IT’S IN MY DNA
Two Inspiring Lessons from My Haitian Parents
What did your parents teach you?
Probably your mom taught you how to bake or your dad taught you how to change a flat tire.
And these are important lessons.
But, there’s so much more that our parents subconsciously teach us through the way they live and how they choose to raise us. This reality is one we tend to neglect as we grow through each phase of life.
I am currently completing a psychology course. Ironically, this week’s lesson was about the nature versus nurture debate. According to Simply Psychology, “the nature-nurture debate is concerned with the relative contribution both influences make to human behavior, such as personality, cognitive traits, temperament and psychopathology.”
Kendra Cherry clearly distinguishes between nature and nurture. She states that “nature refers to all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are – from our physical appearance to our personality characteristics.” Nurture, however, “refers to all the environmental variables that impact who we are including our early childhood experiences, how we were raised, our social relationships, and our surrounding culture.”
My parents are Hatian Immigrants. I, therefore, have strong Haitian genes that influence my personality and physical features.
But, I can definitely say that it took several years for me to acknowledge how my parents nurtured and inadvertently influenced the woman I’ve become. It’s not until I began writing my books the <aref=””>Flying Solo book series, that I began to unravel these inspiring lessons.
These lessons weren’t the obvious things like how to cook a scrumptious Haitian meal or how to drive a car. Instead, my parents taught me some important things about who I was meant to become from as young as three years old.
I’m sharing two of these subtle lessons with you so that you can be inspired to dig deep, reflect on your childhood, and find the subtle lessons your parents inadvertently taught you. Whether influenced by nature or nurture, your eureka moment can change your perspective on life and help you become an even better person.
Focus on What’s Important
I was born in a Christian Haitian household by nature. That meant a twelve hour day at church on Sundays.
There was early morning Sunday School followed by the afternoon church service. We would then go home, change, and return for the evening service. There were also times when our church family would serve dinner at church so that we wouldn’t have to go home.
The church was packed one Sunday evening. Lively conversations filled the air as people found their seats and got ready for what promised to be an entertaining evening. Soft music echoed through the church’s large chamber with its high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. The audience was preparing for something special, but they didn’t know that the special moment would come from the lips of a tiny three year old girl.
My mother had recently discovered that I could sing. She didn’t want me to waste that gift and promptly signed me up to perform at that evening’s service. I was nervous and anxious. A little girl who had never performed in front of anyone before was expected to perform in front of 300 people.
I was ready to sink through the floor. But, my mother said some of the most comforting words I’ve ever heard before I walked onto that stage. She said, “ Pretend no one else is here. It’s just me and it’s just you. I’ll be in the back of the room. Keep your eyes on me. I’m not going anywhere.”
That was enough to get me to go on stage and sing my heart out. All I did was focus on her and ignore everyone else. It’s like she was the only person in the room. Focusing on her made me feel comforted and protected.
The song ended and I snapped back into reality. I was shocked to see that everyone in the audience was standing; I had received a standing ovation!
Imagine if I had allowed myself to be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and fear because I chose to focus on the massive crowd instead of my mother. The outcome would have been very different.
My mother nurtured my ability to focus, my confidence and my will power. I was a young child but that moment taught me the value of focusing on what matters. My mother was what mattered in that moment as I sang on stage.
However, there have been other times in my life where I’ve had to learn to focus on a goal in order to push through the challenges I faced. Focusing on my kids, for instance, helped me get through the difficulties surrounding my divorce. I share more about this in my book Flying Solo – A Mother’s love.
Perfection Creates Opportunities
Perfect pitch is the ability to detect the pitch of a musical tone without any reference. Researchers have found that this ability tends to run in families and believe that it might be tied to a single gene.
However, they’ve also discovered that possessing the gene alone is not enough to develop this ability. Instead, musical training during early childhood is necessary to allow this inherited ability to manifest itself.
My mother’s discovery soon led to my dad’s obsession. Dad was a talented pianist and he was eager to help me perfect my gift. He created a makeshift kid’s band similar to the Jackson 5. My sisters were my backup singers and my brother was the drummer. We were a talented musical family, it was in our nature.
We would spend hours practicing songs on Saturday evenings for Sunday morning church performances. Rehearsals couldn’t end until my dad thought we sounded perfect. Anything less than perfection was shunned.
It was so bad that he would even stop in the middle of our Sunday performances if we slightly messed up. It didn’t matter that we were in front of the entire church. We had to stop and start over.
Although my dad’s approach to music seemed more like bootcamp, he nurtured my gift. His focus on honing my craft led to me becoming the lead singer at church and eventually the choir director of the youth ministry. It also led me to getting some studio time.
I treated both of those opportunities with the same level of perfection as our family rehearsals. I wouldn’t leave until the sound was perfect.
My meticulous nature and natural gift resulted in a recording contract being offered in my teens. I had to turn it down though because my dad wasn’t supportive.
Striving for perfection meant that I was becoming a master at my craft and people were noticing. Important people.
The lesson? You’ll become better at your craft if you invest the right amount of time, effort, and practice and the right people will pay attention.
We all learn so much from those who raise us. I took two inspiring lessons from my childhood:
- The lesson? Focus on your ONE thing. This focus is what will help you get through some of the most difficult periods of your life.
- People notice those who strive for perfection
What lessons have you learned from your childhood? Let me know by leaving a comment below.