Mom Advice: How to Grow Up

Novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks learned all about taking responsibility from his mother's tough love.

Jody HewgillMy mom had a wonderful way of helping you grow up and realize that your life is going to be what you make it. She had this circular way of making sure you took responsibility for your decisions and the person you would become. She would say, “It’s your life, plus social commentary.” That’s number one.

Then, “What you want and what you get are sometimes two entirely different things.” And then, “No one ever said life was fair.” And she would mingle these comments together in such a way that you could never win an argument, and yet, the result was that you realized your life is going to be what you make it. So I might go to my mom and say, “ I’d like to play Pop Warner football.” And she’d say, “Well, it’s your life, if you wanna go out there and get beat up and bruised and break your knees and limp around the rest of your life, that’s fine.” Which is when I would say, “Well, you know, that won’t happen. I’m really fast.” And she would reply, “Well, we don’t really have the money.” And then I would go, “Yes, but that’s not fair.” And she would reply, “Well, life isn’t fair.” Then me: “But I’d really like to.” And her: “Yes, but what you want and what you get are usually two entirely different things.”

It was this combination of these three comments that allowed my mother to lead us down the right path with her influence but let us feel as if we were making the decisions on our own. The sum total of that advice was, in the end, you’re responsible for the life you lead. That’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”

Interviewed by Alison Caporimo. Nicholas Sparks’s most recent novel is The Best of Me, and his new film, The Lucky One, is out this month.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest