Educating Dragons: Life Lessons

A solid foundation is something that we can give our children before they enter the adult world.  It cannot be learned through lectures or podcasts.  It is something that requires a hands-on approach.  As parents, do we live what we preach?  Children watch more than they listen, and they will know if we actually believe what we tell them.  I learned life’s greatest lessons by watching my parents.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Fawn and Bully_1

My parents taught us that hard work was required and could be enjoyable.  They worked along side us in the house and in the care of our 1 acre “mini farm”.  We had horses, a milk cow, a beef cow, chickens, pigs, geese, ducks, and a very large garden. How else could my parents feed us all?!

My brothers learned to cook, sew, and clean house as well as the “man’s work”.  My sisters and I learned to dig post holes, construct fences and barns, mix and pour cement, and everyday yard work as well as the “women’s work”.

We were also taught that play time was a necessity. In my family we played as hard as we worked.  This allowed us to relax, laugh and hang out with each other and our friends.

Music was a big deal in my family.  It was something that had been passed down through the generations.  With nine children this was and expensive endeavor.  My mother did daycare to pay for instruments and lessons.

We all learned to play at least one instrument. I learned to play the piano, violin, mandolin, and sing. We often had family “jam sessions”. We gathered around the piano and played together.  We all chose the music that we played and often not everyone knew it. We all learned to sight-read very well among calls of “I got the last note!” and “Are you sure you were playing the right song?”

Going to Church

Morgan Hill ChapelBelief in God was something that was lived and as well as taught.  My parents never forced it on us but made it an enjoyable family activity.  We attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) together every Sunday.  We participated in the mid-week activities.  We discussed what we learned, whether or not we believed it and how it could affect our lives.

Funny Story – We were getting ready for church on a Sunday morning.  This is a herculean effort with nine children.  Just as we were getting ready to get into the car Mom couldn’t find the baby’s shoes.  She had just had them.  We looked for the shoes until we absolutely had to leave.  When we got home and started to make lunch we found the shoes in the refrigerator where Mom had put them down while grabbing the baby’s bottle.  We all laughed and teased Mom who took it very gracefully.

We all attended an early morning religion class we called cemetery.  It was actually called seminary but, many of us were bleary eyed and tired as we walked into class at 6:20 a.m.  My parents didn’t require this of us but encouraged it.  Seminary was spiritual and fun.  It was an uplifting start to my day.

Then, of course, there was my church youth group. I was often involved in planning activities and enjoyed attending all the functions. We had religious classes one evening a week followed by some sort of an activity. We had a dance every month that I really looked forward to. I would dance every dance.  If the guys did not ask me, I asked them. Swim parties, BBQ’s and water balloon fights in the summer.  Indoor activities in the winter.

This deep religious background became the foundation that kept me from being actively suicidal.  While I felt the world would be a better place without me, I knew that God and my family loved me.  I couldn’t do anything that would cause them so much sorrow.

After School Activities

We were encouraged to participate in after-school activities.  This allowed us to explore things we might like to do.

I played in the orchestra and joined the drama club in junior high. I really enjoyed both activities.  Drama was immediately after school and lasted until about 5 p.m.  Orchestra started at 7p.m. and lasted until about 9 p.m.  Both were Tuesday and Thursday.

In high school I joined the marching band. I was on the flag and rifle teams. Practices were frequent and long, but I really had a lot of fun. We were a competitive band so there were competitions on weekends.  We also marched in parades and performed at every home football game. This is where I met my high school sweet heart.

Gotta Earn Money

My parents raised nine children in Silicon Valley, California.  One of the most expensive places to live at the time.  They provided well for us.  We never lacked anything.  We had a nice home, clothes, food, activities, and a good education.

My dad made good money, but it only went so far.  If we wanted extras, outside activities, trips to the mall, etc. we had to pay for it ourselves.  With nine children, my parents favorite phrase was, “get a job.”

baby-clip-art-hiStarting at age eleven I began babysitting. With five younger siblings I had a lot of experience.  I took the jobs that nobody else wanted due to overly active and unruly children.  They were usually well behaved for me.  I got a lot of work.

I charged less than my friends but made more money.   I was often paid more than I asked for.  I learned that parents were willing to pay more if they felt their children were being well cared for.   I earned about $1,000 a year in the 1970’s and always had money for my activities.  I even had a savings account with money in it.

I’m Not Sick! I’m Just Tired.

With this kind of schedule I was up at 5 a.m., out of the house by 6 a.m., and sometimes not home until 9 p.m. or later.  I usually had a couple of hours between school and activities to do my chores, do homework, eat dinner, and spend a little time with my family.  I also did homework after getting home from my activities.  I often studied until midnight to get keep my grades up.

Are you tired now?

My mom had me tested for Mono a few times because I was always exhausted. The test results always came up negative, so the doctor would ask me about my schedule. After I got done telling him everything I was doing from when I got up at 5am until I went to bed around midnight he would look at me and say, “You are too busy. You need to cut down on your activities. You really need more sleep.” I would roll my eyes and laugh. I was having too much fun doing everything I was doing.

It’s My Life

As you can see, I was a very busy teenager. I was not about to let the darkness of depression or my volatile mood swings prevent me from doing what I wanted. It was just so exhausting doing all those things while carrying a baby dragon in my head.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t tired, but I am the person I want to be.