5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Parents

We are currently in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I am guessing that may be why my parents are on my mind. But also, the older I get, the more gratitude I feel toward my mom and dad. They have always shown me (and my siblings) unconditional love and a whole lot of support throughout our lives and I am sincerely thankful. The other day I was thinking on some of the life lessons I’m about to tell you about and it popped in my head to just write a post about this. Maybe some of these lessons that my parents have passed on to me will be useful to you in some way. Also, if you have something you’ve learned from your parents that you’d like to share, we’d LOVE to hear about it in the comments.

Lesson 1 from my Dad: Do the things you love.

I remember my dad singing and playing guitar at a very early age. I think the song that always, without fail, transports me back to my childhood is Cat Stevens’ Wild World because I heard my dad play that song many times growing up. My father is a really talented musician, although it’s not something he ever did for a living. And I think this is an awesome lesson that he passed on to me. So often I think we have this idea that if we don’t do our creative passions for a living, or if we don’t make money from them, then they aren’t valuable. Which is so clearly not true! I love that my dad showed me this through his actions.

Lesson 2 from my Mom: Choose joy everyday.

My mom is probably the most joyful person I’ve ever known. This doesn’t mean she’s never sad or doesn’t get upset. She’s human. 🙂 But she chooses to live a life absolutely filled with joy. And I think it took me a while to understand something really basic about this—that it’s a choice. She could decide to focus on the negative, or just consider things mundane or ordinary. But instead my mom will find so much joy in simple things, like an afternoon she can spend uninterrupted in her painting studio, or playing with her grandchildren on a sunny afternoon. From my mom, I’ve learned (and continue to learn/practice) to appreciate the simple pleasures of life for the gifts they truly are and I honestly believe this is one of the keys to happiness.

Lesson 3 from my Dad: Take a chance on the people you love.

This could be a very long story but I’m going to keep it short just because I want to get to the point, since it’s really the most important thing here. When Elsie and I were just starting out in our business, our dad loaned us money when no bank would. And my dad really didn’t have extra money to loan. He and my mom don’t live off a trust fund or something like that. They’ve always worked hard to give us the life we had. The point is my dad took a major financial risk to support his daughters at a crucial time in their careers. To me, this is such a picture of that selfless parent love that I hope I live up to one day when I have the honor of becoming a mom (#notpregnant). My dad is a pretty practical guy, but he showed me in this act how taking risks for the people you love can really pay off. Plus, I think his willingness to sacrifice really pushed us to work our butts off in our business. 😉

Lesson 4 from my Mom: It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

My mom studied art in college, and towards the end decided she better get her teaching certificate too, just in case. Later, it became financially necessary for her to work as an art teacher. And so she did for many years, but it was never really her dream. Once all her kids were grown and out of the house, this made her family’s financial responsibilities change. She took this opportunity to become an abstract painter, and now that’s what she does for a living. And she loves it! I think it would have been easy for her to think the time to start a new career was over for her, but I love that she didn’t. I think she was really wise to know that life is actually pretty long, and as much as we can we should fill it by pursuing what we love. She paints nearly every day now, and it’s obvious because she’s pretty active on Instagram. Ha! I love this example and hope that I’m still challenging myself and following my dreams no matter my age. After all, it’s just a number.

Lesson 5 from both my parents: Loving others is a gift (to you!).

As Elsie was preparing to adopt her daughter, one thing my dad told her was that some of the happiest years of his life were when he was raising little kids with my mom. (Cue the ugly cry! It’s so sweet, right? And we were NOT angel babies, believe me.) Watching my mom be a grandma shows me a similar thing. Life is never perfect—there are plenty of bumps and stressful moments. But loving your family, and I mean fiercely loving them in that selfless way that parents do for their kids, I think changes you. Obviously your kids need you (or your siblings, or spouse, or whoever you are currently loving as your family right now), but I think we all need to love this way too because it’s good for us. My parents have shown me the transformative power of love in many different ways—and I think one of the greatest gifts they have given me is the ability and the knowledge to know that I should love as much and as often as I can. Just like they did for me. I hope I do them proud.

I just read back over this and cried like three times. I guess I’m feeling sappy. Ha.

