The Legacy Project | Week Four, Part 3 - PARENTS (my thoughts)

The Legacy Project was born out of a need, a responsibility, to write down my own stories, my history, for my children.

This final part of Chapter 4 delves into my feelings and perceptions of my parents.

MY PARENTS

It is so interesting to read the previous two posts with my parents’ descriptions of their childhoods and imagine the two of them as kids. (My dad's story here, my mom's story here.)

All I know of my mom and dad is them as PARENTS, but I do see some of what they describe as themselves as children even in their adult selves.

My mother is very gentle and loving and creative. She is always knows exactly how to comfort you when you are upset about something. She has just the right words and the right insight. I still remember the way she used to comfort me when I had bad dreams as a kid, and now I use her words with Lila. “Think of something nice. Something happy…” and then she would paint a picture in my mind of a happy setting to send me back off into sweet dreamland.

My mom was always making some sort of craft when we were growing up - whether it be sewing little animals or Christmas ornaments, or making banners for the elementary school, or doing some sort of calligraphy. Always making, always creating. 

My dad is easy-going yet opinionated. I remember he used to be a bit impatient with us while helping us with things like math homework but he also used to take a lot of crap from us, too. He is a good sport :) There is an infamous story about us rafting down the Truckee River up in Tahoe and he was telling me what to do a little more than I liked, so I got out of the raft and walked the rest of the way down the river. No one in our family ever lets us forget that outing! 

My dad was really involved with our elementary school athletics program - he coached both my brother and sister’s basketball teams for many years. He used to drive me to high school every day until I got my license. I remember him teaching me to drive in the parking lot of his office building.

My dad is creative, too. He has always been the one who took the photographs in our family. He was always the one with the camera or the video camera. That hobby has only grown now that he is retired. He often sets off early in the mornings to do landscape or wildlife photography around the area that they live in California.

Both my parents have always liked the outdoors. Vacations for us growing up were usually at places like Lake Tahoe or Yosemite (and occasionally Disneyland, to make us kids happy!). We did a lot of traveling up and down the California coast to various beach towns or woods.

I remember them always gardening, or going to look at gardens (the Japanese Gardens where my sister got married is favorite place of theirs) or dragging us to Art and Wine festivals around the Bay Area  (a drag as a kid, but I would probably love them now!).

HOW I WAS BROUGHT UP

I am really lucky in that I grew up in a time where we still had a lot of freedom. There were no home computers or internet or cell phones. I played outside or at the neighbor’s house much of the time. My parents had a lot of trust in us. We had to be home at 6pm for dinner, and as long as we told them where we were going and what we were doing, we could pretty much do whatever we wanted.

That continued into high school. I don’t remember ever having a curfew. I just had be honest about where I was going, what I was doing and who I was with. My parents liked my friends, and trusted that we would all be okay and not get up to too much trouble.

My parents weren’t overly involved in my life as a teen, but they were supportive. They would come and see my plays at the community theater and drove me to rehearsals and dance lessons.

LIKENESSES AND DIFFERENCES

I get my creativity, my love of crafts, my passion for motherhood, my love of the little things in life from my mom. I get my opinionated ways, my love of adventure, the outdoors, photography, and organization from my dad. I think I get my stubbornness from both of them! 

Seeing them take a chance on a completely different life when they moved from the UK to the US gave me the courage to do the same when I moved from California to New York.

They have always encouraged me to follow my dreams.

I think over the years I have been a risk-taker, but not without planning and a lot of thinking things over. I am not a spur-of-the-moment kind of decision-maker, and I think I inherited that from them too. They always advise taking the safer route, and although I have gone against that advice at times, it has not been without a lot of thought.

As far as differences go, my parents are definitely “English” in that they can be very reserved sometimes. They always let us know that they loved us (and still do), but its not often you see them “let their hair down” (although my dad has gotten drunk on a few occasions which has been pretty amusing - my college graduation party being one of those times!). One of the goals I have as a parent myself is to “lighten up”, “have YES days” and “make time for play” (incidentally I do see my parents doing this now with their grandkids… I know how hard parenting is with two kids, so I can only imagine how tough it must have been with four. Maybe when I am a grandparent these goals to “lighten up” will be far easier!).

LIFE LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY PARENTS

  1. Take chances, but think them through thoroughly.
  2. Follow your dreams.
  3. Be kind to others.
  4. Be honest, and conversely, trust those you love.
  5. Be open-minded.
  6. Get outside, go and DO something. Explore.
  7. There is beauty all around us - from the smallest detail to the grandest landscape.
  8. Keep learning new things.
  9. Be empathetic.
  10. Go with the flow. Roll with it. Let things go. Be flexible.

At my college graduation.

* * *

Being a parent is freaking hard. It is the hardest job I have ever had. And I only have two kids. 

I have such admiration, especially for mom, who raised four kids in a new country while my dad worked full time. She knew no one, there was no internet to find online solace or support in. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her (we didn’t even have a babysitter growing up!). And she did it with love and grace. She is my hero.


Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer or lifestyle videographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family, small business or event, please contact her for more information.

The Legacy Project was inspired by the 52 Stories Project. If you would like to start your own Legacy Project, you can join The Legacy Project Facebook group here for support and discussion.