Nothing We Do For Children is Ever Wasted

Today’s guest post is by Steve Grooms

I just received an email letter from my daughter. Molly lives in Portland with husband John and Liam, the world’s coolest grandson.

Hi Mom and Dad,

It seems we spend much of our parenthood trying to recreate the joys we ourselves experienced as children. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had high hopes for some outing, only to feel like it’s just not quite enough in Liam’s eyes. With that background context, I want to share that I’m so touched by the impression our local Highland Games made on him. As a child, I adored the Macalester Scottish Country Fair, going with you and with friends year after year. I was therefore disappointed when we took Liam to our local Highland Games. Honestly, they don’t measure up in my eyes to those I remember from my early years. The biggest hit from the visit for Liam appeared to be the bus ride to and from the parking lot.

Molly and Steve go fishing

Imagine my delight when day after day following the games Liam requested “bagpiker music” and danced in a fair approximation of the Scottish Highland Sword Dance. Many of his imaginative outings now involve, “going to the Highland Games to see the bagpikers.” We brought up some pipers and drums on my internet radio last night. Liam marched around the house with a small tambourine and his drumsticks, playing his own salsa version of “Amazing Grace” and “Scotland the Brave.”

Liam and dad John have a jam session

I share this because every time some reference to the Games comes up (which is almost daily) I miss you both keenly and feel I should express how much I appreciate all you did for me back then. Even if I was too little to know or appreciate it and even if I was in a sour mood, I believe I am a better mother because I was exposed to so many things that were important to the two of you. I am a better person for having a wide range of interests and an active love of new things and adventure. I commit to raising Liam–whether he appreciates it at the time or not–similarly.

I love and miss you both, Molly

Anyone who knows me will already know that this letter had me grabbing for the tissue box!

What shared family activities did you most appreciate as a child, and what childhood memories are you helping to create today?

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78 thoughts on “Nothing We Do For Children is Ever Wasted”

  1. great pictures steve, you and molly sure look happy and liam looks great with his dad.
    the memories of being raised by ward and june cleaver clones come back to bring smiles. the big activity at our house was button button whos got the button where mom would have us start at the top of the stairs and answer a question to be allowed to slide down a step until we hd answered enough questions correctly to reach the bottom stair and achieve floor. she was the master of the peanut butter and jelly wonder bread sandwich and had hot dogsand potato chips served with catsup down to an art. dad took us hunting, played catch and told stories about growing up in the old days and passed on the words and experiences of the relatives who traveled over form ireland to clear the farm land in wisconsin and till the fields in northern minnesota and north dakota.
    i encouraged the living room tents of blankets and chairs, counting to 100 by 3 ‘s or 7′scountless quiet contests(everyone has to be completely quiet, first one to make a sound loses) if you offer a nickel as a prize it can be the best spent dollar you have ever invested. trips are the main recollection, fargo and detroit lakes with my folks, yellowstone and disneyland with my kids the hiking to the waterfallls in yellowstone getting distracted by buffalos and moose was a wonderful tradition and the disney experience was one my kids will never forget. the difference is that when i was a kid we wandered to the school at the bottom of the hill 1/2 a mile away for box hockey, 4 square, pick up games of baseball and a gathering spot where you would meet the guys and headoff to explore the river bottoms and woods that surrounded the childhood of the 60′s, my kids are not allowed to walk two blocks to a friends house and have bikes for excersize up and down the driveway. my kids are surprised as they grow and discove that the traditions we ahve at our house are unique to our house. their friends come over and inform them that, no not everyone has musical instraments laying all over the house and turner classic movies playing black and white movies from back in the day playing 24/7.
    i love the quote form the prince of tides that as a dad its my job to screw you up and as kids its your job to figure out how to get through it.
    i always tell my kids that life is like the bible in that half the lessons come from good behavior you should try to copy and 50% come from what not to do. at our house if you miss out on the stuff not to do you are missing some of our best stuff.

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    1. I’ve been loving your posts lately, tim. From this post I’d like to pick up on the idea that your house is so different from other ones. Parents often have the dumb notion that being a parent is about telling kids what to do and not do. Actually, the key things about parenting are what we share with kids and (even possibly more important) what attitudes about life we model in our daily lives. What makes life “unique” at your house is a general sense of joy and wonder that permeates all the things you do. What a wonderful legacy to pass along!

