If your parents have passed away, I'm working on a New Year's resolution you might really appreciate. Instead of focusing on all I've lost since my parents died, I am trying to make 2010 the year I am thankful for all the lessons they taught me instead. Those lessons are invaluable for linking my children to my mom and dad -- the grandparents my kids will never know.
So, here is what I'll be thinking about in 2010:
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.
10. Give and receive love openly and willingly.
These are the core beliefs by which I now try to parent my own children and I will try to focus on these lessons -- these values -- and apply them to my Mommy life.
But parenting without my parents is painfully difficult no matter the mantra reverberating in my head. My husband's parents are alive but mine are gone. I simply can't offer my nine-year-old son, Jake, and my seven-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 birthday presents and snapped pictures at their piano recitals and Kindergarten graduations. They also would have exposed them to family history in ways I can not. My memory just doesn't reach back as far.
But loss has a funny way of making you thankful 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 what I'll try to focus on this year.
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.
You can also find a Parentless Parents support group by going to parentlessparents.com or by searching "Parentless Parents" on Facebook.