It was written eight years ago and it is the oldest file on my computer. I found it cleaning out a folder called “other writing” looking for any forgotten gems that I might want to roll into the book I’ve just started. It isn’t the oldest thing I’ve written of course, I’ve been doing this stuff since junior high. But most of that is all gone now. This isn’t.
I hear my own voice, from the year my mother died. I’ve changed in the passing years, and I’m not sure I agree with all of this now. But I think it is a perspective worth sharing. It’s called “Teach your children.”
You teach your children every day. Not by what you say but by how you live your life. It is so easy to find yourself teaching them that life is drudgery, that marriage sucks, that work is to be avoided, and that you never get a fair deal.
I will never get to deliver the eulogy for my parents which I would like. But if I could – it would go something like this.
The most offensive and ridiculous thing my parents ever said to me was “don’t do as I do, do as I tell you.” They thought it was terribly funny, which made it all the worse. And they quoted it often. You see, my parents basically liked to drink, gamble and have sex. And overeat. They avoided cigarettes and drugs, although my father smoked for awhile and tried pot in his youth. I don’t think stopping either had much to do with self restraint – rather the first was more of an aesthetes choice and the second had more to do with what vices were readily available within their social circle.
And while my parents were busy enjoying life and telling us not to, they were also, in a way they never suspected, busy teaching me and my sister.
And what were we learning?
- If you want to have a good marriage, have all the sex you want but only have it with your partner. Nothing else will result in love after 40 plus years and having someone love you when you are 60 is about as good as it gets.
- If you are going to drink alcohol, only drink after five o’ clock except on holidays and special occasions. Only get drunk on weekends and not on all of them. This works a lot better if you can manage to be a happy, or at least not a belligerent, drunk.
- Gamble all you want, but never ever what you cannot afford to lose.
- Keep you weight to within 40 pounds of your ideal. There are a lot of ways to die and frankly odds are yours will have nothing to do with your weight if you keep it somewhere under obese. Meanwhile, you will enjoy your life a lot more.
So today – I am slightly chubby and happily married for 26 plus years. I drink less than my parents did, which is good, but I do drink only on nights and weekends. I hate most forms of gambling but play the stock market as hobby, but of course only with what we can afford to lose. I pretty much have a great life.
It is a shame I will never get to deliver this tribute, because it brings two things to mind which should be said.
- I hope my husband and I have taught our children as well.
- Thanks Mom and Dad. I am doing what you did, not what you said, and it’s working out just fine.