By: Ken Boone
Parenting is tough. Ok, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. For those of you who are blessed to have children, you get it loud and clear. Those of you who are/were fortunate enough to have ringside seats to the show get it too. For the rest of you with no kids, no proximity to kids, and who have parents, take the next few days to figure out how you can make it up to them.
Back when I picked this topic, I was just going to talk about how I was raised to be overly accommodating to others because anything less was considered selfish. I was going to go into an endless rant about how I was taught how let others get ahead of me in the line of life. And not only that, I was supposed to be supportive of their climb up the ladder, with me sometimes being the ladder itself. More than a few times, the person in front of me pulled the ladder up behind them before I could start my climb.
An essay just vamping on the wrongs that were visited upon me would not have been in keeping with what I’ve been sharing with you the past couple of months. I would have juxtaposed those recollections with how I raised my son to be just the opposite. How I taught him to stand tall and boldly claim what was rightfully his. Then I remembered that I made just as many mistakes with him as I thought my parents made with me. That would have been a total waste of time and 600 – 700 words!
I can still hear my mother’s voice ringing in my ears. Her mantra was “It seems as though our family’s purpose in life is to be of service to others.” Those words were usually uttered right after she would brag on the accomplishments of the children of her friends. I didn’t just have to listen to her boasts, I was supposed to join the cheering section.
In all fairness to Mom, I was a handful. Applying the wisdom of a soon-to-be senior citizen, I can say that it wasn’t entirely my fault. You see, I am an autodidact, a largely self-taught person. I learn via a method I like to call “intellectual dumpster diving.” I pick things up through reading, conversation, watching television, surfing the internet, using Google and listening to the radio. Along the way, I picked up a college degree in economics, but I continue to take in information, ask questions and learn every day.
One of the side effects of being an autodidact is that I’m constantly changing my mind. Today, I want to be an astronaut. Next day, a bus driver. Third day, an attorney. That can go on endlessly. It would scare the crap out of my mother, who was responsible for getting me to adulthood in one piece. So I was labeled as being “wishy-washy” and lacking the virtue of “stick-to-itive-ness,” whatever that is. I still don’t think it’s a real word!
Fast forward to the early 1990s. I encouraged my son to be whatever he wanted to be and supported his every endeavor. I made sure he stood his ground and wasn’t a doormat. I taught him that being a doorman from time to time was ok, but I didn’t want him to habitually hand over things that were rightfully his. Unfortunately, I had a blind spot when it came to his oppositional defiance. That trait led to his racking up suspensions and expulsions from schools dating back to day care! In response to yet another sticky situation, I would pack up and move us to a new town, a new school district, hoping for a new start, hoping he’d start maturing, hoping he’d change.
I chose to be a “spare the rod” type of parent. That meant that I had to have a lot of lectures at the ready. Most of them ended with me saying, “just wait until you become a parent!” The look on his face told me he could parent his child better than I could in his sleep. The tension and resentment reached a level as to where we couldn’t stay in the same state, much less same house. So he moved to Atlanta to be the king of his own castle, armed with the lessons I taught him. Oh boy, was that kid screwed!
To be sure, he took some bumps and bruises, and most of them were if his own doing. He didn’t play shortstop for the Atlanta Braves, nor did he become a lawyer, a doctor, or an architect. He is now working as a regional manager for a small fast-food chain and seems to love his job and they seem to love him. Oh, I forgot to mention, he has a 5-year-old daughter! I’m officially Pop Pop!
A few months ago, I got a rare phone call from my son. He was calm, which is always good. After the pleasantries, he said “damn Pop, this kid is a handful! I find myself dusting off your old lectures to give to her!” I could help laughing. You see, she doesn’t have disciplinary problems. She’s funny, sweet, polite, and smart as hell! Ask “Grammy” Celia if you don’t believe me. And how does Celia know that? Because my granddaughter didn’t hesitate to matter-of-factly tell her, “I’m very smart.” What’s driving my son nuts? This kid stands her ground. She’s very considerate of others, but she is not a doormat! And I brag about her every chance I get!
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About the Author
As owner of the Descant Music & Media Group, Ken is a creator and producer of several podcast shows. He is also a music producer, as well as a writer and an accountant for small businesses and nonprofits.