Love you, mom and dad!!!!! xo. Emma

  • Es tan bello, de mis padres aprendí a que debes soñar, pero que tus sueños van acompañados de esfuerzo, que todo esfuerzo tiene su recompensa, y que si crees las cosas pueden ser posible s ????????

  • This is lovely. Life is long but the days are short, so we gotta make ’em count.

  • This is the best thing I’ve seen on the site. Beautifully said.

  • Having grown up in nearby Joplin, MO, this reminds me a little of the sensibility there, too. I don’t live in the midwest now, but I carried those values with me. My mom was always looking to see how she could help someone who was having a hard time–cooking a meal, visiting the hospital–with a happy attitude. My dad stressed reading & education, and he could be wickedly funny. 🙂

  • Emma your posts are always so kind and genuine. You have a heart of gold just like your parents.

  • Emma, so sweet! I teared up! Please, do mor posts like this!

  • What a beautiful read… Thank you, Emma, for bringing some joy to my day.

  • This was such a needed post- at least for me. As a mom to a very active toddler and expecting baby number 2..i struggle with how i am going to do this parenting in a way that makes great people of my kids and still not lose myself. Your post was a great example of this being possible. Hope you enjoy every day with your folks… And looking forward to reading more posts about feelings 🙂

  • Such a sweet post, Emma. It is so nice you have this platform to share your thoughts about your parents. So often we think about what someone means to us or has done for us, whether it is our parents, children or friends, but don’t ever seem to tell them. Your post is a nice reminder that we need to take the time to tell the ones we love what they mean to us and how the way they have lived their lives, has benefited us. Thank you. 🙂

  • This is so beautiful and came at a time when I really needed it. Thank you so much for sharing these with all of us!
    My Mom passed away when I was 14 and the lessons she taught me have still affected my life. One lesson was respect and acceptance of others. She knew everyone in our neighborhood and showed love and inclusion to every person she met. I’m not perfect at it, but that lesson has stuck with me and I’m so grateful for it. It reminds me that we are all people trying to do our best in the world. We don’t always know what others are experiencing or going through, but if we show love, we will always benefit even if people don’t respond back in kind.
    I needed that reminder today too. Thank you ????

  • I had great parents. Even with 7 children they were able to spread the love. They wanted the best for all of us and did the best within their means to be there with us and for us with everything that we were wanting to do .
    In the last 8 months I lost my father so this is a year of first for myself and my mother and my 6 younger siblings.

  • What a nice story about your parents!!


  • It’s such a great blessing to be raised by great parents. I’m a lucky girl too as my parents have been the greatest! Their kindness and good heart have affected me tremendously. One of the the things both my parents taught me is that when a mistake happens, just let it go. Don’t sleep on it. Life goes on and so should we. Thank you for sharing! xo

  • What a lovely “tribute” to your parents. They sound like wonderful parents (which is not surprising considering you and Elsie both sound like wonderful people based on what I’ve read from you in the past few years). I’ve been thinking of my parents too in between mother’s day and father’s day. My relationship with my parents is good but I must admit life is busy for me right now and I may not be as present as I should. As for life lessons, I find myself in a position in my life where I can apply some of these life lessons but also have to make decisions that are completely opposite of my parents’ philosophies/choice of life. I have never wanted to be pregnant or have a child of my own. I would embrace motherhood if it was to happen but I don’t actively seek it. However I am living motherhood in a way through my two step sons of 5 and 7. Just last weekend I was talking to them about my mother and they asked me if she was a grandma to which I had to reply that since I had no children of my own, she was not “technically” a grandma and their reply to this was immediate and genuine and wonderful: “Well, you have us right? We’re kind of your kids”. That’s when I realized that I’m now living motherhood in a way that is different but still significant. And my father has shown a support of this that has been surprising (he thinks that my situation is wonderful and such a blessing) and my mother has not shown that kind of support (not a lack of support rather than a lack of interest). I was raised by my mother from age 2 and only saw my dad every two weekends until I stopped going around age 13. But my personality is much closer to his than my moms and over the years, he has grown to be more and more grateful to just have me and my two step brothers in his life and just enjoy every moment we spend together (no matter how little it is) while my mother has grown more and more bitter over the years, not accepting that my life has changed and I am now too busy to see her as often as I did in my early 20s. I’m her only child and she’s been single for a few years now and she’s been feeling lonely and making me feel like it’s partly my fault. So at 31 years old, I now find myself in a state of mind where I don’t want that negativity in my life. I want to embrace what I have now and enjoy this new parenting thing and focus on bettering myself and enjoy the time I get with the people I love. But whenever I spend time with my mom………she just drains me of my “happy” and drags me into her dark swirls of bitterness and I don’t know how to get her out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother. She was always a wonderful mother who deserves to be taken care of and cherished. But finding the words to get her into a better place has been taxing the last few years. So my promise to me this year is to try and help her be in a better place by next mother’s day and to spend more time with my dad to soak in his joy of life and give him more joy at the same time.

