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December 18, 2008

Life’s Little Lesson…

Joan Marie Aquilino

Today is a special day for at least two people in Frederick. Commissioner Charles Jenkins is celebrating his birthday today. So in honor of his very special day, we'll keep this light and positive. Happy Birthday, Charles.


While we are all running around trying to make sure no one is missed on our list, struggling to make this Christmas acceptable to everyone, and not showing the stress of so many financial worries, do not feel guilty about not being able to meet preexisting expectations. Trust in the fact that you are loved for who you are and not what you give. Do not explain yourself; just do your best and it will be accepted and appreciated.


Ask your children if they remember the gifts they got last year. Do you remember what you got last year? If pressured, I might be able to pull out a Christmas or two and an item or two I received; but there is only one that I remember every moment of, at first in a bad way, and then within days with parents who explained, I got it. I got it big time and am thankful to this day for it. All the rest are wonderful memories of families and friends, but not of particular gifts except that one.


A Christmas many, many years ago, when things weren't so good for my family. My parents were struggling, and normally it didn't show. Normally, all my brothers' and my needs were met; and we always had food on the table. My family lived within their means and barely – if ever – bought things on credit.


This particular Christmas my brother and I had really acted up. I do not remember the particulars, but I know from experience now that when both of your children pick the same time to go through a less than desirable phase, it can test the patience of a saint, much less a human parent.


Well, Stephen and Joni pushed their luck and Santa was told not to visit the Aquilino household. I'm guessing from memory the biggest issue was most likely brother/sister bickering. Every parent knows that a constant on slate of sibling bickering can put the most stable of parents in the looney bin.


My parents had their fill; and, on top of the added financial burden the holiday always put on parents shoulders, they just felt enough was enough. Why break the bank if it's not appreciated anyway. That particular year we truly weren't the most appreciative of children. Sorry, Mom and Dad.


Can you imagine a parent issuing a warning, then, when ignored, actually following through with the punishment Difficult to believe in this age of largely over indulged, poorly behaved children. (There are exceptions, but that's the point I'm trying to make. They seem to be the exceptions, not the rule anymore.) Yep, we were warned more than once to straighten up. Needless to say, we didn't listen; and I'm sure never gave it a thought they'd actually follow through on their promise. We also knew, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa," and his name was Mom and Dad.


I learned what might have been my most valuable life lesson: accountability and consequences. I utter these words often to my readers and anyone who knows me for more than five minutes knows I live by them.


I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but, in part because of that one Christmas, I have the strength to live with my own inadequacies. I also know how to apologize when I screw up.


I'm proud to say my children have learned that lesson also. We all do our share of screwing up. We just don't blame others, or make excuses. We fix it. In other words, we man up. Excuse me! I mean, we Woman Up in our case.


Looking back over my own childhood and that of my children, I did fairly well by my girls, but I wish I had followed through better and hadn't issued so many idle threats.


When you walk into a room and trip over the shoes for the 100th time and you yell – "I will never buy you another pair of shoes," – that is an idle threat. You have no intention of following through and your children know that. When you trip over the shoes and tell them that if they leave them out one more time they will disappear and they leave them out again, stick to your word and make the shoes disappear. Give them to Goodwill. That would make you threat real. They will learn a lesson not quickly forgotten. The children might even have to dip into their own piggybank to buy the next pair. Bet they won't leave them lying around again.


Two responsible parents are the best situation; but if life throws you a curve, and you end up being a single parent, it's no excuse. Children are not a mistake and they deserve the best we can offer them. That starts with responsibility. If you don't have the tools or family support, find help!


This is not a sad “oh, woe-is-me” story. This is a story about appreciating the lessons learned from one’s parents, taking them and teaching the best to our own children.


Some life rules I learned as a child, which might serve you well in raising your own children and also in our own lives, are these.


Every action has a consequence!

Be accountable for your actions!

Mistakes are part of the learning process!

Know how to make a gracious and sincere apology!

Send Thank You notes!

Earn respect. Don't expect it!

Don't make idle threats!

Volunteer, and give to charities!

No one is entitled to squat; work and earn it!

Life is what happens while you are making plans!

When you are about to lie, find a mirror and look into it!

Smile, laugh and love often!


And above all else:


Matter in the Life of a Child!


Now, go thank your parents!


If you are wondering if they followed through, they did. There was one present that year and it came on December 26th after a long discussion. A discussion, not a lecture. I still have that gift to this very day. Wasn't big. Wasn't expensive, but it is very valuable to me. Make every gift count.


I wish everyone a Happy Holiday, whatever you might celebrate. To those who celebrate Christmas with me, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year.


’til next time. . . .


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