I Get it Now: Parental Wisdom That Took a Minute To Grasp

March 7, 2012  |  
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For most of us when we were really young, like toddler-aged, our parents were the closest things to super heros. Our mothers were beautiful, our daddies had super human strength and both of them were smart so we trusted their judgment. Then something changed. Call it puberty, call it experience, call it our parents’ very real flaws, whatever it is there comes a time when we start realizing our parents don’t know everything but we, their offspring, we definitely do. No one needs to tell us anything because it’s our life to live and in our minds, we’ve done all the growing and maturing we need to. Ironically, right around this same time most of our parents are talking to us more than ever, trying to guide us in the right direction. While we may not have appreciated what they had to say, with a little time and a lot of maturity, we came to see the truth behind their words.


1. Your attitude is not cute

I hit puberty pretty early, so my teenage angst started when I was like 10. I had a problem with everything. Everything got on my nerves, everything was beneath me, no one understood me. In essence, woe was the 10-year-old, perfectly healthy, well-fed, loved and cared for me. I’d probably still be walking around with a stank face if it weren’t for my mother telling me, with a look of slight disgust and severe irritation that my lil attitude was not cute. Whoa. My pre-adolescent mind was blown. While I could have ignored the truth, I really took heed to my mother’s words. And I’m so glad I did.  While we’re not all like this, we know the last thing the world needs is another black woman with an attitude.

2. He’ll be back.

Whenever my sister or I were going through some type of relationship drama, my mother was always there to assure us, with what seemed like ridiculous confidence, that the objects of our affection would make their way back around. Feeling like a break up or an argument was the end of the world, it was hard for us to believe her. But if my mom was never right about anything else, she was right about this. They always came back. Now whether we wanted them once they’d returned was a different story.

3. Grades equal money

This little gem came from my dad. From early on my parents really stressed education. One summer morning I vividly remember my sister and I going over vowel sounds in my mother’s bedroom before we headed outside.  At seven years old, my dad told me to write a valedictorian speech, when I didn’t even know what a valedictorian was. School was important. But as a kid I really thought my dad took it too far when he started telling us that grades equaled money. What? Sure, we might get a little change if we had a good report card but mere letters on a transcript weren’t going to put any significant money in my pocket. Ooo how wrong I was. Once it came time to apply for college and scholarships, I saw how my grades saved me thousands of dollars when it came time to go off to school.

4. You don’t pay for anything in this house…

There’s no sting of reality stronger than the ones your parents can inflict. Once, my sister and I found a hole in the screen of the guest room window. Being that it was summer and we had nothing better to do, we stretched and stretched the hole until we were able to climb in and out of it. (It was a ground level window.) Thinking that we had made some grand discovery, we showed our adult cousin our new escape route. We really thought she was an ally. Not so. She ran back and told my mother what we had done. After my cousin went home, it was on. I will never forget the speech my mother gave us before the spanking. “You don’t pay for anything in this house, so don’t tear anything up!” As a kid I was so affected by that. We really didn’t own anything. But still, did she have to throw that in our faces? Geez! Ha, yes she did. Now that I’m older and I pay for my own stuff, I can’t stand when other people come over my place and misuse my things, that I paid for. You have to respect other people’s stuff, whether you think you’re entitled to it or not.

5. Don’t be in such a rush to get grown.

This nugget of wisdom came from a woman I refer to as my first mother, my maternal grandmother. She said this after I bounded into her room, swinging my freshly straightened hair, in a crop top t-shirt and dark purple polish on my finger nails. She could tell that I was feeling myself. Because I was. Being that I wasn’t even a teenager yet and she was strictly old school, she thought my look was too much for my age. I wiggled my fingers so she could get a look at my nails. Instead of celebrating with me, as I expected her to, she simply said, “Don’t be in such a rush to grow up.” Whaaat?!?  Why not? What was so fun about being a kid, always having to take orders, never getting a chance to exercise your independence and autonomy? Now, I really do wish I appreciated childhood for what it was. Because being an adult, paying bills and cooking my own food definitely could have waited a little while longer.

6. It’ll be gone before you know it.

This is so cliche, right? I know but people use the expression so much because it’s so true. My dad said this to me, verbatim, when my parents and my younger sister dropped me off for college. At that time those years seemed like they were eons away. But sure enough, after a quick four-year whirlwind I was walking across the stage collecting my diploma. Now, I can see just how quickly the passage of time may seem the older you get. I mean, really didn’t it seem like we just started 2012 last week? It’s already March.

7. Five years from now, this won’t be a big deal.

I’m a worrier by nature, so I thank God I had parents who were able to talk me off the ledge so to speak. As a kid, everything was always the end of the world for me. Ever altercation, every conflict, every sign of the slightest bit of tension and I was ready to freak out. In seventh grade, I was having a problem with an art teacher, who I’m still convinced is a nut job. I can’t remember the exact problem, which illustrates the point I’m trying to make. At the time I thought my issue with the art teacher was the biggest scandal to rock my middle school; but like my dad told me, five years from then I could barely remember the woman’s name. She was ultimately fired two years after I graduated but even if she hadn’t been, my life is so much bigger than our little altercation.

What lessons did your parents teach you, that you didn’t understand until years later?

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