Friday, September 4, 2009

An Overdue Thank You Note

Although I have told them this individually several times, it is about time the rest of the world knew how I feel. I would like to send a virtual thank you note to my parents. Not a thank you for driving me to school and activities, or keeping me in clothing, food and shelter throughout my life, although I appreciate all those things!

The very best thing my parents ever did for me was pointing it out when my head seemed to be inserted into a very different body part and telling me to knock it off. They called me on it when I was being a jerk to someone else. At the time, I most certainly did not appreciate it, but as I look back now, I am insanely grateful to have had a trusty barometer. My parents always supported me, but never led me to believe I was perfect or above reproach. My mom and dad understand the vital truth that it is better to watch your children trip a little than to make them feel invincible and watch them fall completely flat the remainder of their lives. It is always better to scrape a few knees now and again, than to end up in traction.

I remember doing something as a teenager that perfectly illustrated this point. I don't remember what I said about someone else, but I do remember that it was extremely self-centered and rude--like I said, I was a teenager. My mother just looked right at me and said, "Carly, the other six billion people on this planet are not just here to cushion your fall. You. Shape. Up." This hit right on target as my mother is usually more the sweet, touchy-feely type than the straightforward-don't-make-me-come-up-there type.
Did it hurt to be checked like that? Yes. Did it teach me the value of others in a way I will never forget as long as I live? Abso-freakin-loutely. And finally, was she right? Painfully so. The rest of the planet is not here to make me feel better about myself, to serve me, or to honor me. If anything, I am here to serve others and make the world a better place. Lesson learned.

I feel the need to thank them for this now, as recent events I've encountered have forced me to come in contact with more and more people who clearly were never told, not once in their formative years, that they are less than perfect. No, not even perfect, they must have been told that they are what perfection aspires to be. So, operating under the untempered delusion that all should worship at their feet, they go through life demanding, rude, and selfish. They are driving everyone around them, even the people they love, absolutely nuts (although no one in their inner circle will ever call them on it). Everyone meets one of these people, eventually--they are the people that show up late because "the party won't start without them any way. How could it?" They make Narcissus look like Mother Theresa. When they need something, they tell, they don't ask. Frankly they don't ask because they consider you lending them a car to be a favor to you, not from you.

My brother encountered one such person recently. I happened to be on the phone with my parents when he came in the door and said, "Mom, Dad, I just want to say a big thanks for doing everything in your power to keep me from being a total selfish jerk!!!" My dad had to laugh and say "yeah, that's what your sister says when she runs into one." Now I am so far from perfect, the highway milage signs only read as far as "suitable." I do not, however, for one minute, feel like I am more important that other people just because of who I am. I do not think my views are better because I am better, I am most certainly not better. I do not think that everyone in a room with me should count their blessings just to be near me. Ever.

So, I just wanted to say thanks again, mom and dad. Thanks for being parents, not just mindless cheerleaders. Thanks for understanding that a dose of self-esteem without the ability to back it up, is simply off-putting ego. Thanks for telling me that the other six billion people on the planet matter too. Thank you for knowing that me thinking you are my cool best friends pales in comparision to your responsibility to make me into a decent person. I didn't realize how rare parents like you really are. As an added bonus, I do think you are both cool and my best friends, so it worked out on your end too.

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