Giving Gratitude Across the Generations

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent.”

  • Bob Keeshan (AKA Captain Kangaroo)

In the midst of growing up, it is easy to lose sight of the lessons we pick up from our parents. So many of our habits and principles arise from their guidance. 

If you haven’t thanked them yet, what are you waiting for?

When my father retired, he became a steady presence in the house and I had a chance to discover who he really was. My dad loves auto mechanics and I spent many happy hours standing beside him as he tinkered under the hoods of his cars or fixed some household item—be it the clothes dryer, the refrigerator or the coffee machine. I loved being his assistant on many of these do-it-yourself projects. I think that’s what led me to be so hands-on in my own home and life as an adult. If something’s not right and there is any way I can take the reins and fix it myself, I will. I have my dad to thank for that.

His projects taught me about much more than just tools and mechanics. They also were an early lesson in the value of money. My father could pay for virtually any repair job you can imagine, yet he chose to do them himself. Through him, I learned that money doesn’t grow on trees; in fact, it is an exceedingly rare crop indeed. 

Whenever I approached my dad for anything on the financial side—for funds for a class trip or even school supplies—he never gave me an easy time of it. When I was in high school, he gave me an allowance of $100 a month but I had to buy my own monthly train pass to get to and from school, at a cost of $95. When I joined the soccer team and asked for money for cleats, he said, “No. You’re given $100 a month and that’s it. Do what you gotta do.”

My father’s stubbornness with money thus turned me into a wise little budgeter and saver. As my birthday money rolled in, I hoarded it all knowing that I had expenses to cover, if not that day, then soon. 

I didn’t know any different way to look at finances until I spent one eye-opening weekend with some cousins as a young teenager. At the depanneur, one of my younger cousins pulled out a $100 bill to buy a few cents worth of candy. I was stunned. 

“Wow,” I thought, “she has $100 in her pocket to spend on candy while I’m counting my pennies to buy a train pass to get to school?” Suddenly it dawned on me that not everybody’s father was teaching them the way mine was teaching me.

I had yet another hard lesson on money from my dad when he came across a beautiful second-hand white BMW black top convertible through a friend of the family and thought it would be a great car for me. Little did I know that Dad’s idea was that all of my hard-earned savings would pay for this car. My funds plunged down to zero and the feeling of running on empty was far from energizing. 

I had been raised to believe that money meant freedom and security. Without it, one was neither free nor secure. Being broke scared me. I felt very much alone as I worked feverishly to restore my savings as quickly as possible. I learned that I never again want to feel what it’s like to have no money in my account.

Like my father, my mother also taught me the value of money. She helped me open my first bank account and I loved watching the funds grow from three digits to four digits and beyond, which gave me a sense of significance. My mom guided me through the growth of my money and explained the importance of saving it. Throughout the years, I learned the valuable lesson on compounding interest.

Money lessons were some of the toughest lessons I had to learn as a teen. These well-appreciated hard lessons made me the financially-savvy individual I am today. I am incredibly grateful for that. My heart softens when I think of my parents going to such lengths to teach me how to manage money, one of the most important things a person can learn.

My heart also softens when I recall my father showing me his sensitive side. For so many years, he was under intense pressure, building the family business, working with his family, while providing for a wife and five daughters. When he spoke with a harsh tone or slammed his hand down on the table in anger, I admit that I sometimes viewed him as a stern character. 

One day, as he and I were working together in the garage, out of the blue he turned to me and said, “Dani, you know that even though my voice might be rough sometimes, I have always loved you and I always will.” I don’t know what had happened to compel him to say that. All I know for sure is that in that moment I realized my father does have a tender heart. 

I drew on that moment years later when he and I faced conflicting views and he asked me if I was grateful for anything he had done for me. It was a surprising question that made me realize I had never said those words.

It’s never too late.

I feel such enormous gratitude for having him in my life. It is never too soon or too late to thank your family leaders for the lessons or gifts they have shared with you. By expressing this message, you build a bridge for communicating more openly and constructively – whether it’s for business or personal reasons.

If you are looking for support for crucial conversation or financial literacy, a family enterprise advisor can help. I welcome the chance to help your family navigate these potentially challenging topics. Book a call so we can talk it out. You can thank me later.

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