To prove that I’m not all about consumerism and pop culture (just mostly), this weeks post will focus on 9 things my parents encouraged me to do while I was growing up and I will pass on to my kid.
My parents are the first to admit that they had many failings, but I love my life with them. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
These encouragements are in no real order:
1. Play Sports – I have met a lot of people who swear they will never encourage their children to play sports. I just can’t understand it. I’m a huge geek, yet I played T-ball, little league, jr pro basketball and school b-ball my whole life. My parents were involved at different times, but they were always encouraging. Playing sports growing up both helped me overcome my shyness and taught me many life lessons. Not to mention, it gave me some great stories.
2. Being a Family is Hard Work – My parents instilled in me at a young age, about the same time that I started school, that I should work along with the rest of the family to ensure the household runs. I remember using my sled to haul firewood across the snow-covered fields and doing chores, not for money, but because I had a role to play in the family. My parents and sisters worked just as hard. They never used me to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. (This sounds like one of those – I walked 8 mile stories, but it was never a bad thing, even if I sometimes hated chores like every other kid.)
3. Read – My mother turned me onto reading at a young age. She encouraged me to read sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. She also allowed me to read adult fiction, read the same books I did, and discussed them with me at length. We still trade books all the time. Though I give her more than I get now.
4. Help others, but keep Family First – When I was in my teens my father became very upset with me for doing too much to help others. At first, I didn’t really understand, but his argument hinged on the fact that my work in the family was falling short because I was too busy outside the home. I remember him saying to me, “You would walk across town to help your preacher clean his garage, but when I need you, you can never make the time.” He was right.
5. Get a Job – Like many kids, I worked from age 11 on. First, as a paperboy. Then, in every job you can imagine. I bought own car, Nintendo, and almost everything I needed.
I also gave a most of my earnings to the family. A lot of people I’ve talked to about this think this is horrible. And, the biggest reason I did this was that we were very poor. I haven’t quite figured out how I will approach the subject of work with my children. I want them to have the benefits of a middle-class upbringing, but a working-class sensibility. It might be tough.
6. Listen, Crank it, and Sing – People would say that this one is a bit of a copout since my family is crazy musical, but my parents believed that no matter how talented you are, having a song in your heart and voice. My dad cranks up every song that turns him on and belts out the words. I can remember the house coming to a halt as the music rose from out of no where. My parents never played in bands (by the time I knew them) or sang in front of a crowd, but they have a unique passion for music and what it can do to the heart and mind.
7. Take Risks – When the offer came for my band to head out on the road, make a record, and play as a professional musician, I was very worried about the bills I had been able to handle with my Wal-Mart pay. I remember sitting on the back deck with my dad, after he had met our manager and heard about the business end of what had always been dream. He said, “Go, fucking enjoy every second of it (my dad swears a lot). It probably wont make you rich in money, but fuck it. It’s the experience that will always be there.” I turned to hug him and as we embraced he continued, “and know… always know. We are a phone call away. If it all goes to shit and you are ready to come home. You call and we will be there.” And they were.
8. You always Live in the Real World – We always hear the cliché of parents telling their children that someday they will have to face the real world. I hear it all the time from people discussing the difference between working a job and going to school. My parents never once gave me this BS line. They continually assured me that the real world was there, no matter how secure you believe your life is. Our daily life proved it. Some days we had the money, others we didn’t. Family was the only thing you could count on and you can’t take anything for granted.
9. Know that Parents are Human – One of the biggest things my parents taught me was that there is no guide book to parenting. Parents don’t become infallible and all knowing just because they know how to have sex. Actually, with my parents it was quite the opposite. My dad always said “watch how I live my life and do the opposite.” For all of his good qualities, he had a tendency to be a complete bastard a lot of the time. I try to see what make me love my parents and emulate that, while working hard to never make the same mistakes they have.
Well, there are my nine in no certain order. I know that some of them are common and others are far fetched, but I really have no idea what I’m doing. The fact that I’m thinking about it, and know I need to work at it, will hopefully help me be the best parent I possibly can be.
Of course, having an amazing better half helps and that is one way I am like my father. Both of us have wives that are amazing women.