Our Parents

‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ Big Yellow Taxi. Joni Mitchell.

It’s always interesting to read the articles in Big Issue from well-known figures about advice they would give their sixteen-year-old selves, (Letter To My Younger Self).

Each individual has a different story to tell. Some of the personalities had a privileged upbringing, others grew up in large, happy families or as a precious only child, while others had more challenging home circumstances. Every individual brings their life experience to the advice they would give their younger selves: not to worry about the opinions of others, to appreciate that life isn’t like school, to be more patient with themselves, to be braver, and so on. 

However, when talking about their childhood, there seems to be one reoccurring theme. All of the personalities expressed regret about their communication, or lack of, with their parents: –

  • ‘If I could go back now, I’d be kinder to my parents.’ John Lydon. Musician.
  • ‘My mum and dad have passed away, but I talk to them every day. I don’t know if they’re hearing me, but I need to talk to them.’ Billie Jean King. Tennis player.
  • ‘I’d love to go back and spend a day with my mum and dad and tell them how much I love them.’ Tom Jones. Musician.
  • ‘I’d tell my younger self that he could and should learn more from his parents.’ Sir Roger Bannister. Athlete.
  • ‘I’d tell my younger self to be more respectful of my parents.’ Chrissie Hynde. Musician.
  • ‘Perhaps I could have said things to my mother or father that would have made their lives easier.’ Grayson Perry. Artist.
  • ‘Even now, when people complain about how they are burdened with their mums and dads, I recoil. I often wish I had parents to tell me what a muck-up I’ve made in my life.’ Lord Bird. Co-founder of the Big Issue.

Perhaps it is only as we grow into our adult roles that we truly understand and appreciate our parents: –

  • ‘My mother was the heart of the family and influenced me more than I knew.’ Mary Robinson. Former President of Ireland.
  • ‘I think I wish I’d asked my father that, I wish I’d written that down, I wish I’d taped that conversation.’ Neil Gaiman. Author.
  • ‘If I could, I’d have tried to spend more time with my dad.’  Barry McGuigan. Boxer. 
  • ‘I’m not sure I even realised how amazing my dad was – but if I was 16 again, I’d tell him.’ David Cameron. Politician.
  • ‘If I could go back in time, I’d have a long, last conversation with my mum.’ Baroness Shami Chakrabarti. Politician and Lawyer. 
  • ‘I’d have liked to have more time to get to know my father.’ Philip Glass. Composer. 

Maybe we should learn from the regrets of others and be more appreciative of our immediate family while we have time. As Joni Mitchell sang: ‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’

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