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Top 10 Lessons I Learned from My Parents

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the lessons my parents taught me. I am grateful because those lessons are now all I have. I don’t get any new advice.
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Guest Post from Allison Gilbert:

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the lessons my parents taught me. I am grateful because those lessons are now all I have. I don’t get any new advice. And it’s impossible to receive any additional nuggets of wisdom in-person or over the phone. My parents have both passed away and their lessons are now the only link I have between my children and the grandparents my kids were never lucky to know.

So, as Thanksgiving draws closer, here is a special Top 10 List:

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from My Parents (Before They Died):

1. I am powerful.

2. I can make a difference.

3. I have the ability to go around any obstacle.

4. Nobody will come to my rescue; I need to rescue myself.

5. The world doesn’t owe me anything.

6. The United States is just one country. See the world and travel.

7. Appreciate art and music and support those who create it.

8. Be inclusive.

9. Respect your parents and call your friends’ parents by their last name.

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10. Give and receive love openly and willingly.

These are the core beliefs by which I now try to parent my own children. I try to think about these lessons -- these values – and apply them to my daily Mommy life.

But parenting without my parents is often painfully difficult and there is very little I can do to make up the void. My husband’s parents are alive but my side of the family is silent. My mother died of cancer before I was married and my father, in an ugly case of déjà vu, also died of cancer five years after that. I simply can’t offer my 9-year-old son, Jake, and my 7-year-old daughter, Lexi, grandparents from my side of the family.

So I do the best I can. I tell stories about my mom and dad, cook foods they used to make, and point to pictures in photo albums. I keep their memory alive because I believe -- even in death -- my parents can still shape my children’s world.

And I want them to.

My parents would have been terrific grandparents. They would have brought Jake and Lexi extravagant birthday presents and snapped pictures at their piano recitals and Kindergarten graduations. And my mom and dad would have been tickled to see their grandkids wipe cranberry sauce off their lips and cheeks on Thanksgiving.

But loss has a funny way of making you grateful for what you do have. Even though my parents were taken from me too young – they were outstanding parents who taught me lessons that I now feel are worth passing on to my children.

And that’s something to be thankful for.


Allison Gilbert is currently writing her third non-fiction book, Parentless Parents: How the Deaths of Our Mothers and Fathers Impact the Way We Parent Our Own Children. It will be published by Hyperion.

Parentless Parents will explore how parenting is shaped by the loss of our own mothers and fathers; how marriages are impacted when one spouse is parentless and the other is not; and offer strategies for keeping the memory of our parents alive for our children.

Parentless Parents is a follow-up to her critically acclaimed book, Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents. In Always Too Soon, Allison interviewed celebrities and others about losing their parents. She spoke with, among others, Rosanne Cash, Geraldine Ferraro, Ice-T, Yogi Berra, Mariel Hemingway, and New York Times best-selling authors, Hope Edelman and Barbara Ehrenreich.

If you are a parent who has lost both your parents, you can help with her research by taking the Parentless Parentsonline survey.

You can also find a Parentless Parents support group by going to or by searching “Parentless Parents” on Facebook.


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