I remember the first time I really understood the value of my mother’s advice. I was thirteen years old, standing in the hallway of my school, about to give a class presentation before a teacher who wasn’t all that fond of me. I had politely declined that particular teacher’s invite to join a school club on one occasion. From that moment on, let’s just say I wasn’t her cup of tea.
I was a very shy kid—hard to believe, I know—and the concept of addressing a room full of my peers and that particular teacher was not something I was looking forward to. So there I was, nervous as all heck, pacing in the hallway, knowing full well that I’d be faced with my teacher’s less-than-agreeable expression throughout the duration of my presentation.
I remember running downstairs to phone my mom from the principal’s office. I can’t recall exactly what I said—likely some medley of panic-stricken worries—but I’ll never forget her reply.
“Just be yourself,” she said. “If you’re honest, and real, and speak from the heart, you have nothing to worry about.”
Mom was right (as she often is). The presentation went great, the cranky teacher rolled her eyes but succumbed to giving me an “A,” and I walked away from that experience with the knowledge that if you stay true to yourself and what you believe, things will always be okay.
I remembered that middle school instance last night as I sat in a Manhattan restaurant and listened to a man and a woman at a nearby table sound off about how the importance of good parenting is “overrated.”
“I just don’t think it makes that big of a difference in the long run,” the gentleman said. His female companion agreed, and they went on to discuss how “parents don’t really shape kids all that much.”
I’m not sure I could disagree more.
I have learned a wealth of lessons through friendships, relationships, and school experiences. However, a large part of the way I have approached those things came from the foundation provided by my parents. I embraced discipline in high school because mom and dad taught me the value of discipline from the very first day of kindergarten. I was receptive to leadership opportunities in college because mom and dad had spent years reminding me that good leadership stems from confidence, commitment, and the ability to really listen.
I value trust because my parents taught me the importance of earning that trust, of giving it back, and of never making promises I can’t keep. I value honesty because they taught me that the greatest treasure you can give someone is the security of knowing that you really do mean what you say. And I value loyalty because they taught me to never turn my back on those who have shown me trust, honesty, and all the wonderful things that come with true friendship.
Good parenting is hard. Parents are just people, and they will make mistakes just like the rest of us. But their power to do good is remarkable. I have such immense respect for parents who put their children first, who devote their lives to providing the best lives they can for their children, and who make it their business to instill values of trust, honesty, loyalty, commitment, and personal responsibility in their children’s hearts.
The power that parents possess to inspire their children, to help them build a solid foundation that will forever ground them in life, and to help them learn how to face tough challenges and rise above tough falls must never be ignored or demeaned. The lessons they teach their children are absolutely priceless.
The thing I feel most blessed with is the knowledge that no matter what life has handed me over the past thirty-two years, I have had the two people I trust and adore most in this world right there to walk through it all with me. I call them Mom and Dad. They don’t always agree with me, but they never stop reminding me to follow my heart, use my head, and always be true to who I am. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
To all the wonderful parents out there—you give your kids the greatest gift in the world every day just by being you.