November 16, 2017 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on individuation from my parents. I've been asked by my therapist to list 12 things each, for mother and father, that I'm thankful for. 12 is a big number in this realm ...

I've got a few, for example:
- good provider
- taught me woodworking

A few, but far from 12. Can you list, so as to avoid chat, things that you are thankful for from your parents, that I might then recognize for myself?
posted by falsedmitri to Human Relations (31 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Various inherited traits
connections to specific types of relatives/individuals in extended family
teaching me how to notice quality construction in clothing
posted by amtho at 5:41 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

This was a nice exercise. I did six for each parent but they're jumbled up here:

Unconditional love
Trust in my decisions
Gives feedback on our interactions and listens to/implements my feedback
Love of quirky art, sites, sounds
Their parenting style with small children and their respect for my parenting style
Can-do attitude for taking on challenges, even when faced with setbacks
Tons of esoteric knowledge
General attitude to get along in life and not stir up trouble
Doesn’t ask for things but so happy when you shove them in their lap
Provider for everyone around them, including people they don’t really need to provide for
Adventuresome and daring, even at an advanced age
Self-sufficient and independent
posted by whitewall at 5:51 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tolerance of differences
Sense of independence
Work ethic
Appreciation of others' beauty, rather than jealousy
Demonstration of charm, even when it needs to be put on for the situation
Good manners
Sticking up for me against authorities when I was in the right
Encouragement to get an education (not paying, just making sure I knew college was in my future)
Concern for my future health - getting teeth fixed early, for instance
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:56 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have one parent to work with, let's see if I can do 12.

Funloving, laughs easily
Ability to trust others
Coolheadedness in crisis
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:03 PM on November 16, 2017

My mother taught me:
--Love of reading
--How to be a gracious host
--How to laugh at myself

My mother in particular took great pleasure in making sure that my sister and I had lots of fun activities when we were in high school.
--My sister was active in her school's drama department, and we had a big house, so we often held the cast parties for the school plays.
--She also drove me and my friends to see a few concerts before any of us were old enough to drive and then hung out in a coffee shop until the concerts were over, and then drove us home.

She also had remarkable confidence in my intelligence and abilities.
And she made sure that I was the member of my generation who learned to play the harp. I'm the third generation (and fourth family member) of harpists in my family.

My father taught me to drive, also taught me to sail.

Pretty sure I could come up with more if I spent more time on it. And I should say that I had very difficult relationships with both parents, although my relationship with my mother was relatively repaired before her death.
posted by janey47 at 6:07 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

-Emotional support
-Treating me as an individual and not just their child (this happened more after I moved out)
-Opportunities to try out new hobbies/sports when I previously quit others
-A sense of humor
-The ability to talk (and joke) about things they would/could "never talk to their parents about" (e.g. bodies, embarrassing stuff)
-Showing interest in my hobbies even if they don't understand them (videogames, anime, DnD, tv shows they haven't seen)
-Providing a relatively quiet/chill home life growing up
-A sense of finances from a young age
-Getting me started on learning to read pre-kindergarten
-Showing a fairly balanced division of household chores/labor
-Providing a good role model for a healthy relationship even into adulthood with fully-grown kids (they still go on regular dates)
-Daily texts and checking in
posted by lesser weasel at 6:20 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Taught me to appreciate classic cars
Demonstrated trying again after failure
Generous to the point of foolhardy
Moved around enough that we escaped small town mindsets
"Give the man value for his dollar." (About working for hire.)
Recognized his own racism,
-admitted it,
-tried to fix it,
-acknowledged his failure,
- told me he was trying to raise his kids better
-actually succeeded in this

Taught me to survive poverty
Demonstrated finding beauty everywhere
Did the right thing even when nobody else was looking
Demonstrated patience with "difficult" kids
Taught me basic cooking
Taught me basic gardening
Modeled family as a priority
Taught me to embroider
Encouraged creativity for the joy of it.
Selected good copies of great art to hang in our home.