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  2. Baboons can help make sweet memories by sampling Mini-sota Donut Ice Cream every day 1-2 pm at the State Fair at the Kemps booth at the Little Fair Hands exhibit on Machinery Hill. Folks who come to taste can vote at the Fair until Tuesday the 28th. Anyone who wants to help others make memories of ice cream with me on the carton can vote at http://www.kempsnextflavor.com/ and https://apps.facebook.com/kempsfavs/contests/ until noon on the 29th. THANKS!

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    1. Have been telling anyone saying they are going to the fair in the first few days that they need to make some memories and vote for Mini-sota Donut Ice Cream. :)

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  3. Good morning. The tradition of loving and caring for children is what really matters, in my mind, and any other traditions passed along are just frosting on the cake. I can see from your picture that you passed on the tradition of fishing to your daughter Steve and I don’t know if she is passing that on to Laim. I’m sure you have let your daughter know that she is very important to you and she is undoubtedly showing the same care and concern for Liam.

    My Dad wasn’t very fond of fishing, although his father was a devoted fisherman. My Dad said that his father kept him out in a boat trying to catch a few more fish on some cold wet days when he would rather be at home and this caused him to not look forward to going fishing. My Dad took me fishing a few times and I try it once in awhile. I did enjoy going fishing with my Grandfather. I guess it is gardening that was one of the main traditions passed along to my Dad by my Grandfather and from him to me and which I am now passing on to my children. What is most important is that the tradition or caring for and doing things with kids is being passed on.

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    1. I was thinking of these very topics, Jim. My dad used to wake me up at about 5 AM when we were on vacation up near Park Rapids. It would usually be chilly and dark. He’d say, “Want to go fishing, Stever?” And I wouldn’t want to. I’d be tired and loving the comfort of my bed. But I knew how important it was to him, so as often as I could I’d stumble down to the dock and get in a boat whose seats were covered with great beads of condensation. And off we’d go, spending the next three hours putt-putting around the lake counterclockwise, saying little, dragging our Lazy Ikes and River Runts out behind the boat. I’d just shiver in my sweatshirt, hunker down and hope the morning would pass quickly so we could have breakfast. But the lake would be so damned beautiful at that time of day. And though I never learned to like trolling, I couldn’t help absorbing my father’s passion for fishing and being out there just before dawn when the lake was coming back alive and the loons were silently fishing along next to us. We formed bonds back then that nothing could ever break.

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  4. Fireworks and oyster stew! My father instilled in me a great love of explosions, and buying and setting off fireworks with him is one of my fondest memories. True, he once singed off my eyebrows with a Roman candle, but they grew back. The first time I ever smoked a cigar was the Fourth of July when I was about 8 and we ran out of punks and he loaned me his cigar as a substitute.I had to keep puffing on it to keep it going. He also loved ( and still loves) making oyster stew, and I loved the creamy broth full of oyster crackers. The oysters themselves I could take or leave, but the broth was wonderful. Both my children love fireworks, too, and while neither likes oyster stew, they both love cooking with me and their father. Son is also turning out to be a gardener. Daughter just likes to raid the garden and eat what she can find, like tomatoes, green beans, raspberries, and peas. Nice post, Steve.

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  5. Another thought about passing things on to kids. I hear some gardeners talk about how important it is to get kids started on gardening. I have found that there are some kids, including mine, who just don’t like gardening. When I found out that my kids didn’t like gardening I didn’t do much more gardening with them. Somehow they developed an interest in gardening on their own as adults, which was a big surprise to me. I know there are people that just don’t like gardening and it would been okay if my children never did develop an interest in gardening. However, I am glad that they have grown to share my interest in growing things.

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    1. I think gardening sometimes comes later in life… at least it did for me. My mother was a gardener and yard putterer; I was never interested. Now that I’m older, I love getting dirty and you can see my yard from a block away because of all the flowers.

