The other day Mariah and I stopped by a fast food restaurant in a local town. There was a young mother in there that was feeding her 3 little boys. They appeared to be about a year apart, if I were to guess 2, 3 and 4 years old. They were adorable.
Their mom was in her mid 20’s, and she appeared to be a bit frustrated and overwhelmed. They were pretty rambunctious. It was one of those “bouncing off the wall” moments with her sons.
As I stood there waiting for Mariah to order our food, I looked at the mom and complemented her on how cute her son’s were. We began to chat and I asked her if I could offer her a small bit of advice.
She said yes, but I could tell she was a bit apprehensive as to what I was going to say.
This was my advice to her:
“Take time to really enjoy each stage of your son’s lives. Time goes by quickly. Before you know it they will be grown and will begin to form families of their own. Focus on what you are doing right, not that at which you feel you have failed in. Take the good from your childhood, build upon it, throw out the bad, and weave in some new. Make your parenting style your own.”
She smiled and thanked me and then I walked away.
This is year all of my children will be “adults.” The teen years are gone. Jessica will be 32, Daniel will be 25, and Mariah turns 20. Time has gone by quickly.
I remember when they were all still at home. Some days I did things right, and some days I was a colossal failure, but through it all I tried to do the best I could, even on those days when I was muddling through.
I took the best from my childhood, and I tried to make life better for my children.
Today I woke up remembering one of those better times from my childhood. It was a memory that so impacted me that I held onto it and wove the memory into my parenting style.
It was early 1970’s. I was twelve, maybe thirteen years old. One summer day my dad and I went to the coast. You may be thinking “So what, they went to the coast.”
For my siblings and I spending one on one time with dad was a big deal. In those days dad was a mill worker. He worked the swing shift. During the week we did not see much of him. He left for work before we came home from school, and he was in bed when we got up. Weekends were the only time we really were able to see him, except for the summer that is.
Dad had an incredible work ethic. If he was not at work, he was working around the house. The home we lived in was a “work in process.” By that I mean there was always some kind of carpentry job that needed done, and dad was a good carpenter. Another skill he taught me and I held onto and passed down.
So between his job, chores around the house, a wife, and five children, he was a busy man.
Since ‘dad time’ was in short supply, getting a day alone with him was rare, so when he asked me to go with him to the coast, I was thrilled. Not only was I getting dad time, I was getting out of the valley.
It was hot in the Willamette Valley that summer. We were averaging ninety-five degree weather, and the valley was experiencing a drought. The wheat farmers had harvested their crops, and were tilling the soil for the next year. There was a haze in the sky from the dust, there was no wind blowing, and I have major dust allergies! Needless to say, I was miserable.
We had no A/C unit in the house. That was before A/C units were affordable for the average American. Instead, box fans were put in the windows, which had no screens, to circulate the air. So, basically, we were circulating dust, flies, and any other flying animal that was on the outside of the house.
Times sure have changed, haven’t they?
Anyway, dad and I loaded up in the family 1965 turquoise Chevy, and headed to the coast.
Dad stopped by a local convenience store and bought us both a Pepsiã . In those days Pepsi came in a glass 16oz bottle. To this day, I can hear the sound of the cap coming off the bottle. I can see the bubbles forming and coming to the top, and I can smell the Pepsi as dad handed me my bottle.
Nat King Cole and Benny Goodman were playing on the radio. Big band on A.M. was what dad listened to in those days. I talked most of the way to the coast, though to this day I do not know what I talked about. All I know is that dad listened as I talked. It was one of the best days of my life.
As a young adult I was critical of my parent’s parenting style, but the older I have become the more I have seen what they did right.
That day with my dad was one of those times. He could have stayed home. I’m sure mom could have used his help with chores around the house, but instead he spent time with me.
I tried to do the same thing with my children, a one on one day every month, or for a weekend.
Daniel and I had an annual mother/son camping and fishing weekend on the 4th of July weekend at the coast. We had a favorite tape we listened to all weekend long. A tape I still own, in fact. Every so often I pull the tape out and listen to it in my truck. To this day I can remember some of the conversations we had while camping at the coast.
Jessica and I had several years where a couple of weekends a month, during the summer, we went to garage sales looking for camping gear. One year between my tax return, and our garage sale quests, we bought every kind of camping gear possible to make life a little more civilized while camping. A few years back I gave her all the gear because I do not camp anymore. She now uses it for her family.
This year I turn 52. In the short years I have been on this earth I have learned one important fact. No matter what was or was not done during my formative years, I can rest assured knowing this one indisputable “truth,”
My parents love me.
I hope, in time, my children will reach the same conclusion about me that I reached with my parents. I tried, I loved and I did the best I could even through the “muddling through” years.