Father knows best
Readers sometimes share personal stories with me that deserve inclusion
in my ever-expanding "Parenting at Its Best" file -- stories
about people whose parenting has been heroic, exemplary, outstanding.
More often than not, the parenting in question has been in response
to trying circumstances. The best of the best I occasionally share with
my readers. This week's story, contributed by a successful businesswoman
about her childhood, is one such "best of."
I especially was impressed that her parents chose to do what many of
today's parents, even knowing better, will not do for fear of being
considered "different": swim against the prevailing current
of child-rearing in their community. Her parents could have taken the
easy way out. That they did not irked their daughter when she was a
child. As an adult, however, she sees the wisdom of their cultural "heresy."
"My sisters and I grew up in a wealthy town outside of New York
City. Our friends were all privileged, as were we. My parents, however,
hailed from rural Georgia and held very conservative values. Both had
worked at paying jobs beginning when they were barely in their teens.
While in high school, my mother had earned the money for her first car.
Daddy earned his 'keep' by picking cotton.
"As an adult, he earned a doctorate in organic chemistry and headed
up research at a large pharmaceutical concern. Nevertheless, he mowed
the yard on weekends, changed the oil in the cars when needed and shined
the children's shoes every Sunday evening. My parents felt that running
the household was a family concern and, as such, an opportunity to teach.
They expected my sisters and me to do household chores (for which we
were never paid) and take on outside jobs at appropriate ages. We began
baby-sitting around age 10. By age 14, we all held jobs after school
and on weekends.
"We also were expected to work while we went to college -- part
time during the school year and full time over the summer. As a result,
I paid all of my college tuition bills and then put myself through graduate
school, earning a master's degree.
"Needless to say, none of us was ever given a car. Daddy always
said that no one was entitled to own a car, and if we wanted to have
cars, we could buy them for ourselves.
"After graduate school, I became a financial adviser. I was on
my own, but Daddy still called daily to chat.
"One afternoon when he called, I said, 'Daddy, I just found out
that my secretary's father gave her a Mercedes-Benz when she graduated
college last year. He also schedules her maintenance and gives the dealer
his credit card so that all she has to do is show up and hand over the
keys. What do you think about that?'
"'Well,' he said, 'I think that's why she's the secretary and you're
"Daddy's been gone nine years now, and every day when I do the
best I can at whatever I'm doing, I do it in his honor. Growing up,
I didn't understand why I had to suffer under such strict parents. Now
And I am grateful to her for sharing this inspiring tale.