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      1. But if “gardening sometimes comes later in life,” it doesn’t necessarily follow that you don’t garden with your kids. I think it is smart to lay a simple foundation for that love to later develop (to “flower,” as it were!) by giving kids a brief exposure to gardening and then talking about it just enough so the whole thing is familiar to them. That makes it more likely that they’ll come to it later in life.

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        1. True – what I was trying to say was that just because your kids don’t seem interested when you have them helping in the yard or garden doesn’t meant that later in life they won’t be more interested. Teenager holds up pretty well on gardening days around our house.

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        2. Even as a very small boy, our son loved going to the greenhouses with us to get bedding plants. He loved picking out gaudy begonias to keep in pots on the deck. Now he grows Thai peppers and Thai basil on his deck. I am waiting for the call the day he and his wife buy a house to help them landscape and prepare veggie and flower beds.

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    2. For mom, gardening, cleaning the house, and cooking were all chores that she did out of a sense of duty and not wanting to be judged by others. Consequently, she was usually in a foul mood when she did any of those things. She never learned to enjoy the process, the end result was what she was after. Consequently, I tried to stay out of her way when there was any kind of work to be done. I was fortunate to have other adults in my life who enjoyed having me around and gladly put me to work dusting items low to the ground, pulling weeds, or shelling peas. Through them I learned the pleasures that can be derived from everyday activities. It’s in small, everyday things that you learn how to derive pleasure from life. It’s not the vacations to exotic places or extraordinary events that leave the largest impressions. I think it’s a huge mistake for parents to think that they can erase memories of constant strife or neglect with the occasional indulgence or gift. Feeling safe, loved, and valued are among the greatest gifts you can give your children, and as we all know, sadly, way too many children never feel that way.

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    3. You know, there are many ways to garden, to grow — plants, ideas, people, whatever your creative outlet might be. Some of us nurture or heal people, some write, some grow plants, so many creative byways that this group seems to follow. Even appreciation is valuable and nurturing. What would a garden be without someone to witness it and appreciate?

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  6. Recreating your cherished memories can be tricky. My dad and I shared a huge intellectual bond. One favorite game was the dictionary game. I’d pick out a word at random and he would have to come up with the meaning. Since he had studied Latin in law school, I soon learned that I’d better search out words with Greek roots, since he could figure out anything w/ a Latin root. I also remember some big art/history books that my mom gave my dad when I was in junior high. He and I would pour over those books; I still remember the night we came upon the word “sesterce” and had to figure out what it was (coin worth half an ass).

    My child, however, is not interested in word games, dictionaries or learning for learning’s sake. She likes to go and do. Hands’ on projects always attract her – she’ll still color at the kids’ table if you let her. So over the years we’ve perfected trips to museums, zoos, galleries and the like. Children’s Museum, Art Institute, Como Zoo, Science Museum, Bakken, Minnesota Zoo are hometown favorites, but we do any kind of museum we find. Pirate Museum in Indiana, Corn Palace in South Dakota, Miniature Train Museum in Maine, Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward. We’ve even accidentally ended up in a taxidermy museum in Iowa!

    So while I haven’t been able to re-create my childhood favorites for her, I hope I’ve given her a world’s worth of fun and interest that meets what she needs. Sniff, sniff.

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    1. “Recreating your cherished memories can be tricky.” Yes, yes, yes! That is the point of the post. And the sharp end of the point is the notion that kids might look disgusted or bored at the time you are trying to share, but “nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”

      When Molly got old enough to understand things, I set up an occasion to share photography with her. I love it so, and she showed signs of being interested. Well, it was a horrible moment for us. She got into a mood and made it clear that she hated the way I was making such a big complicated deal out of an activity she liked to practice without thinking. I quickly saw that I was on a fool’s errand and called an end to the photography lesson.

      Now let’s roll the calendar ahead by about a decade. Molly is a married woman. Some guys in a park are asking her questions about photography, for they have spotted the camera around her neck. As Molly explained things to them, I felt a chill down my spine because I kept hearing–word for word!–the advice I’d given her more than a decade ago! The pouting teenager had not only heard me but had virtually memorized my words!

