Do you remember when you were a little kid and you couldn’t resist tasting every single chocolate in that large box your mom received as a gift? I do. And then what? Did you wrap your arms around your stomach and say, “Mom or Mum (if you’re English) my tummy hurts?”
This was a pivotal moment in my life as I recall mum saying to dad, “let her eat all of them. She’ll feel sick and learn a lesson.” This was my mother’s approach. She said the same thing when I turned ten, and my best friend, Lilian, and I melted a pound of raclette, (a Swiss cheese) in a frying pan, and mopped it up with fresh bread. We both loved food and sometimes overdid it. Suffering the consequences of my actions, at a young age, taught me to take charge of my actions. Had mum or my dad said, “Don’t eat more than one or two, you’ll get fat,” I know this message would have remained ingrained in my mind for life.
Where I live (not far from Hollywood) there is tremendous pressure for young girls to remain skinny, and I cringe when I hear fathers tell their daughters, “I shall pay you for each pound you lose,” or, “When you lose fifteen pounds, I’ll take you to Disneyland.”
My mom was interested in child psychology, and applied various principles to the way I was raised. I have tried to incorporate some in the way I raised my three sons. One, was to always have candy in a bowl on our coffee table, that way it was not considered “forbidden.” An interesting thing happened: After my son’s second Halloween, they were able to make their candy last for months. Other parents would take the bag away, and ration it out for their child.
Another principle I call a “gift” from both my parents was their attitude towards education. Neither one of my parents went to college. They were teenagers during WWII. Instead of forcing their choices onto me, as to which college I should attend, and what I should study, they let me decide, and therefore I was motivated to do well for myself, and my future. When I was sixteen, I really wanted to become an air traffic controller. My parents never criticized my choice by saying, “You realize how stressful that job is,” or, “Sonia, you have bad eyesight, they won’t accept you,” like some people said.” Their attitude allowed me to think things through and make my own decisions. Their lack of “control” put me in charge of my education.
My mom passed away when I was twenty-five. At the time I lived in Paris, and my father was fifty-seven. I shall always be thankful to my dad for not saying, “You can’t move to the U.S. You’re my only child. Who will take care of me as I get older?” He let me follow my dreams, and not once, has he made me feel guilty about my decision.
The three gifts I have tried to pass onto my children during childhood are:
- Be responsible for your actions
- Be responsible for your choices
- Live your life, live your dreams.