Both parents read aloud to us.
Both parents read individually for pleasure in front of us, normalizing literacy & a love of books.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:33 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also my mom argued against racism and homophobia, and loved everyone despite their differences, in an environment that was really not okay with that. She didn't care, and showed it.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

-Love and appreciation of food
-Having this attitute: "It's okay, we'll just _______ to fix it."
-Giving me the vocabulary to talk about my feelings and experiences
-Encourage learning by exploration
-Setting this example: "I can do this. I just don't know how yet."
-Teaching me a ton of little cooking tricks
-Teaching me that everyone is different and that's a good thing
-Being kind to the wait staff (and retail staff and everyone who is being paid to serve you) so that I learned from their example
-Showing me how to say, "You're right."
-Showing that you don't stop learning when you grow up
posted by meemzi at 6:53 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

My parents both passed in the last two years. I choose to remember specific things. For example:
My mom
Taking me to the Nutcracker ballet
Telling me bedtimes stories when I was young
Teaching me to use songs when I needed to memorize things
The way her hands touched my face when we said goodbye
Changing my babies' diapers

Went to work everyday
His secret recipe soup
How he would pick up my kids from school so I could work

Not sure if you want specifics like that. FWIW I did intense therapy for years to break free from enmeshment with them. It worked and I am so grateful. Good luck.
posted by ChristineSings at 6:53 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Taught me to appreciate nature and the outdoors
Read me lots of books when I was a kid
Brought me to lots of extracurricular activities
Taught me how to eat healthily
Tried to make me into a generous, patient and kind individual (with some success)
Taught me to pay attention to politics
Taught me to be curious about art
Always makes me feel better if I am sick
Allways made Christmas into a special occasion
Taught me to be kind for no reason
posted by winterportage at 6:54 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

basic hygiene*
cleaning house*
basic cooking*
basic finance*
bought me a bike and taught me how ride it*
celebrated holidays with me*
sang to/with me*

*It wasn't until I was a teen that I realized that there were parents who didn't do these things with their kids. Never underestimate the importance of the 'little' things.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:59 PM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

My parents weren't super into kids and were extra burnt out by the time I came along. They were pretty neglectful, but tried with what tools and enegry they had.
The thing is my dad was a really good guy. He may not have had much time for me when I was small, but he was always kind.

While some of these might seem facetious, I really AM thankful for these things since I have friends who weren't as lucky. Here are some.

Not physically violent.
My dad was pretty accepting of people unlike my mom. If we saw "freaky hippies", I'd look up at him and he'd shrug and say "it takes all kinds". That's a big deal for poor, conservative man from the depression.
We always had heat and electricity.
He didn't nitpick about my appearance, clothes, or stupid makeup phases.
Even though I know he didn't approve of my boyfriends (sometimes rightfully)- he never really was a jerk and was generally cool about them.
My mom, although not loving, did her best for someone that never wanted children. It was the just what you were supposed to do in those days.
Her frugality rubbed off on me and I know not spending beyond my means and saving, has made me a less stressed, happier adult.
Their laissez faire way of parenting might have got me into trouble a bit, but it made me figure out how to take care of myself.
My parents weren't into birthdays or holidays and I was disappointed a lot. I think being able to bounce back from disappointment has made me a happier adult.
I had some difficult, lonely times. I feel like it has made me a much more compassionate person.
My parents loved my kid. Like seriously loved him. It was nice to see them enjoy being stereotypical grandparents after a difficult time parenting.
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:04 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Always demonstrated that women can be physically strong by helping my dad to move heavy things etc
Provided me with good books about important topics to read as a child (holocaust etc)
Let me listen to heavy metal tapes in her car on the way to school every day
Used to help me braid my hair
Told me she was proud of me when I did hard things
Never tried to put me on a diet
Never wore makeup so I never assumed I had to
Always makes me favourite salad when I ask her to
Always offers to bring me food when I'm sick, even though I'm an adult now
Came to watch me fight even though she hates violence


