me to prioritize giving in my budget – -something Paul and I have continued, and which we are passing on to the girls.

3. Communal Responsibility. One of the things I remember about growing up is that chores were treated as a contribution to the family community. It was clear from an early age that you did a chore to help meet the needs of the family and the house, and in return your needs in the family and in the house were also supported. We’re trying to pass this on to our kids by talking about our family as a community, and by not linking allowance to chores. (Everyone contributes, everyone receives. It’s not a reward for behavior, but a way of cooperative living.)

4. You Can ‘Make Do.’ I grew up in 70’s when the drought tortured California and the recession plagued the nation. Those were the times of day-old bread, peanut butter sandwiches, and grocery co-ops run out of neighbor’s garages. Times were tight, but we made it through. Somehow our parents managed to communicate to us that we had to pinch pennies, but we weren’t left feeling insecure. Those memories are a great comfort to me as our nation weathers the latest economic storm. I know that even on a shoestring, our family can thrive.

5. Do it Yourself. Things I can remember my folks doing over the years: building a solar dehydrator make our own banana chips; digging out a fish pond; pouring concrete sidewalks; restoring a ’57 Ford Fairlaine; picking and canning fruit; bottling root beer; sewing our own clothes; building a puppet show, play house, and seesaw from scrap lumber; making and installing stained glass windows; and more cooking and remodeling projects than I could shake a hammer at. Paul and I are nearly all-thumbs, and despite his handy tool belt, we do hire big things out. But the idea of making what you need has stuck with us. And our kids? They make birthday presents, sew and knit, and last month Eden learned to use a jig saw!

6. Rest. My Dad is a bit of a workhorse. He can get up go and go without breakfast or break. But he also knows how to rest. I have many fond memories of him baking in the sun on a chaise lounge, or curled up with me on the sofa watching monster movies on a Sunday afternoon. Family Sabbaths were frequently imposed, and a quiet afternoon was always valued. In our hurry-up, consumer culture, having a work/rest rhythm is tantamount to good spiritual, emotional, and physical health. In various periods of our life Paul and I have been known to practice Sabbath, yank the kids from school for a ‘personal day,’ or just spend the weekend reading in the breeze. Rest is a nearly a lost art that must be passed down through the generations.

7. “Traaaadition! Tradition!” You’d hear my folks sing this song from the Fiddler on the Roof every once in awhile-especially in our teens when one of us would whine to get out of some sort of family event. Traditions were bedrock in our family, and were largely in my Mother’s special purview. From holiday decorations to special foods to little rites like ice-cream-after-choir-performances, Mom made sure there were rhythms to our living. These traditions reinforced our family’s values and beliefs, and provided us with colorful family memories. Anyone who’s read my blog for more than five seconds knows that rites, rituals, rhythms and traditions are core to what I am about. That comes from Mom!

8. Camp. Even in the tightest of times my parents managed to get us out in the great outdoors. First with an army surplus tent, then Grandpa’s trailer, and finally with a small camper my folks took us all up and down the West Coast, up into Canada and down Mexico way. Once we even went camping and stewed up a squirrel for supper- booty my grandfather had shot and the only food we had left in the freezer when the grocery budget ran low! Most of my childhood memories center around things like overnights at Big Sur; snow New Years eve in a nearly deserted Yosemite; and 4th of Julys in Malakoff Diggins -our favorite little gold town. Nowadays we don’t camp as often as I’d like. But we do get out a couple of times a year, building memories of marshmallows and mosquito bites with our own ‘happy campers.’

 What goodies have your parents passed down to you? Are they things you can hold in your hands or memories you hold in your heart? If you have kids, how are you passing them down to the next generation? Drop some in the comments below or grab a *8 Things badge and play along. Cheers!

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Deena April 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I love this list. I have to give it some thought as it relates to my upbringing, but reading yours gave me a happy glow. I’m passing a lot of wonderful things on to my kids (like self-sufficiency and reading!), and this list really helped me see that.

Tracy (Tiny Mantras) April 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I love your list. Such great reminders (and so many things I wish I was keeping up with myself). Being from a split-up home, thinking about this is always more complicated for me, but one thing my mother was especially good at was making us believe that we were nearly magical from birth.

I wrote about it when my son was born and we held a welcoming ceremony for him:

Becky (Rachelle's sis) April 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Yes, we have been truly blessed by wonderful parents that have such a deep love for us. So many awesome memories & traditions that I too pass onto my children. Mom & dad have created a blessed life for us…truly grateful.

Tess April 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm

You just reminded me of something I haven’t thought of in years: in the context of tithing, my father always used to put double the cover price in the honour box for our weekly Catholic paper, saying that if someone else who couldn’t afford it took a copy without paying, the church was covered for expenses. It was a little thing that was an insight into Dad’s outlook on life.

Cyndee April 30, 2009 at 6:39 pm

You had me at “macadamia-encrusted grilled salmon and mojitos on the back deck, or micro brews and antipasti on the sailboat” The tho’t running thru my head were ‘oh my god where do they live? I must meet these people :)’
I LOVE your upbringing & all that you shared here. It would be good to be on the front page of every newspaper. That is truly the essence of family & raising children. Every single piece that you wrote is what i want to create when I begin fostering teens. Which is hopefully very soon. I’m in the midst of raising money so that I can get into a larger home so that I can do this.
I have been in great reflection mode & deep soul retrieval work of my own childhood. Camping & magical Christmases w/ my Aunt & Uncle carried me thru a very difficult childhood. Every single piece of it made me who I am today. And it has given me this passion & insight & deep wisdom. For that I am truly grateful! I have just finished (I think :) shedding my deepest layer of grief surrounding all of it. It has been a powerful & arduous process. But perfect preparation for what I am about to do.
The one thing that I know, along w/ ALL the love that I have to share w/ these kids that will be coming into my life….is that I can look them in the eye & tell them “I know what it is like to not have one safe place to turn” & to truly give them that.
Thank you Rachelle for who you are & all that you share! It truly is a light in a world that needs more of us to come alive & shine our lights!

Susan Young May 1, 2009 at 6:08 am

I’m so glad mention of the tool belt made it into today’s post! Love ya!

laura May 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

what a lovely post – i think we could all learn a lot from our perspective in the world by looking back on our simpler, freer childhoods, and the people who molded us. i will be thinking about this post all day…

thanks! :)

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