five things my parents taught me about love

Our parents are one of the most significant parts of our lives, but they’re certainly not without flaws. Most discussions with friends regarding parents admittedly involve a lot of eye-rolling and mock-horror. While my parents have been mentioned in a few of these discussions (remember the DONUTS, Mom!?), I know how lucky I am to have been raised by my mom and dad. It’s far too easy to point out everything our parents did ‘wrong’, but having been an adult for almost a decade now (What!? How is that possible?), I can also see now how many amazing things my parents did ‘right’.

Therefore, in honor of my parents’ 31st wedding anniversary yesterday, I want to share some of the most valuable lessons they bestowed on me regarding all things love 

 1. Unconditional love is rare, but it’s the best thing on earth
One thing that I have never, ever questioned is that my parents love me and each other. This might seem par for the course when it comes to parents, but, unfortunately, truly unconditional love is pretty rare. I know that if I murdered someone, cheated on a test, or (God forbid) married a Republican, my parents would still love me as much as they did the day I was born. While I’m not planning on doing any of those things any time soon, truly knowing that you’re loved by at least two people, no matter what, is a pretty incredible thing. Furthermore, my parents continue to unconditionally love each other, which, given that they’re not blood relatives (a very good thing), is also pretty incredible! They’ve shown me that loving someone unconditionally is a choice, and not an easy one all the time, but that it’s completely possible and more than worth it.

2. Laughter is the best medicine
Something else I’ve always admired about my parents is how much they love to laugh. We’ve been through some crazy, horrible situations (somehow almost always involving airports), but the fact that my parents can almost always find something funny about even the worst of things is so inspiring. Horrible hotels that are so bad they’re good. Meals gone so wrong they’re now a family joke retold at every holiday. Awful travel experiences that are still too soon to talk about, but somehow also insanely comical. As a family, we tend to lose things a lot, which is pretty normal when you’re spread out among three different continents, inevitably leading to fights and arguments. Yet no matter what, my parents always insist that things are just things, and ultimately not that important.

3. Is it Kind, Is it True, Is it Necessary?
Growing up, this was the ‘mantra’ my parents repeated to me and my siblings when we’d fight with each other. If something someone said was not Kind, True, or Necessary, it didn’t need to be said. Being the little sh*t that I was, I always made the case that I always had at least two out of three (telling my brother Nick he needs to take a shower was both True AND Necessary), even if the Kind part was not really present (he stinks!). As kids, we scoffed at these rules, but as an adult, I have come to find them incredibly useful in navigating relationships. They eliminate any and all possibility of saying something unkind, untrue, and/or unnecessary, all of which make us so much more pleasant to be around!

4. Surround yourself with people you love (and cook for them as often as possible)It also wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood and appreciated how much of an effort my parents made when it came to their loved ones. As a kid, you see your friends every day at school, but as an adult, seeing friends somehow becomes more and more difficult. Despite living in some rough developing countries, so many of our friends and family came to visit and stay with us. Big dance parties with tons of food were common, as well as Thanksgivings hosted in April or May, trips to our summer house with twice as many people as the house can sleep, and spontaneous summer camping trips around the US. Every summer, we’d visit France, followed by the East Coast, and followed by Colorado and the Southwest to see all of my parents’ dearest friends and family. Now imagine that trip with three kids…how did they do it?! I still have no idea, but their dedication to maintaining relationships is really special, and something that I constantly try to emulate.

5. Marriage and kids does not have to mean an end to the ‘adventure’
For many people, the idea of marriage and/or kids is synonymous with ‘settling down’; aka, the end of fun. Gone are the days of travel, spontaneity, passion, adventure, and new experiences. In the case of my folks, this could not be farther from the truth. While I’m sure there have been times when they questioned why they decided to have kids (most likely when we were full-blown hormonal teenagers…sorry about that), I feel like nothing was ever too ‘out there’ for our family. A two week trek in the Himalayas with kids and a toddler? No prob. Sleeping on a roof with only a mosquito net and a mattress and a toilet crawling with bugs in Timbuktu? Been there, done that. Breaking traffic laws in Berlin with three kids yelling in the back seat? Whatever. The only reason we didn’t take the Trans-Siberian railway from Vietnam to Finland (going through China, Mongolia, and Russia), was because of a SARS outbreak in a hospital not far from where we lived in Hanoi…which my parents still regret not doing! Basically, they taught us that you and only you are in charge of your life, and if you want to do something, you should JUST DO IT. Find a partner who’s up for the ride, and go!

Toilet bugs and all

Happy anniversary, Mom and Papa! Love you both so much.

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