“The List”

Like any writing teacher worth her salt, I am always looking for creative prompts that might allow my students or me to dig into memories and pull out some verbiage and truth. This one, though not presented as a prompt, piqued my writer’s curiosity. Parents teach us lots of things. Some are stated clearly, but most seem subtle and therefore tacitly inferred. Inspired by Amy Poehler’s Yes Please in which she included a list of some sweetly thoughtful and many more hilarious ideas, I began ruminating on my own list. After much jotting and revising and smiling through funny memories, here is my compilation, albeit incomplete, of what I learned growing up. There is a story (or many) behind each one, but it was fun to synthesize the many tales and skim across the surface for a while. I found it a welcome ski down memory lane and hope you enjoy it as well.

Things I Learned from Mom:

  • Always plant flowers in odd numbers.
  • Respect your father. He loves you and works really hard.
  • When kids relentlessly taunt you, don’t react. They will get bored and leave you alone if you can just stand to ignore them.
  • When girls want things from their fathers, there’s a certain smile that works every time.
  • Girls everywhere: when considering a husband, choose wisely!
  • Never cancel plans with one person to do something “better” that comes along.
  • If you do not like something at a restaurant, send it back.
  • Respectful kids always greet their friends’ parents. Head-nods don’t count.
  • Everyone has endearingly weird family members. Some of their stories deserve to be told again and again.
  • People who grow up in chaotic households can become amazing people.
  • Never change boyfriends as frequently as you change your underwear.
  • Yellow is not your color, and you may want to think about not parting your hair down the middle.
  • Dogs work their way into your homes and then your hearts.
  • You deserve to be listened to, and it is okay to cry.
  • Being silly is encouraged.
  • The night is young!
  • Boys should treat you right. No idiots or losers allowed.
  • If you are dating an idiot loser, your mom will know and will set up boundaries that are irritating but don’t cause massive rebellion. Mom will also send in reinforcements to sneakily make sure he’s not being too loser-y. When you end up breaking up with him, which you will, you will thank her later.
  • Education matters. Go. Dream. Work hard for it.
  • Women can be beautiful, smart, and confident.
  • Now that you’re 21, have a drink, girl! Better yet, let dad make you one or buy you one.
  • Beaches are the dream.
  • Being a grandparent is going to be the best, and until then, not-yet-grandmothers should hold as many other random women’s babies as possible.
  • Your faith and love for your family matter more than anything else.
  • Moms will do anything to protect their kids.


Things I Learned from Dad:

  • When you find the right girl, don’t be deterred.
  • Respect and love your mother. She’s great with finances, scary smart, and has a mean ring-finger punch.
  • Always “marry up.”
  • Tip generously, if you’re able.
  • Work hard.
  • Between bouts of working hard, spend weekends at the lake.
  • When spending weekends at the lake, listen to 60s, 70s, and 80s music.
  • Capitalize on your best singing and dance moves, but only ever so often.
  • Embarrassing your kids can be really fun.
  • Call people back as soon as possible. Not doing so is rude, and some times these people are worried about you.
  • Your kids deserve the best opportunities, and the best dads believe that for their daughters as much as their sons.
  • Go to bed early sometimes, or even better, all of the time.
  • People constantly snapping pictures of you is obnoxious.
  • Exercise should be more for your health later than for your body now.
  • Well-timed spanking really works. If your kids are raised to respect you, sometimes a very disappointed stare works even better.
  • If a boy honks when he arrives at the house, he better be dropping off a pizza, because he sure isn’t picking anything up.
  • Don’t mess with your “old man,” especially when there are hot dogs for dinner.
  • Tickling people is tons of fun.
  • Tortilla chips and afternoon naps are the dream.
  • Dads who were the social chairs of their fraternities sometimes worry that their not-yet-21 daughters aren’t having enough fun.
  • Once said daughters turn 21, some dads become the ultimate in-safe-company drinking instigators.
  • Yard chores are a must. There is a rake with your name on it – literally.
  • Most situations can be navigated either with a firm tone and serious expression or with sarcastic humor. Choose your delivery method wisely.
  • Say, “I beg to differ” often. It sounds serious and befuddles everyone.
  • It’s weird how crazy some people are about their dogs, but when no one is looking, you should feed dogs scraps from your plate and whisper sweet things to “your girl.”
  • There are so many ways, other than with words, for someone to say, “I love you.” Cleaning your kids’ cars and slipping them occasional twenty-dollar bills are a major part of that.
  • Be generous with your kids, and encourage them to do the same.
  • Talk about everyone, especially your family, with respect.

2 thoughts on ““The List”

  1. Thank you for reminding me of the many, many reasons why I love your mom and dad. And why I love you!! I’m so very grateful for the influence each of you have had on my life. Wish I could see all of you more!! xx

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