We learn from and are shaped by our experiences, circumstances, our own innate nature, and the things we consume (for example, what we hear others say, what we see and hear on television and what we read about), amongst many other things. One of the greatest influences on who we become, I think, are our parents.
Even if they are (or were) perhaps not there in our lives, their absence influences us. If their parenting style was not good, that influences us too – perhaps it determines us to be different as parents ourselves. Our parents start to influence us from birth and continue throughout our lives. They are there with us as we form our very first thoughts and perspectives. They lead not only by their words but by what they do every day as we are growing up.
Today, I am feeling very reflective of my own life and upbringing; of who I am and how that has been shaped by my parents. My parents were (and are) not perfect. Like all human beings, they have made mistakes and learnt – and are learning – how to be better in all the different aspects of life, including parenthood. But today I want to express my deep gratitude for all they have taught me and the values that they have instilled not only through their words but through their own behaviour.
From a very young age, I was taught things like “don’t lie” and “don’t cheat”. I know, these may be basic things that all of us are told, but my parents meant it and lived by these principles. I cannot remember any single instance where they have lied or tried to cheat anybody. They have walked the straight path and taught us, their children, to do the same. My father always, always, plays by the rules and acts with honesty. That is something I have inherited from him.
They showed me to be selfless and to care about, and for, others. From little things, like my dad’s concern that we should be on time for any events and meet any promises made to others, so that others are not left waiting for us. To bigger things like my mum’s numerous selfless acts – one which I remember clearly is when her sister-in-law fell sick with late stage cancer. She couldn’t walk or take care of her own basic needs. My parents took her into their home and took care of her when her own family couldn’t. My mum, who was working full-time as a nurse whilst also taking care of two young children, nursed her, stayed by her side and devoted her time to look after her. My mum’s heart is a well of compassion and empathy. My dad has exemplary values such has honesty, loyalty, righteousness, and integrity.
My siblings and I are incredibly lucky that we were blessed with such parents, to have such people influencing us by their actions and teachings from childhood to adulthood. My parents are not wealthy in monetary terms, but we have inherited a wealth of values from that which have shaped us into the people we are today. That is not to say that we are perfect. Far from it. I am a work in progress, as are we all. I have made many mistakes and I am sure to make many more. But I was fortunate to have instilled in me values that I can use to guide my actions and thoughts as I continue this journey through life. My husband says sometimes such things like, “You have a heart of gold,” or “Your super-power is to love and care for others.” I feel a sense of guilt and discomfort when I hear that, because it is a great exaggeration of the truth. Those are not my innate qualities; those are things I have learnt from my parents and which I try to nurture in myself.
My parents both have an innocence about them. Some might even call it gullibility. It is a big part of what makes them who they are – their selflessness and capacity to love springs from that innocence – but it is also something that others have at times taken advantage of. For better or (more likely) for worse, I did not completely inherit that innocence. I feel there is a mix of things inside me, the innocence from my parents but also my own innate nature to judge myself and others. To love and care for others is not something that I had an intrinsic propensity for, but something that I was taught and shown from a young age; and which I try to emulate.
I am a work in progress. I am learning, evolving and growing. But there is a core part of me that is my parents. When I look down at my fingers, I see my dad’s fingers. When I look at my toes, I see my mum’s toes. When I look at my face, I see them there. But when I look more deeply, I see them in who I am, in my words, my actions and my values. My parents live in me, and they always will no matter where I go.