Always assumed I was smart
Offers to send me money when I need it
Worked hard to provide financially for the family
Demonstrated financial responsibility
Didn't assume I was fragile because I'm female
Learned how to sms after much nagging
Writes "love dad" at the end of all of his smses
Fixes anything that needs fixing
Didn't tell me that my hobbies were unfeminine
Always talked to me like an adult
posted by Chrysalis at 7:15 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a former child and a current parent, I have tears, Internet stranger. Good luck. If this is not too chatty. My mom passed 4 years ago. My dad, however flawed, is still here. They had me when they were teenagers and I'm lucky (?) I'm here, factually speaking as I could have been illegally aborted. It is really hard to be a parent and hard to be a child. Peace.
posted by RoadScholar at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

my mom:
read to me, taught me to read, made sure there were lots of books in our house
made me a beautiful quilt I treasure
bought field guides, bought me binoculars, encouraged an interest in nature
enjoyed gardening, planted a vegetable garden with me because I was interested
played games with me and my siblings, took us on outings, read to us, talked to us
enjoyed explaining things and passing on interesting information
helped me with my homework whenever I asked, but didn't take charge of it
let us have pets and made sure they were well cared for
made us birthday cakes from scratch
taught me how to bake bread

my dad:
taught me how to change a tire
practiced driving with me
worked hard and supported our family
took care of my mom when she became unable to care for herself
helps me out financially, gives me gifts

both my parents:
were calm, reasonable people who seldom lost their temper and basically never did anything immoral or irresponsible
did not have different expectations for their sons and their daughters, showed essentially no signs of sexism
posted by Redstart at 7:50 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

12 really is a lot, for many of us. Keep in mind that items on your list can be very specific, even what some would consider minor, if they matter to you. Example: my mother tried to buy good-quality clothing, even though there wasn't a lot of money. (My first thought about my clothes, though, is that I hated the old-fashioned stuff she had me wear. )

Also, you might be thankful for some things they taught you by example NOT to do. It may not be in the spirit the therapist intended, s/he gave you the assignment, but now that it's in your hands you get to set the parameters.
posted by wryly at 7:51 PM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

One of the best questions I have ever had to think about. I am a great grandfather and this has provoked so many thoughts of my childhood, parenthood and grandpa and great grandpa. What a treat to think of all those things. Thanks for the question and all the great responses.
posted by JayRwv at 8:11 PM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

off the top of my head, pertaining to one or both of them -

- made sure I had good books to read always
- taught me frugality and how to not waste money, but also when to spend for worthwhile, impactful experiences
- taught me the value of a loving and respectful marriage (oddly enough, despite neither of them having achieved it)
- taught me to enjoy travel on a shoestring
- taught me to enjoy learning new things and that the world is full of fascinating things to know
- instilled an instinct for judging character that hasn't failed me yet (even with regard to people that they themselves failed to see clearly)
- love me unconditionally even when I'm far from my best behavior
- adore my children and give them plenty of love and attention
- made sure I had access to excellent education
- see the stuff I do that's hard and worthwhile, and praise me for it, particularly now when I'm an adult and nobody else would think to do that
- modeled Doing What It Takes To Get It Done whether that involves chain-sawing the tree in the yard or handling bureaucrats or whatever it takes
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:13 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Things I am grateful that my parents gave/imparted to me:
Great taste in literature
Wrinkle-prevention genes
Piano, ballet, horseback riding, tennis, swimming, and French lessons (yes, the full WASP Geisha treatment, not that it helped)
Interest in gardening
Knowledge of spices
Knowledge of local trees and plants
Tendency to take my intellectual interests seriously
Decent singing voice

Excellent relative pitch
Work ethic (such as it is)
Furniture-refinishing skills
Basic automotive knowledge
Taste for modernist poetry
My sons, should I have any, will have a full head of mostly-not-gray hair until the end of their natural lives
Stunning blue eyes
Left-handedness, or at least, a household tolerance for left-handedness
Quirky sense of humor

12 is a lot of things. Don't feel bad if you're hard-pressed to get to 12. I had pretty decent parents and I couldn't make 12 either.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 8:27 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

These pertain to one or both..

