As I lie in the sun and contemplate the world, I realize that their parenting style worked, because it was based on real consequences. If you didn’t plant the garden, you didn’t have beans and berries to put up for winter. If you didn’t put hay in the barn, you didn’t have food for your cattle. If you didn’t feed the cows, you didn’t have meat.
It carried over to non-farm life. If you didn’t do your homework, you had to do extra credit. If you needed money to buy something, you had to get a job. If you wanted to make the basketball team, you better be out there shooting baskets in the snow and the dark. And if you didn’t pass the test or make the team, they didn’t really care. Well, they may have cared, if they’d known about it. But I didn’t tell them. I didn’t even let then know when I graduated from college. They found out when my mom saw the diploma in the mail.
Today’s hovering parents may find that amazing. But I learned at an early age that my parents didn’t have much to do with my success or failure. It was up to me.
And that was the best lesson I could have learned from them.
I learned a lot of other things by paying attention to how they lived. Here’s what they taught me, without even realizing it:
Tell the truth. Always.
Respect your elders.
If you want to get better, practice.
Say “please” and “thank you.”
Obey the law.
Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
Always do what you know is the right thing to do.
If you screw up, deal with it.
If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out.
That last one is with me still. The first time mom asked me to do laundry, I told her I didn’t know how. She said, well, figure it out. So I did. It’s not that hard, kids.
They showed me some other things of which they might not have been aware:
Marry your girlfriend. Then date your wife.
Listen to your kids.
Spend time at home.
Drink with moderation.
Defend your country.
Donate your time and money.
Earning money–and making a profit to take care of your family–is a good thing.
Make it difficult for people to tell the difference between what you do for a living and what you do for fun.
Be kind to animals.
Raise your own food.
Get exercise and fresh air (or, in mom’s words, “Go outside and get the stink blown off”).
These are all timeless truisms because they have made people successful throughout human history. Why must every generation test them and reject them before finally coming back around to accept them?