  • What a lovely post and wonderful lessons learned! =)

  • This is just such a special post, and your parents seem like wonderful people who have raised wonderful people in turn who are now instilling their children with the same lessons and values. What a beautiful full circle! I’m currently pregnant with my first baby and hope to be this strong a person to them someday.

  • This was such a gorgeously written, heartfelt post – I absolutely adored it! You parents clearly know what they are talking about and have taught you some of the most beautiful life lessons – I love the ones about creating joy in the everyday and pursuing what you love – although they are all just lovely. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Holly from The Art of Being Holly xo

  • That is so sweet! I think you can learn so much from your parents and a good relationship to them is so important!

  • This is my all-time favorite post at ABM. Thanks for sharing, Emma! Beautifully written and inspiring.

  • ???????????????? You gals are the best. Recognizing and honoring your parents says a lot about you!!!

  • Beautiful! My grandparents raised me…they lived through the depression, they taught me the value of hard work, taking care of what you have & especially taking care of family. Their actions were a great example…they also lived off the land. (My goal). ????

  • I love this so so much. We discover so much in retrospect from good parents. Their biggest lessons and teachings are using integrated into them being themselves, and humbly passing on so much from their character and what they’ve absorbed out of life so far. Not everyone is lucky to say they had good parents, but when people vocally point that out to me, I always agree and tell them I’m blessed.

  • Oh my gosh, just ran across this. I’m crying too. Such a beautiful tribute. There’s no greater joy than that of raising children! LOVE raised you! Thank you for this lovely write up. Now, I should write one on lessons I learned from my children!!….as you all have been such inspirations. Love you so very much!! MOM

  • Spending a bit of time with your parents was a gift. They are such kind and relaxed people, and the way your family interacts… it’s all so natural and full-on (in the best way). They’re very memorable & wonderful. And the food they made… oh my! <3 Your Mom even made me a small abstract canvas as a going home gift. They're big impact humans and seem like such great parents.
    I still follow your Mom and Dad on Insta, and I'm easily inspired by them, they're just wonderful! Your Mom shines Joy. And the way your dad jumps into your ABM (and personal/home) projects… it's something special! I remember their pride in your guys being very strong. Hi Elizabeth and Don, if you read this. Great job!!! xo, LA

  • Ah! I love this list. Your parents sound super cool, and your mom’s art is AMAZING! (I obviously had to click over to her Instagram!) As a parent to three littles, I can only dream that someday they will think a fraction of this about me! Way to go ABM ‘rents, you’ve given me some #lifegoals inspiration for sure!

  • I relate deeply to all of these lessons. Blessed with two amazing parents myself, both of which I love spending time with so much, that I’ve worked with both of them at different points in my life! Currently running an vintage store with my mom, which my dad has been an endless supporter of. The biggest lesson they’ve shown me over the years is what true devotion to your life partner is supposed to be like. Watching them still act like silly teenagers together is the best thing in the world.


  • This was such a sweet post. I really enjoy when ABM touches on personal stuff. It’s what made me originally start reading the blog. Your parents sound like really great people and it makes me think about what my kids are going to say about me someday 🙂

    ~Laurali Star


  • Aww, I love this post! Our parents always know best, don’t they? 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • Lesson 3 really resonated with me! My favorite lesson I’ve learned from both my parents is to be fearless 🙂

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