Sarcastic, irreverent sense of humor
Creativity and a love for making things, from woodwork to sewing
Love for rock music and live shows
Awareness of social justice / lower class issues
Love for animals
Responsibility and individuality
Laugh as often as possible.
Resilience. More resilience.
The importance of education
posted by onecircleaday at 9:10 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wryly beat me to it, but I am one who learned a lot of what *not* to do by their example. Sometimes their mistakes are a gift, in hindsight, and with age.
posted by onecircleaday at 9:15 PM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Took me traveling with him to fantastic places like Australia and Antarctica. Gave me the gift of wanderlust.

Later on in life, gave me his old DSLR cameras which opened up new worlds for me as an artist.

Taught me to read.
Took me to Shakespeare Under The Stars in summers. Helped me understand and love Shakespeare.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'll do 12 for them both.

It's so funny, reading other people's lists, that there are entire lists where my parents didn't impress ANY of those things! Love? Forgiveness? trolololol. Like, they probably demonstrated these things in spades, but never named, explained, discussed, or encouraged any of these things.

Instead, I got:
- Understanding of office politics / managing up
- A healthy cynicism towards bureaucracy / government
- Sex positivity (by not imparting any sex negativity)
- Love of vegetables (by cooking them well, at home)
- Love of language and pattern (by marveling at them with me, and watching My Fair Lady)
- Good financial habits (by taking it for granted that a credit card is to be paid off every month, and comfortable frugality out of necessity)
- Life as an American (by immigrating, then naturalizing)
- Knowing to factor quadratics by guessing the 2x2 matrix of which the quadratic is a characteristic polynomial (by offering this as an alternative to the baffling-to-tears method my well-meaning schoolteacher was trying to teach me)
- My face (you can't map my face to a province) + thick ample eyebrows / hair
- All the trappings of a stable middle class upbringing (orthodontia, basic swimming / tennis / ballet, instrument lessons, pickup and dropoff to endless other shenanigans)
- All the benefits of not having been gender-policed and sexualized (not least, by having an androgynous name)
- Preference for action / not overweighting the status quo (again, immigration)
- Weekly library trips, and before that, (really good, well-chosen) free books from various free book piles
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:29 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, what a great question.

-helped me with school as a kid so I was ahead in my class so then I skipped a grade
-getting me into a better school in grade 5
-I went to sleepover camp for a week when I was 7.5 and I started crying on the bus before leaving cuz I was scared and she went and found me a friend on the bus
-convinced me to do piano lessons
-convinced me to do swimming lessons
-said I should never spend more than $20 on a piece of clothing, which has made me frugal about spending money on clothes (when I was much younger this was important, now my max is less than $100)
-never gave me a curfew because she trusted me enough not to come home late (I was too scared to defy her, and I wasn't into partying)
-taught me how to not speak to strangers
-parented me in such a way that made me resolve never to be like her (i.e. she was very harsh, negative and non-nurturing so I vowed as a kid not be like her if I was ever a parent, and I'm not)
-always made sure me and my sis ate healthy and so we have healthy eating habits to this day
-made me and my sis cabbage patch dolls when they were sold out everywhere
-tried to expose me and my sis to different experiences like going to the art gallery etc as kids

There's a few more but I'll stop here since that's 12.

-listened to classical music with me as a kid, watched Amadeus with me as a kid, took me to piano lessons, paid for them, took me to all my competitions and exams, bought me a grand piano when I was 10
-helped me with high school math even though I still didn't understand after that :D
-talked to me about world history and politics
-let me hang out with him in the basement while he did laundry
-let me drink beer with him when I was 5 or 6 and now I'm not into drinking at all cuz it's out of system
-bought me my little ponies once a week for a couple years
-gave us an allowance
-bought us super Nintendo
-helped me move during university years
-got me my first credit card at 17 when I went to university and taught me it should be for emergencies, so I've never gone into credit card debt
-paid for my university :)
-hugged me, listened to me when I cried about not having friends

