Lessons I did not mean to learn

So much of what I have learned in life was unwitting.

As a parent, this realization fills me with a strange combination of relief and chagrin.

Because I can’t seem to stop talking.

The teachable moments come fast and furious sometimes. I have so much hard-earned wisdom to impart about honesty, integrity, love (it’s a verb), a work ethic.

educationBut if I’m truly honest with myself, I have to admit that most of the lessons I learned from my parents, they taught me in deed. Not by preaching.

I turned a deaf ear to everything from how to properly dice a carrot, to not procrastinating.

The lectures, for the most part, did not stick. I was not open to receiving them.

But I could not help but watch my parents’ example. The way they lived. If their actions matched their words.

My appreciation for all things beautiful comes from my father’s artistic perspective. We took more nature hikes than you could shake a stick at. I saw the awe on his face when geese landed on a pond, rivaling fighter pilots in their precision landing. I observed the place settings, staging of food on a platter and occasional candles he would place on the dinner table when it was his night to cook.

Ah, I thought to myself, these things bring him joy. And unwittingly, I was taught how to find joy in the sun glinting on a lake, a well-folded napkin.

My drive comes from watching my mother make a career as an executive at a time women just weren’t doing that. She never lectured me on making it in a man’s world, working late, taking leadership positions outside of a 9 to 5 job. She just did it. She worked late when she had to and brought me to the office to wait it out. I watched her from the recesses of many an auditorium, as she gave speeches and won awards. I may have appeared to be quietly reading my book backstage, but I was soaking in what it took to pave your own path.

I see, I thought to myself. This is just what women do. And unwittingly, I was taught not to question my own qualifications if I knew I was up to a task, even when others did. Without a word, she taught me this. Women lead.

As I parent two boys who are growing up faster than I like to accept, I feel there is such little time to let them learn on me. To guide. And, with a teen in the house, I am more than used to someone turning a deaf ear.

So I remind myself, sometimes words are not necessary.

If I am consistent, if I live steadily on while being true to what I believe, they will see it.

Just as I did.

And the lessons will come, perhaps unwittingly. But, rest assured, they will come.




10 Comments Add yours

  1. Such a great point that the lessons we purposely teach aren’t necessarily the ones our kids are going to remember. I’m constantly harping on my kids to be kind to each other but one day, I drove past a man holding a sign on a street corner and my son said, “Mommy! You forgot to give him some money!” I always give a few bucks when I have it and I had no idea that he paid attention. It opened up a discussion on homelessness and ways that we can be kind to each other. Much better than yelling, “Be nice to your sister!”

  2. markbialczak says:

    Just do what you do and let them soak it in. Wonderful way to leave the wisdom on the line, Kay.

  3. Excellent post on what it takes to be a good parent. Be an example.

  4. Anne says:

    So the old adage, actions speaks louder than words, holds true. You are so right that it was my parents actions that led me through life and their words of wisdom did not really impact me till I was much older. I am grateful to all that my parents imparted to me. They were not perfect by any means, none of us are, but they established in me a good core of base values that are timeless & seem to be lacking in many of todays individuals. Keep leading by your example & yes, give the advice now & then, because one day they will hear it & use it. If you do this then you have done your job well & the rest is up to them.

  5. We always follow our parents. Now that I think about after reading my habits, many of my habits are (unwittingly) derivatives of theirs.
    And yes actions speak louder than words, so following their habits is easier than listening to their advice.

  6. Actions speak louder than words. We’ve all heard that all our lives. And it’s true. At a time when I had a troublesome teen – and feared for her future – I was comforted by a wise friend who said something to the effect that my daughter had a solid example to follow, and she would ultimately do that. And he was right – she knew in her own heart that her behaviour was not doing her any good, and rectified it. No lectures needed, just love and an example.

    1. candidkay says:

      That’s a true leap of faith as a mother, isn’t it? Not easy. But it doesn’t surprise me that she followed your lead. I’m sure it was a strong one.

  7. terraburrah says:

    I’ll remember this – as a teacher. Good info here, thank you

  8. Cindy Tartz Dadik says:

    Excellent!! Yes – and most parents don’t realize that kids can learn the wrong ways from their parents actions – which should ultimately make the parent a better parent!

  9. Very wise words Kay. Most people do not realise it is in their actions that teach. Great post. Namaste

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