In honor of my parents' 52nd wedding anniversary, which happens to be today, I've decided to dedicate this month's Ten on the Tenth post to the things they did right while raising my two brothers and me. Now, let me hasten to say that when I was a kid, I wasn't so sure that they were doing all of these things right. In fact, I was pretty sure they were dead wrong on a couple of these! But with age comes wisdom, right? And as I've been a parent myself for nearly twenty years now, I've realized that they actually were right about a lot of things. So, without further ado ... Ten Things My Parents Did Right.
1. They had us at church every time the doors were open. There was never a question about whether or not we were going to church ... it was just understood that we were going. My love for the body of Christ was developed through all that time spent in the pews as a child.
2. They gave us freedom to roam as children. We always lived in country settings, and I would head outside in the morning, come in for some lunch, and head back out until nearly dark. I would ride my bike for miles, wander through the woods, build forts out of sticks, make cities out of mud, swim, paddle our canoe around, catch turtles, or play on the balance beam my brother fashioned out of a fallen tree. To my knowledge, they never worried about me, and I had absolutely no fear of being kidnapped or being accosted by a sexual predator. Yes, that was a different time, but I think the children of today have missed out on so much because we have tended to over-protect them and even made them afraid to explore on their own. Sadly, that's sometimes necessary these days.
3. We ate supper together as a family nearly every night, and we almost always had dessert! Even as we got into our busy teenage years, I still remember us sitting down together as a family to eat together several times a week. Going out to eat was an extremely special and uncommon treat, and fast food was rarely a substitute for a home-cooked meal.
4. They limited our TV viewing. Of course, we only got three channels through most of my growing-up years, but there were several shows that were off-limits in our home ... Three's Company, The Love Boat, even Bewitched come to mind. Of course, I was too busy playing outside to really care too much about TV!
5. They encouraged us to fight our own battles. If there was some sort of conflict with a classmate, a teacher, a boss, whoever...they did not immediately step in and intervene on our behalf. They encouraged us to work it out, to solve it on our own. In my opinion, too many parents today try to "fix" everything for their kids, never allowing them the freedom to try and possibly fail, learning valuable lessons from those failures.
6. They encouraged us to get jobs in high school. I started working at a real estate office stuffing envelopes when I was fourteen years old. I worked there all through high school and even worked there in the summers while I was in college. Even after I got married, I worked there on occasion. I loved earning my own money and the independence that gave me. It also taught me the value of a dollar and the importance of saving money for what I wanted.
7. They made us buy our own cars. Because of the $3.35 an hour I was pulling in at the real estate office, I was able to put some money down and make monthly payments on a 1977 Chevy Monza. What a car! It was sporty-looking, midnight blue, had a very temperamental fuel pump, and it was all mine! I loved it.
8. They taught us to respect adults. We always called our parents' friends "Mr. or Mrs. Last Name"...Never "Ms. Jill" or "Mr. Brad". Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that, and I do think that type of address is more typical of the southern culture than the north woods of Wisconsin where we grew up. But I do feel that the formality of addressing adults that way encouraged us to respect our elders.
9. They taught us to tell the truth. I will always remember when I told a lie in Kindergarten that rapidly spread out of control. When I finally confessed my transgression to my parents, my mother personally brought me to each person who was involved, including my teacher, and had me tearfully confess the truth to them. That was a lesson I never forgot.
10. Finally, they demonstrated what a good marriage is all about. For fifty-two years, they've faithfully upheld their marriage vows, while they've raised three children, moved residences across the country, owned a variety of businesses, had a brush with breast cancer, sent one son off to Indonesia, and lost their oldest granddaughter. Through all the changes over the years, their relationship has remained constant. We never had to wonder if our parents were going to stay together like many of our friends did. We knew they would always be together...and they still are.
So, there you have it...Ten Things My Parents Did Right. No, they didn't do everything right, and Brad and I certainly don't either. None of us do. But if God is at the center of your marriage, I think you're going to do a lot more right than you do wrong. So I guess that makes 11 things my parents did right!