Again I could do more but that's 12. Keep in mind that my dad was abusive to my mom so to me, violence is a defining experience of childhood, and I always felt not good enough for my mom because she was very critical and judgemental and so I credit my low self-esteem to her. So I'm not sure what that means, juxtaposed against the things that I'm grateful for. Thanks for asking this question!
posted by foxjacket at 10:01 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sense of pride and manners
Love of learning
Encouragement to help others
Housing costs through childhood and college
Sincere, though cruel, advice about fielding life’s challenges
Medical care while young
Careful educational planning
Advice about boundaries
Someone to empathize with and relate to
Someone to take care of
Appropriate transportation all the time

Basic needs: food, cleanup
Sentimental streak, though applied as though to a stranger
An underdog to relate to
Someone to talk to who pushed my boundaries and challenged me to relate to them
An ally against my dad
Good sense of humor
A sense of perspective and willingness to be vulnerable
Street smarts
Steadiness (or inertia) in never leaving
The ability to surprise people
Being old school
posted by karmachameleon at 10:04 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Chiming in as another "my parents weren't great parents and 12 seems like a very long list and even some of the ostensibly good stuff came with a bunch of not-ideal caveats" type of person.

- They provided for the majority of my physical needs when I was a kid (there was always a house, heat & electricity, clothes, food [although food was a loaded issue and they did starve me sometimes because they objected to my body type])
- My mother shared her deep sense of the absurd with me, which is the basis for my personal sense of humour and our family's shared idiom
- They made my sister too, and she's a fantastic person to have in my life
- They very rarely censored my reading and I got to read a lot as a child
- They were supportive of my academic success (although sometimes this was at the expense of my emotional needs)
- They gave me some financial assistance at times when that was very useful
posted by terretu at 2:00 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Things my mother gives me that I am grateful for:
A warm, physically close relationship
A listening ear, even when I ramble on for ages
Social ease/generally good at making friends with people
Taste in books
Love of gossip
Sense of humour

Things my dad gave me that I am grateful for:
A sense of stability/security - both financial, but also just in general
His desire to constantly learn and improve
His love of detail
His skill at planning
Taste in books
Facility with words (...I like to think)
His sense of humour

I also have inherited from them traits that I am not grateful for, my dad's anxiety being at the top of that list, and I also learned how not to be from them in certain ways, but in general, they are/were good parents and did their best by me. In general I'm okay in myself, and that very much stems I think from the fact that they always thought I was worth loving and caring for.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:06 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is an interesting exercise. I'm currently doing some work in therapy which is tied to better understanding my family of origin. I have a lot of frustration with both my parents ...

- gave me life
- always modeled empathy
- did not care about being normal or fitting in
- kept me fed
- taught me to read and often read aloud to my brother and me even into our teens
- modeled a confidence in the kitchen that I adopted as my own which enabled me to actually become a decent cook
- modeled curiosity and fascination with the world
- was accepting when I made life choices she would not have made
- often affectionate - verbal and hugs
- despite her conservatism, very anti-racist and in her own way a feminist though she wouldn't use that word
- modeled very warm hospitality
- valued education

- gave me life
- appreciation for humor
- read aloud to us - usually funny things
- bought me my first car, and gave me second car after I ruined the first one
- accepting when I made choices he didn't agree with
- he must have made a conscious effort to be different from his dad, who was violent and mean
- modeled curiosity and interest in trying new things
- always kept the bills paid. We were kind of poor but always had food and utilities
- modeled patience
- modeled willingness to be bad at things
- affectionate - words and hugs
- surprisingly sentimental at times
- never violent
posted by bunderful at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe think of it less as a list and think of memories of them that make you smile? For example, my dad was really good at noticing beauty and pointing it out. As a kid, I know I rolled my eyes way too many times when he looked up in wonder and said, "stop! look at the moon right now" but now that I do it to my kids all the time, I'm really thankful that he 1) noticed and 2) took the time to share it with me.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:46 AM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wow! Thanks for all the responses. I definitely recognized a few in here. I’m up to 18 total, so close enough.

There were several mentions to think of things they taught by example NOT to do.
Yes, did that list, much easier.
posted by falsedmitri at 5:39 PM on November 21, 2017

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