The Wisdom of Parents

atkins-bookshelf-booksThe legendary Mark Twain once wrote one of the greatest testaments to the wisdom of parents: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” By 21, most people have completed their college education. Although they may have mastered their specific college curriculum, they are only kindergarteners in the grand classroom of life. If they have anything to learn from Twain it is this: now is the time to really listen to your parents — not as parents, but as teachers or mentors of life experience. This is a course that cannot be taught in any college, however prestigious or how many Nobel laureates teach there.

There have been over a hundred books published that collect the best college commencement speeches and advice to young adults, many of them titled “Things I wished someone told me at 20” or “Things I wished I learned when I was 20.” Karin Smithson, a psychotherapist and spirituality expert, recently wrote a very thoughtful and insightful article for the Huffington Post ruminating on exactly that topic: the things she wished someone told her at 20. Here is a summary of her life lessons that would certainly astonish the older — and wiser — Mark Twain:

1. Cherish your close friendships
2. Although you’re smart, you don’t have a lot of life experience — listen to your parents
3. Don’t lose the joy of being “in the moment”
4. Appreciate your youthful body — it won’t stay that way forever; take care of it
5. If someone puts you down, it says more about them than you — recall Elanor Roosevelt’s wise counsel: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”
6. Learn to apologize sincerely
7. Education is extremely important
8. Don’t be pressured into sex — you have the power to say no
9. Whatever you post on the internet is permanent — think of the digital trail you leave
10. Follow your heart; pursue your passions
11. Spirituality/Religion will be what saves you when the world goes out
12. See the world
13. Don’t poison your body — avoid smoking, drugs, and junk food
14. There are always at least two sides of a story — consider the other side(s)
15. Learn to be comfortable with who you are and stop comparing yourself to others
16. Talk to your teachers, role models, and mentors; ask them for help; make yourself known
17. Love your parents and grandparents — they will stand behind when others don’t
18. Treat others the way you want to be treated
19. Pay attention to how those close to you treat their parents and their waiters — it is a window into how they will treat you in the future
20. Listen and trust your inner voice

Read related post: The Wisdom of a Grandparent
Letters to a Young Poet

For further reading: 30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer, Hudson Street Press (2011)



6 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Parents

  1. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Should you accept, please follow the link below. I enjoy visiting your blog and reading your work. Thank you!

    • Mira: Thank you so much for the recognition. Much of what I research and write about is fascinating to me, but as a writer, I want to make sure that I can connect with readers and each day provide something meaningful, inspiring, or at the very least amusing. To echo the eloquent letter that John Fowles once wrote to my English class: “the one great wish remains for anyone who decides to present a collage of his convictions and ideas in paper: the wish that his work will be successful; that is, that the purpose of his endeavors will be successful.” Therefore, if my posts can touch one life, then I have been successful; and it makes all the effort so worthwhile. Thank you for this kind gift.

      • You had John Fowles as a teacher? Wow! Great thoughts, by the way. Thank YOU for your nice and kind reply!

      • Close. I attended a boarding school (not the same one where Fowles was teaching), but having learned that we were studying one of his novels, he wrote our class a very beautiful and insightful letter (the entire letter can be read on Bookshelf; search for: “John Fowles on The French Lieutenant’s Woman”). Many years later, I had the good fortune of meeting him when he came to lecture to Stanford — and he remembered writing us that letter since it is something he did not do very often (boarding schools were dear to his heart). We had several conversations together over two days and he was gracious enough to sign all the first editions of his work that were in my collection. He was brilliant, eloquent, and had a wicked wit. Sadly, Fowles passed away a few years later; yet the memories of that meeting will last a lifetime.

  2. Life experience, particularly becoming a mother myself, has most certainly increased my appreciation for the way my parents raised me. The fourteen-year-old I once was would be shocked. 🙂

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