Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Praise of Great Parents

My family, as I was growing up, never resembled the "model American household." My mother was diagnosed with stage three cancer when I was six and never quite recovered afterward. My father often worked multiple teaching jobs and would wake up at 3am to meditate before his early morning commute. Neither one stayed home to take care of me like so many of my friends' parents did. There were never family dinners – we were all on radically different schedules. But for all of these seeming flaws in my family life, there were two things my parents supplied in abundance that, looking back, made all the difference: unconditional love and support.

Since I've been able to speak, my parents and I have always ended our conversations with an "I love you," before the "goodbye." My mother was especially diligent in this respect. She had grown up the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, both deeply scarred from their experiences in the camps. The only time she ever heard "I love you" from her mother was when she (my grandmother) was terminally ill. My mother vowed that I'd never have to wonder if she loved me; she and my father made it abundantly clear every day of my life. There wasn't a day that went by when I didn't hear those three words.

My parents were also the first people to see something special in me. They never inflated my ego by telling me that I was unbelievably, super fantastically extraordinary, but they did provide me with unwavering support when I set out to do something. I'll never forget when I got involved with an extracurricular organization in high school; there was a regional conference taking place in Baltimore, but because my school had never been particularly active before, there was no way for me to get there and no funding for me to go. Not only did my parents offer to pay for it outright, but my father took time off work to drive me down and sit in the hotel room while I was out doing my thing. This wasn't the exception to the rule; it was the rule.

I look back on my childhood, and it's patently clear to me that these two factors have had the greatest impact as I've moved into adulthood. Like any other awkward, nerdy kid, I certainly went through periods where I wondered why anyone would ever love me. But I never questioned that at least two people did. And from that unwavering support: a deep-seated sense that I was worth something, a sense that people had made sacrifices to invest in me, and that I owed my best effort to them and to myself. Maybe the surface level of my upbringing wasn't always nicely polished or perfectly manicured, but underneath, there was really very little more I could have asked for.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.

1 comment:

Julian C. Gray said...

Yes Ben, I am one of many people on the periphery who saw this unconditional Love and Support for you. Because your Parents had Faith ("fidelis") in you they but in motion a tried-and-true mechanism, known through the ages for it predictable outcome: that the child of such parents would henceforth walk through life in possession of this unseen inner gift of Fidelis; or better known as, "CON-FIDENCE". Truly this gift will always serve you and the wider world by extension.
I wish you Love and I salute you and your Parents as I also add my Faith in you. CON-FIDELES, Julian