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  7. The one that came down to me from both my parents was spending time outdoors. My childhood was full of Sunday picnics in the park (both of them had experienced this in their youth) and hikes on mountain trails. Our three favorite summers where the ones spent virtually outdoors when living in the 16-foot trailer while my dad went to summer school. And the camping and kayaking we did with Joel seemed to take root – he told us once how glad he was that he’d been brought up to enjoy the outdoors.

    It seems true that kids take in all these things whether they seem to be doing so or not, and express them eventually in their own way. My mom hoped my sister and I would both play the piano, which we did to a point. But our music came out in different ways than hers – mine mainly in folk dancing and choral singing.

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    1. I’m glad you mentioned picnics, BiR. I have had sweet memories of picnics from my childhood. But when I wrote the book about my parents, I spent a lot of time contemplating my past. I realized that my golden memories of picnics are based on just two picnics, or possibly three. Picnics are a lot of trouble, to tell the truth. It takes more work to eat with ants than to eat at home! But the point I draw from this is that it doesn’t take many events to create good memories. If you can approach life with a sense of adventure and joy, you can create memories that kids will treasure as long as they live and (as you put it) “whether they seem to be or not.”

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  8. My dad is a huge part of the reason I’ve never had kids. I know my life would be much fuller if there were children in it but I’m sure I made the right decision. I adore my niece and nephews. I try to encourage an appreciation of books, poetry, music and art in them, but I allow them to develop their own interests. I’m watching my oldest nephew become a quiet, sensitive and intelligent young man; my niece loves books and animals; and my youngest nephew is a huge Twins fan and adorable boy who loves his daddy. I never demand their attention or insist that they be anything other than what they want to be (except manners, of course).

    My dad didn’t like me very much; I was a disappointment to him from the moment of my birth. He told me I was supposed to have been a boy. He was never impressed with the things I enjoyed – music, poetry, books, art, animals – didn’t attend my school concerts or plays, spent no time with me alone, and was in treatment for alcoholism for my high school graduation. He was emotionally and verbally abusive, even physically abusive on one occasion. I hesitate to write about this here because of the feeling I have about it being negative. I don’t want to complain here, or be a downer, but the truth is I have very few positive memories of my father doing anything with me at all. He disliked everything I ever took an interest in. The last time I saw my dad, a week before he died, he told me that he loved me with tears in his eyes. I was 33.

    My dad never told me it was his job to mess me up and my job to figure out how to get through it – something tells me that a father who has the wisdom and the sense of humor to do that is actually building a child’s character in a positive way. It’s taken me a lifetime to figure out how to be happy with myself. I would never want that to rub off on a child.

    Thanks for reading and being accepting about my less-than-positive post on this topic.

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    1. Krista – thank you for sharing this. While your dad never told you how to figure out how to get through it, you certainly did. Look at the incredible person you’ve become in spite of the less-than-stellar parenting you got! I’m extremely glad that I know you.

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    2. It’s unfortunate, Krista, but we don’t all have wonderful childhood memories of our parents, and it leaves deep scars. I don’t think it’s negative to say that. Whether it’s a deliberate decision or not, some of us don’t end up with kids of our own. I’m so glad you have nieces and nephews you can delight in and love. I’m sure you’re a wonderful influence in their lives. Like vs, I’m very glad to know you.

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    3. Krista–I’ll join those who express confidence you would have been a great mom, but I can sure understand why motherhood wasn’t your ultimate goal, having survived a difficult childhood. You need not apologize for a negative post. It was a brave and honest post from a person who is a positive contributor to this site.

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    4. A dear dear friend chose to be childless for very similar reasons – she just wasn’t sure that she could be the parent she wanted to be since she had less-than-fabulous role models as well. Like you, she turned into a fabulous person. I am so happy that I can count you (and her) as friends.

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    5. Krista, I’m glad you’ve survived a pretty rough childhood and that you’re here on the blog. I hope your mom served to balance out all that negative… Keep up the good work of being an Auntie to those nieces and nephews – I believe Aunties play an important role for a lot of kids.

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  9. So am I! I can relate to much of this, Krista – I’ve often thought that as normal human beings we tend to display the parenting styles that were modeled to us, whether they were good, bad, or indifferent. Many try, but those that truly break the cycle are rare.

