A reader who does not have a blog emailed me a lovely entry for the group writing project. She writes:
What my parents did right
1. My mother supported me when I was bullied.
I had a great deal of trouble with bullies when I was in grade school during the 60’s. I can still remember the dread that I felt at the thought of going to school and the relief at the thought of going home. I was the youngest child in my class most of the time, and I was always on the small side.Most of the bullying that I experienced was taunting and teasing, though sometimes there was a physical side as well. I was very sensitive and didn’t have much ability to defend myself. My mother listened to my woes and offered commonsense advice, but most of all, she always helped me to see that I was not worthless or helpless. She also showed me that after feeling so bad because of what some kids said or did to me, I should always be kind and sympathetic to other people who might need my help. I knew that I could always count on Mom to support me and make me secure. She had a college degree and had had a career before she had children, but luckily for me and for my brother and sister, she was a stay-at-home mom and was always there for us at the end of the day. When I went away to college and learned about some of my friends’ families that weren’t so nurturing, I realized how fortunate I was to have a mother who was simply there, utterly dependable and full of commonsense wisdom.
2. My father shared his love of literature and reading with me.
My dad had a double major in college: biology and English. He thought for a while of being a teacher, but in the end he went to work for a company which also employed his older brother. His love of reading, however, was always with him. When I was a little girl, he would read to me from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, or Paine’s Crisis. He had–and still has–a deep, sonorous voice. “These are the times that try men’s souls”–what a thrilling passage that was! When I was old enough to read by myself, my dad and I had a weekly ritual of going to the library together. He read all of my books as well as his own, and we shared an enjoyment of science fiction and mystery novels. Now I am a college teacher, and I try to share my love of reading with my students. And like my dad, I also like to talk to my own children about what we are reading.
3. My parents passed on the Faith to me.
When my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago, one of the things I said in tribute to them was that they had passed on the Catholic faith to us, their children. When I was growing up, going to church was not negotiable. (In fact, it was always 8:30 mass, no matter how late a child had stayed out the night before!) My sister said when she was in college that Mom didn’t have to worry that she’d do something “stupid, ” since Mom had instilled sufficient guilt in us to make that impossible! But it wasn’t just guilt at all. I can remember when I was a teenager and wondering whether God really existed that my dad would stay up late and talk to me about any and all questions and doubts that I had. None of my questions seemed to bother him, and his knowledge of theology and philosophy was so valuable to me in that era of truly abysmal religious education. He was taught by the Benedictines of St. Vincent (in Latrobe, PA), and I learned more from him that I did from my teachers in Catholic schools in the sixties and seventies. In fact, sometimes he helped me to undo the results of the worst teaching, like that of the priest who told us (in high school) that Jesus wasn’t really God. I am so grateful to my parents for sharing their faith with us.
Thank you, Jeannine, for such a nice reflection!
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