Traits of Our Parents

3 02 2017

beths-bat-mitzvah-largeFebruary 3, 2017

Several years ago, I ran into someone whose parents had been friends with mine. We chatted a few minutes and she exclaimed, smiling, “You are a perfect combination of your parents!”

I was a bit startled, as we hardly knew each other and it seemed like an intimate and surprisingly insightful observation to share. “Thanks,” I answered and we went our ways (and became Facebook friends).

I wasn’t quite sure what characteristics this acquaintance meant, but I’ve given thought to her idea, being the perfect combination of your parent’s positive traits. It came to mind again recently when a cousin on my mom’s side posted a cartoon about having no sense of direction. Another cousin (also on my mom’s side) commented that she’d be lost without her GPS. Not me. I have an amazing sense of direction, as did my dad. A former colleague used to lean back and let me drive around Little Rock on our work trips there. She knew I’d always get where we needed to be, even if I’d never been there before. But I digress.


But only slightly. I started a list of the things I admired about my dad: besides a good sense of direction, his love being on the water, willing to live with “good enough,” enjoyment of music, honesty, integrity, goofy sense of humor. And then my mom: organized, logical, interested in biology, devoted to her family, strong inner compass, love of learning, community volunteer, skill with all types of crafts ranging from painting to crocheting. Yup, it seemed true. I bet those are all traits that my friends and coworkers might say about me.


In younger years, I recall focusing on some difficult aspects of my parents and my efforts to avoid being like that. But what if instead I considered their strengths? Wouldn’t that emphasize that same part of me and draw in those qualities? Perhaps in a way similar to Ann Kubitzsky’s Look for the Good Project  or Oprah’s Gratitude Journal, the good would just rise to the top. Maybe you get what you look for. It certainly provides a softer, kinder view of both myself and my parents.

Just the thought of it made me smile and stand taller. When my daughter would say, “My mamma can do anything,” I looked behind me up the family tree and acknowledged my mother’s competence. When I would teach a novice to kayak, I remembered my father’s patience in teaching me to row (and drive a stick shift).

I encourage everyone to look for these positive traits, even if it seems impossible. The truth is that the genetic and environmental imprint of our parents is in and on us, whether we like it or not. Embrace what is there, focus on the good, and celebrate your unique results.