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    1. krista and linda,
      i cant imagine two more giving people on the planet. maybe it doesnt matter how you do it or who you do it to or with, if you do your best on this planet who can ask for anything more. i think you both done good.

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  10. Very nice post Steve. I can well imagine the impact Molly’s lovely letter to you and Kathe had on you. How sweet and thoughtful of her to actually sit down and write you both about the gratitude she feels. You must be ecstatic to know that she’s mindful of passing that heritage on to Liam.

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    1. Oddly enough, PJ, one of my reactions is to grieve over the fact all children cannot be reared like my grandson has been. He lives in a language rich environment, and his parents are forever showing him as much of life as they can. He walked in the shallows of the Pacific Ocean three days ago. He frequently visits the zoo and is already familiar with all kinds of animal names and dinosaur names. He lives in a family with strong principles and unambiguous lines of authority, but power is never expressed harshly or capriciously. I want so much for every child to enjoy such a childhood.

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      1. I’m with you on this, Steve. It makes me so sad when I meet kids that I know aren’t getting some of the experiences and time and attention that I am able to provide my daughter. There are kids I met when I was more involved in theater who never had an adult ask them, “where are you going to school after high school” or, in some cases even, “what do you want to be when you grow up.” Makes me realize what a luxury it is (and it really ought not be a luxury) that I can, and do, allow my child to dream and explore and be curious. Never mind the material stuff or even the extras like going to see a play – but being supported and believed in by a parent – that’s huge. And not every kid gets to have that experience. If I think on it too much, I might weep.

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  11. Perhaps the best thing I learned from my parents was to follow the child’s lead. We loved doing things like having “family band” night – though, since I was not playing an instrument at a level that I could contribute to melody or harmony, I mostly just sang along as best I could and banged on Tupperware for percussion. We also took time on Sundays to watch Wonderful World of Disney – eating in front of the TV was a special treat (we also watched “Mary Tyler Moore” together as a family – and I remember feeling very grown-up when I was old enough to also stay up for “Bob Newhart”). Biking together to a beach at Lake Harriet for an afternoon of swimming, picnic and generally hanging out. Usually one big trip every year somewhere – most often in a car, which meant playing games like 20 Questions and finding the letters of the alphabet on signs (with or without allowing license plates). I treasure my dad teaching me to waltz in the living room, my mom showing me how to knead bread dough (so satisfying to punch it down after the first rise), being allowed to explore and dig in the back yard, sitting in the knee well under my dad’s desk while he worked on Saturday mornings (this memory also comes with the smell of printers’ ink since he worked for a publishing company), Mom putting her hand over mine to help with hard parts when I was learning piano…all small things.And so wonderful.

    If you would ask Daughter what memories I am creating for her she might come up with Mom teaching music in a pink tutu and cowboy hat (so glad she is not embarrassed that I do the music appreciation stuff for her classes – she really likes it when I’m there – phew), going to Cragun’s with Grandma (and fishing with Aunt Mary while we are there), maybe even our special alone time every morning while she just sits in my lap and we are quiet together. Going to see outdoor Shakespeare (and finding “treasures” there – sometimes with the help of my friend Jay who is usually in the cast) is another summer highlight. I try to shoot for the “little stuff” too…but harder to know what of that will “stick” (probably some oddball thing like making a pirate ship out of cardboard boxes with her dad or sleeping in the fort we built in the living room…)

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    1. Lovely post. It is good to have someone bring up sharing music as one of the best ways to create family memories. Our family didn’t have the skill to play together like a real string trio, but we could all blow into kazoos and create one hell of a fun sound!

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    1. I am in Bayfield for 5 days. This is part of a badly needed 2 weeks off through Labor Day (I do have to be in the office Aug 27). Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes. Next year is a big “0″ year–Lou and I will be married 20 years, Lou turns 70, and I turn , cough, cough, 40. We are considering a BIG PARTY to incorporate all those zeros.

      I have been in deep lurk-a-tude because the workload at my job has been brutal. From July 9 to August 10 we had 29 calls for service–this to a small group with 5, soon 6, therapists. Therapist #6 now has a waiting list while we wait for the insurance companies to get their paperwork for her completed.

