Lesson’s from the Elders

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 11-20-2020

     Parenting education teaches that there are three roles parents and elders must ensure to help in the development of a healthy child: 1- Nurturing (feeding/ loving/ sheltering) 2- Educating (send them to school or home school them) 3- Socializing (making sure they know how to get along and live amongst other human beings in this world). Though conventional education these days involves shipping the kids off to school so that the parents may work and afford the very shelter the family needs, there is something to be said for what the parents can teach the kids in the household. Also, if there is a lack of educating, nurturing and socializing in said household, the disadvantages the kid will have in adolescent and adult life may be extreme. Being real, I hated a lot of my childhood, I had a very depressive schema that haunted my daily life. However, I will always cherish the lesson’s I learned from my elders. Sometimes, even if they could not be there for me for the 18 years of my childhood (At least 15 or more people raised and/ or babysat me to ensure my survival…. Teamwork!) all it takes sometimes is a few sentences that can plant a seed in a young child’s mind and sprout a success story. We should listen to the knowledge that our elders give us.  I know… it often comes across as a boring endless series of lectures, but they mean well and they lived an entire life before we were born. So, listen, and listen well. I wanted to share some of my most valuable lessons from my elder’s in this blog and how it helped me in my 31 year life journey so far.

Father- My father was always this ‘scary’ looking marine that didn’t say much, a classic patriarch that we did not want to piss off. Yelling was rare, so if it came, we knew it was serious. In the endless series of lectures I had received from my father, especially when living with him from ages 10-18, there were a few lines that he kept repeating: 1- Knowledge is power – the only thing he was very stringent on was our education and grades. He not only wanted us to have the grades that would ensure passing, but often encouraged us to go beyond what was taught in school and carry a natural curiosity regarding the world around us. 2- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger- This was obviously something repeated a lot to him in the Marine corps and he transferred it down to us to help give us a ‘suck it up attitude’ because as he often repeated, life is not fair but we can at least become polished with strength as we go through adversity. 3- This is a once in a lifetime opportunity- He repeated this often when we went on road trips to explore natural wonders such as: caverns, meteor craters, forests etc. My father grew up as a child of six with Mexican immigrant parents, many hand me downs and many struggles. He wanted to ensure we understood not only how lucky we were to experience fun, but also how important it is to embrace/ cherish rare moments when you have them.

Stepmother- A survivor of horrendous traumas and many medical issue’s/ prone to injury spells my stepmother always had the right remedy or concoction/ answer for any issue a person could possibly be facing. Like my father she was simple, humble and knew how to work with very little, especially growing up in a farm and knowing how to be scarce and portion out food for the family and handle harsh weather conditions. She made sure we (me and brother) did our chores both indoors and outdoors, did our schoolwork, did our sports, moderated our diets. She forced us to a live a well-balanced life in a world where we were often tempted to feed our compulsions: TV, junk food, excess sleep, bullshitting with friends that were going no where in life etc. When I argued about not wanting to do something she said: “What else are you going to do? Sit around, eat and watch TV all day, every day?!” (my go to lazy compulsive habit from childhood to present) A very great question which posed a very great point. Even to this day when I find myself in a depressive Netflix and binge cycle, I remind myself of that very conversation. Human’s need momentum in life. If I had done exactly what I wanted to do from ages 11 and on, I have a feeling I would be on ‘my 600-pound life’ right about now. Depression is a bitch, and sometimes kids need their parents to push them out of that cycle.

Grandmother- My grandmother lived a hard life, and I am aware that I do not even know a fraction of it, she was nine when she moved from Mexico to America with a mother that never learned English. She was the second oldest of nine children and took it upon herself to step up and help raise her younger siblings. We (me and brother) lived with her when I was ages 5-10, after my mother abandoned us and my father was working more than he was home. (AD military/ single father/ no child support) My childhood left me confused: too many faces, abuse, too many drug comas, too much neglect and too much lost hope about the good in life already. Gram always said that ‘kindness was the way’. ‘Walk away from fights, they are not worth it’. It restored my sense of good in the world and taught me to do well in school. It gave me a sense of purpose in a senseless world where both my parents were absent. As I reflect, I know my gram has agoraphobia and anxiety. She chooses to live simply and safely because she has seen the evil that the world can bring, and she wanted nothing more than calmness and wellness in the family. She saved me at a very crucial stage of my childhood development, and she did not have to, she was already a parent a lifetime ago. Kindness reflects back to us, and I owe her for what she taught me about remaining humble, patient and good.

Older Brother- After the last three reflections, it’s evident I went through a lot with my older brother. We went from both our parents, to one parent, then grandma, then the other parent, inherited a wonderful younger half-brother and inherited a stepparent. My brother was the ONLY person I could vent to about almost every issue I had as a kid/teen. He was the only person in my life that lived what I lived. We do not get that many times in this life. It is very rare and for that we should learn to cherish our siblings. The issue is often we compete with our siblings, he did with me and I with him. Looking back, I realize it was so foolish, I had talents that he didn’t, and he had talents that I didn’t. Such as the fact that he could take any electronic device a part and fix it no matter what the issue was. (He couldn’t go without his electronics!!) My brother was the first person to tell me that I was ‘too negative’ and ‘ungrateful’ for a life that ‘wasn’t all that hard for us anymore’. (After we were settled living with Dad) It’s a harsh thing to say, but it is very real. Unfortunately, trauma and depression sets us into a cycle of rumination to a point we are robbed of the present. After that conversation I at least tried to ‘look on the bright side a little more’ and think about what my parents (Dad/ stepmom) were doing for us. We of all kids already knew that a parent does NOT actually HAVE TO do anything for you.

Mother- My mother was a chronic sufferer of mental illness and drug addiction. I learned that she was put into foster care for a descent chunk of her childhood due to her parents being alcoholics. When she sobered up, she would try. When the symptoms hit her hard, she would feed into the addictions again. She was wishy washy with us from my infancy to me being 5 years of age. She dropped us off with many friends & family members to venture out and get her fix (some of which told me I had lice and diaper rash a lot as a child). My mother tried a couple more times after the initial abandonment. Every time, she got scared, self-sabotaged, ran away back to the drugs. When she was on her death bed (I was 20 and in the Air Force on emergency leave) I talked to her excitedly about my life (she needed to know that I had a good life despite her absence). She and my Aunt were excited I had a long-term boyfriend, but once I started talking about my college and career aspirations they got quiet and stared at me weird. I stopped talking and my Aunt said “But… you have a man now” while my mother nodded in agreement. Right then and there, I understood how different my life would have been if I had gotten what I wanted and stayed with a drug addicted mother that had zero aspirations. It made all the sense in the world, why she couldn’t keep us.


     Whether an elder seems to be a positive, neutral, negative or even absent person in our lives, it’s guarantee that they will teach us something. It is our job to search for those lessons that are often buried, between the lines or in the midst of what feels like a chaotic situation that will never end. We will grow up into adults, but we will carry the values and lessons of our elders into every experience. Do not miss those rare chances to learn something of substance, and do not take elder wisdom for granted. My biology, trauma and symptoms want me to be a person of suffering, but my knowledge instilled by elders motivates and pushes me to search for a better life, always.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “Lesson’s from the Elders

  1. This brings tears to my heart. Don’t you ever forget that you are an amazing Woman and there isn’t anything that you can’t do. You inspire me always as well as others.

    Liked by 1 person

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