When I ask you what life lessons you learned from your family, where does your mind take you? It may not be too obvious at first, but many of the little stories and tricks our parents teach us stick with us as we grow. The holidays are a time when many of us dust off our cooking skills, as well as getting together with family we may not have seen in a long time.
Finding a common ground with relatives can be tricky, and the world at the moment makes life feel quite isolating at times. We live in a different world to the one our parents and their parent lived in, and it continues to grow and change. Much of the time we only start to pay attention when we get a little bit older, as when you’re a kid there isn’t much room for wise words and careful lessons. But there is something about getting together for the holidays that makes us want to reminisce.
In certain cultures, the memory of relatives is held with the utmost importance, as it is believed to keep the family connected and their time in the afterlife a pleasant one. Telling stories about ancestors is a good way to keep traditions alive, and to keep the family feeling connected to their background. Telling stories is a very overlooked part of connecting to others, and is a simple and effective method of keeping old ideas alive and moving naturally into new ones. We can expand on what we know, and keep learning in the process.
Some of the more common lessons
For some families these lessons can be rather on the nose in their execution. Cooking is a big one. Many recipes that families teach us have come from their parents, and possibly longer than that. Although we may add our own special touches here and there, the fundamentals stay the same. With it comes memories and connections that are sustained long past that person. The lessons our parents teach us may have come from their parents, and have years of learning behind them. Food is one of the few things we cannot live without and can work as a fantastic common ground. Gathering to eat is oftentimes where we play catchup in each other's lives, and exchange stories. Cooking together (although for some the kitchen is a high stress and off-limits zone) and eating together is often a great way to bring the family together.For me personally, it was gardening- my grandparents live some distance away from me, and we don’t have much in common besides our name. Yet some of my strongest memories are of running around in green spaces with them. My appreciation for these areas most likely stems from these times, and has grown into a love of greenery that I have taken with me, and bring to them whenever I visit. Finding a common ground can be exceptionally useful when getting back in touch with people you haven’t spoken to in a long time, so picking up a variety of little skills
Yet for many of us, these lessons are a little more subtle than that. Big parts of our identity form according to our surroundings, and how we act is no different. How we stand up to others or show we care is often decided by these moments, even if they are never explicitly described as “teaching moments”. We are constantly learning even now, but the building blocks that we work with as adults come from what we see and hear when we are younger.
How we pass lessons down
Despite all the good things that can come from listening to those around us in some instances, it can be rather bittersweet. Ignoring the whole picture can stop us from taking away important life lessons, even if that lesson is what not to do.
For some people, having children of their own makes them question the lessons they were taught, because they may no longer be useful or perhaps they never were. This can surface in how we deal with vulnerability. For a lot of people that were told to suck it up and be strong, they change how they react when their own children are looking for comfort. It’s complicated because much of the time these little lessons are passed on with good intentions- your loved ones want you to grow strong and not be hurt, and to stop hurting fast. Yet times are changing, and we don’t need to hide how we feel half as much as we once did. It’s more acceptable to talk about when we make mistakes, and when we are struggling. Mental health can still be a little tricky, but it can also be a point of growth for all parties.
One of the biggest parts of growing up is deciding for yourself what matters and what you want to take with you throughout your life. Of course, no family is perfect, but we get to decide for ourselves what is valuable. It’s wonderful to be able to talk openly and honestly with the people that have seen you grow, but a fundamental stage of growth is finding the true value in what you are taught.