      Meanwhile, a problematic insurance company (starts with an “M”, is a subsidiary of a behemoth that starts with “U”, sounds like medical) made an error in their coding system that cut off payments June1 for our specific kind of therapy. Only they told NO ONE. We just had to figure this out, which took til July 1. That lack of payment, running into many thousands of dollars, has our cash flow on a roller coaster while we wait for payment.

      These things have me operating below Baboon Radar.

      The weather here in Bayfield is a magnificent 75-80 degrees all week. Steve, on our way out to Meyers Beach where Lou took his kayak (actually an unnamed, protected bay 2 miles North) I took Lou out to Roman’s point to show him where we all met last summer. We saw deer and turkeys out near the road to your cabin. After Lou awakens from his post kayak nap we are going to pick Blueberries up on the bluffs at one of the orchards.

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      1. Oh, enjoy your trip, Jacque! I hope it’s beautiful and relaxing for you and Lou, and that many of those problems have solved themselves by the time you return to work.

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      2. its nice to be buried and see light at the end of the tunnel. enjoy the 39th if next year is 40. just have faith that the insurance company that rhymes with medical will always be run by rhymes with bought less lass moles and that us common folk will need to be thankful for shrinks who try to look after us in spite of all the trials and tribulations.

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      3. Jacque, don’t worry about the trail. We miss you, but we’ll survive till you’re back in the saddle again. ENJOY your well deserved vacation.

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  12. Despite a father who was absent a lot during my childhood, most of my fond childhood memories center around activities with him. Perhaps he was gone so much, usually six months at a time, and home for only two or three weeks before he boarded another ship, we were keenly aware how precious that time was. Mom never read to us, dad did every night before bed, and he played with us, indoors and out, whenever he could. He’d teach us not to be afraid of the dark by taking us for walks in the park at night when it would be so dark you’d run into trees if you strayed off the path by accident. He taught us to build and fly kites. He passed on his love of gardening and cooking by having us help in both the garden and kitchen, and never lost patience with us even when we made a mess of things. He engendered the love and respect for animals by introducing us to all kinds of animals. We’d routinely set out saucers with milk for the hedgehog with her tiny offspring who’d visit our garden in the evening, so we could sit and watch them enjoy this special treat. I vividly recall him waking me up one early morning and carrying me, in my nightgown, downstairs and into our front yard. It was a beautiful spring morning, and overnight the flowers on our giant cherry tree had burst into bloom. The tree seemed to be alive, it’s entire crown buzzing with bees. Dad’s words that morning have stayed with me all these years: “Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?” he asked, and added “That has to be the biggest most beautiful cherry tree in the kingdom of Denmark.” He believed it, and so did I.

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    1. I really love the vivid and loving memories of your father, PJ! And Steve, what a loving tribute from Molly! It always seems to be crap shoot as to what an individual recalls and treasures from her childhood and when the positive memories outweigh the negative, it’s a gift. We all seem to reinvent the wheel of parenthood each generation and it seems always to be a mixed bag. I’m almost afraid to ask my girls.
      My parents gave us a lot of freedom as children, read to us every night, encouraged us to read and explore, sent us half way around the world on our own at a young age. I sometimes think it made me over-protective of my own girls, but then I’m a first child and somewhat cautious by nature. I do remember when my father took me out on deck during a Pacific crossing during a typhoon in 1954 (everyone else was sick below decks). I don’t remember feeling any fear despite 200 foot waves curling overhead because he was beside me. Risky? Maybe. Another time when he came out of his office on campus and saw me scaling the second floor ledge, all he said was, “I’m going inside to get my mail and when I come out, I don’t want to see you there.” He had a deft touch with us kids. He loved to share his enthusiasms (tennis and fishing and word games) and made friends wherever he went. He taught me to sail, even though it freaks out my family. I miss him more than I can say.

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      1. Robin, I’d love to hear more stories about your relationship with you dad. Sounds like you had a very special bond with him, similar to the one I had with my dad.

