Journey Mercies . . . Life’s Lessons
When do “life lessons” begin and when do they end? From the time we are born our days are filled with rules and regulations. Do’s and don’ts that are supposed to make our lives easier, richer, fuller, better. Don’t touch this, don’t do that. Don’t hit, don’t say bad words, don’t be mean to your sister, always say your prayers, wash your hands before dinner, say yes ma’am and no sir, please and thank-you. Don’t yell, keep your room clean and don’t say “hate”. Just writing this takes me back and makes me wonder . . . did I respond well to the life lessons I learned as a child?
In Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” he states “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.”
You can see a list of Fulgham’s lessons from kindergarten here.
My paternal grandparents were well-to-do Orange County business owners, who entertained regularly. Since I was with them every Sunday, I remember my grandfather, who I loved dearly, helping me with my life’s lessons. He would say things like “Be kind, speak no ill against anyone, love you parents, be a good girl.” He also spent time teaching me the proper way to sit at dinner – no elbows on the table, left hand in my lap, right hand holding my fork. He taught me to say “Would you please pass the gravy?” because you would never reach across the table for anything that was not right in front of you. He taught me how to respond to an adult as I was being introduced. I would put out my hand and say “very nice to meet you.” And if they were leaving I would say “Very nice to have met you.” I was all of 7 or 8 years old. Those and a myriad of others were life lessons that I remember vividly. Reflecting on these has led me to ask,
What life lessons have I imparted to my children?
Well, it would be verbatim from the opening paragraph of this blog. It’s what we do as parents to help our kids along. We share our life lessons, with the hope that sooner or later they will “get it”.
I realize now that the “get it” factor doesn’t always resonate and sometimes our life’s lessons are learned the hard way.
What I saw as my children grew was that in learning what life was all about, they created their own set of standards, ideals and boundaries. Growing up means that all of those preset ideals will change. And so will the person who created them. As Kelly Cutrone, author of If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, says “In breaking away from the familiar and the expected, you’ll be forced and privileged to face great challenges, learn harder lessons, and really get to know yourself.” For me, that happened at 50! The school of hard knocks was alive and well.
What I know now is the lessons we teach our children are only as good as the examples we demonstrate. How we live our lives and how we show them that honesty, integrity, and character will help them achieve a life of goodness. With that in mind, I know that I failed in many ways raising my kids. I know that I put work before their needs at home.
I was a full time employee and a part time mom.
God has been good to me these past 16 years. After making it through my divorce and some tough life lessons of my own, I realized again that honesty, integrity and character are qualities that give you perspective and the ability to rise above any adversity or failure. I made it part of my restoration to manifest these qualities in my life. That decision was purposeful. It empowered me to become a strong “mom” figure with my adult children and a better woman.
Do I regret some of those perfectly BAD decisions? Of course I do. But I also celebrate the way they changed my life. The way they gave me a deeper sense of who I really am and who I really want to become. The life lessons I have learned and the life that I live right now . . . I would not change. I have hope, power, perseverance and love beyond measure.
One of the most incredible revelations for me now is that the wisdom of my years and the life lessons of the past have given me the opportunity to walk along side my children and support them as they come to me for advice or just to talk over how their doing and feeling.
We can never go back . . . but we can change past behaviors, relationships, and decisions. We can and should mirror our own life’s lessons in the most positive way. We can be kind, respectful, and be a person of integrity. We can show compassion, justice, and love. And we can reserve the word “hate” for liver and onions and limburger cheese.
What life lessons did I learn in kindergarten, that are profoundly part of my life right now?
“Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone” and “Clean up your own mess!”
• What life lessons have stuck with you since kindergarten?