I have spent a lot more time than I normally do with my parents recently. Many hours in hospital, in waiting rooms and together in shared accommodation. More time than I have possibly ever spent with them since the long-ago days of my childhood.
After knowing them for nearly 40 years I honestly thought I knew them inside and out. And with the “wisdom” of youth (well being younger than them) and the “experience” of being a full grown adult myself, I thought there was nothing else I could learn from them.
Boy, was I blind. And wrong. And totally, totally arrogant with that ill-placed assumption.
The last few weeks have opened my eyes to so many things. Apart from the obvious and very necessary information we have taken on about Dad’s cancer and his ongoing treatment and care, I have been privileged to learn from their individual approaches to the situation.
It is clear that I’m still learning from my parents.
Learning from my parents
Dad has amazed me with his courage in the face of personally devastating news. His positivity before the operation helped me find my own. His pragmatic approach to what lies ahead has also been comforting. While he has been suffering through repeated setbacks since his initial operation two weeks ago, he still has a smile and a cheeky gesture to share on most of my visits to his bedside.
I can’t wait to finally share a joke with him again and to just sit and have a yarn when he’s back on home turf. He has the best sense of humour and even in the last few weeks glimpses of it have crept through with the odd wink and twinkle in his eye. As long as he retains that spirit and sense of fun, I know he will be okay.
Mum has completely blown me away with her sheer strength and determination. Many people have commented on how strong I must be but I’ve got NOTHING on her. She has remained stoic and determined throughout every setback. She has comforted me when I’ve fallen apart and has taken every phone call she’s received with grace and goodwill.
Mum has taught me how to accept everything that life throws at you. She has always been like that. I remember having heated discussions with her when I was younger about how unfair life could be. I recall being stunned that she would just accept whatever life would bring – how could she just “accept” without fighting? My youthful brain just could not comprehend her thinking.
But I do understand now. Why waste energy fighting and railing against the world when it won’t help in any way? It’s much more productive and logical to accept what comes your way and do your best to deal with it, whatever it happens to be.
I’ve learned that lesson many times over in my adult life and it is one of the most important things that either of my parents have ever taught me. It is central to developing resilience, maintaining a positive outlook and being able to acknowledge, accept and deal with challenges as they arise.
It is also the key to how we have chosen to deal with the latest challenge to Dad’s health and to our happiness as a family. We are taking on cancer head on and we will deal with whatever comes our way with positivity, pragmatism and an ever-present sense of humour.
I hope to have the opportunity to learn many more lessons from my parents while I am lucky enough to still have them with me. I will certainly never take their presence or their teachings for granted again.
And I will renew my efforts to give my kids the benefit of my own experience – I can only hope that one day they will also recognise and acknowledge it’s value, just as I’ve done with my own parents.
What have you learned from your parents? What do you hope your kids might learn from you?

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