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        1. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him, PJ :-) He put the fun in life for me. A couple of my siblings seem to remember him as an exacting parent which I never felt. He was warm, funny, spontaneous. Oddly enough, one of my sisters felt he expected perfection, and the other felt he didn’t offer enough “guidance”. I just feel my parents gave us the world, and how each of us responded to it was up to us. They didn’t “preach”; they lived by example. I don’t believe any of us felt unloved, just that each of us needed a different kind of support at critical times in our lives. Some felt it and some didn’t. One felt she never measured up intellectually even though she was the scholar of the bunch. (He was very supportive and proud of her accomplishments) One, faced with the prospect of abortion, wanted a distinct edict from him (he wouldn’t presume to make a life decision like that for her since she would be the one to live with her choice, but he would love and support her whatever she decided).

          So why is it that I remember him as the life of my party? I’ll never know, but I’m grateful nevertheless. Having been a child for 64 years, a parent for 37 years and watching my daughter parent her two daughters for 3 years, I truly think most parents do the best they can with what they have to offer, and the time comes when you have to acknowledge that and take responsibility for your own life and your own choices.

          Reading all of your stories today reveals so much–if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t still carry our childhood feelings of love and support, or hurt, so close to the surface. Our daughters left for college (no doubt thinking we were the lamest, stupidest people on the face of the planet) and came home saying we were great. We weren’t, we were OK. Only by comparison to the worst of the worst. But I’ll settle for OK.

          My God, it’s 1:00 am and I’m still awake, talking to myself no doubt. Good night, all!

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  13. A type of childhood, that you don’t hear much about these days, was that of children raised on small farms and other places where they were expected to help with much of the work needed to maintain a modest living from working the land and raising livestock or doing something similar to this. My Dad was raised under those kinds of conditions partly on a family farm and partly at a family operated small cheese factory. Those who have read Clyde’s novel about his childhood know some of the details of growing up on a small farm and helping with the work.

    I think children raised in these situations learn to be good workers and learn how to do things for themselves. I wasn’t raised that way. Still, I think I have inherited a little of this tradition from my father because I am willing to put a little extra effort into doing things for myself and I take some pride in my willingness to do all kinds of work.

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  14. Great post, Steve – thank you.

    I’m kinda scratching my head about what “shared family activities” I most appreciated as a child. Mostly, my siblings and I ran wild both when we lived in the country near Lake Elmo and when we moved “up north.” For instance, I remember one summer where nearly every free moment I had, I spent exploring a nearby creek, mostly by myself, sometimes with my sisters.

    We did go camping as a family…and my mom had a gigantic garden wherever we lived. For a while, she not only put up (canned and pickled and froze) all our vegetables and fruit for the winter, but also for her sister’s family (that’s two families of six). Of course we kids were drafted for certain gardening chores, and I was less than enthusiastic about most of them – except shelling peas, because after we did that, we would take the bushel baskets of pea pods outside and have a pea pod fight. Despite my not liking gardening then, I like it now – so I was one of those kids you might be surprised to learn turned into a gardener (although my gardening feats are absolutely nothing compared to my sisters’ exploits). And my mom passed on her love of reading to me – she always made sure we had access to libraries, no matter where we lived.

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    1. canning for 12?
      serious garden!

      hey i asked the guy about your daughters mac book and he said he thought he could fix it. 80 bucks to be sure. let me know if you want info

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  15. Hey,
    Good stories today everyone whether it’s about kids or not having kids. Powerful stuff.

    We’re pretty proud of the sense of sarcasm we have managed to foster in our son. He told me one day a favorite memory was having a lawn mower race. Which is something I had forgotten about. It’s quite fascinating what sticks in their memories, isn’t it?

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    1. It is indeed, Ben. My own memories tell me that, mercifully, much of the negative stuff fades faster than the positive. Perhaps that’s because I deliberately have chosen to revisit the positive memories more often than the painful ones, but whatever the reason, it’s amazing to me that small details are such an important part of what I recall.

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      1. That’s my experience, too, PJ. I guess we can make a deliberate choice when our brains overload at 60, 65, 70. Given limited brainal capacity, how do we choose to invest it? I know the difficult times in my life pale next to what some people live through, and I hope I can sustain that perspective and not become too self absorbed in my old age, so enough said . .

        Are we the only ones awake at this ungodly hour? Maybe I’m talking to myself. Self, go to bed immediately.

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