Last week my parents came to visit us in Nepal. It was an incredible time spent together catching up and showing them our lives here. We even managed to throw Mum off a mountain attached to a Frenchman (and a parachute) for her birthday (see the attached photo for proof)! But during our time together I learnt three invaluable lessons about the importance of parents investing in their children, which I’ll share with you at the end.
I guess there’s something pretty different about the work Brittany and I do and the experiences we have along the way, that makes people ask, “How did you end up doing what you do!?” Sadly, this is often followed by “I wish / I could never do that!” I say ‘sadly’ because as I have advocated elsewhere, we are not superheroes by any stretch of the imagination and everyone has within them the potential and call to step out and make a difference. So often we make mistakes, get frustrated, and in many ways we have it a lot easier than others both here in Nepal and back in Australia. Put simply, first and foremost we do what we do because this is what we believe God calls us all to do; to love others and to stand with those who are poor and marginalised in our world, whether that’s in Nepal, Australia or elsewhere (1 John 3:17-18).
Furthermore, we stand on the shoulders of a whole community of people who love and support us emotionally, spiritually and practically (some of you might not know that at the moment we live entirely off the back of other peoples’ generous financial support). This community includes our friends, Church, extended families and especially, our parents. It is this last group that will be the focus for what follows.
An important aside - Before I go on to stress the importance of supportive parents, I want to recognise with the upmost sensitivity that this is sadly not the case for many – perhaps this includes yourself – and I am aware that there are many other ways and other people through which individuals find the encouragement and strength they need to achieve incredible things in their own lives. I have only respect for you.
Brittany and I have both been blessed with incredibly supportive parents. Our lives are the result of their unshakeable commitment to invest everything they have ever had in us in order to see us reach our fullest potential.
Personally speaking, this was characterised throughout my childhood by my ‘taxi-driver mum’, who never stopped taking us from one after-school activity to the next. And my ‘infamously optimistic dad‘, who stood on the sideline of every sporting field, cheering each hit, tackle and goal, whilst reminding us (often to the entire team’s dismay!) “It’s never over until it’s over!” And crucially, countless times they went from being simply spectators to actively involved by signing up as Cub Scout Leaders, Soccer Coaches, Camp Parents, Referees, Costume Makers etc. etc. As we grew older, this support took the form of letting us host a range of events at our house and giving us the resources we needed (like the family car or the occasional injection of funds) to make the most of opportunities that came our way.
You name it, they did it, regardless of whether it was their own passion or preferred past-time. Why? Because ‘us kids’ were their passion and past-time.
Our parents support provided the launching pad for us to project forward into this world with the confidence required to not just survive in it but thrive in it.
If I could finish with three key takeaways they would be:
1) PARENTS – If you want your kids to thrive then do everything you can to encourage them
Don’t push them, demand from them or withhold your praise from them until they meet some standard you’ve set. Get behind them, invest in them and most importantly, become intimately involved in all that they do. Am I a parent? No. But I’ve learnt from two pretty darn good ones!
2) KIDS (regardless of how old you are) – Constantly affirm what your parents do and have done for you
Look beyond yourself and your sense of entitlement, and use your words and actions to explicitly affirm everything and anything your parents do or have done for you in the past. This will encourage them immeasurably. Everyone likes to see their efforts recognised by those they love. Even if your parents have not been supportive, I have heard incredible testimonies by children who have courageously chosen to be thankful even when all they could say was “Thank you for giving birth to me”. It is remarkable the impact that this often goes on to have in bringing reconciliation and healing.
3) NEVER HAD THIS MODELLED TO YOU? – It’s never too late to set a new legacy
The purpose of this post was not to make parents feel guilty or children feel disappointed. However, if this has raised such emotions for you, my hope would be that you take the opportunity to reflect on the legacy you want to leave for your own family moving forward. Regardless of whether your children are now fully grown adults or you’re even yet to consider having kids of your own, it’s never too late to change the trajectory of a family’s story.
I hope you’ve found something encouraging in this post, as I’ve certainly enjoyed the opportunity to think back on my childhood and celebrate all that my parents have done for me.
Question: I’m obviously not a parent (although I hope to be one day in the future) so I want to hear your opinions? If you are a parent, how have you seen this to be true in the raising of your own children? And if you’re a son or daughter, what has been the impact of your parents encouragement (or lack of) in your own life? And is there anything you’re going to change in your own parenting as a result?