My Danish grandfather made a habit of reading the dictionary every day. He wanted to improve his broken English and add new words to his vocabulary. Because of his example, I used the dictionary early on in my education, and I taught my own children to do the same. Through grandpa’s example, I always knew that if I didn’t know the answer, there was always a book or other information where I could find it.
When I discovered the Public Library, I had a fountain of information at my fingertips. I wanted my children to experience my thirst for knowledge, so we trucked home a new round of books each week.
It’s too bad that more people don’t have positive role models in their lives to help them recognize possibilities rather than roadblocks, and opportunities instead of closed doors. That’s what parents should do for their children.
I don’t think any of us intentionally set out to be bad parents. Most of us don’t want our children to grow up to become drug addicts, thieves and lawbreakers or worse. We would like to see them grow into contributing members of their community and church. Even though our goals and family values may not be the same, we can all agree that we’d like to see our children grow into happy healthy adults.
The adage “like father like son” often comes true. You can’t discount the importance of example and how it plays out in your child’s life.
I have fond memories of watching my Danish grandfather “slop” the hogs. I remember the distinct smell of the “mash” mixed in with scraps of leftover food. I can still recall the sound of them grunting in satisfaction as they slurped up what I considered a gross concoction of leftovers.
I remember still the satisfaction on grandpa’s face as he mimicked the pigs and watched the look on my face. I didn’t always understand what he said, but his voice and singsong words tumbled from his mouth like music.
After dinner one day, he was sitting quietly on the couch reading to rest his full stomach which he patted playfully. When he saw me he said “come give papa a smack.” I’d heard him use this term before, but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. He kept up this silly banter insisting that I give him a smack so I took a book, climbed up beside him and smacked him over the head.
The look of surprise on his face stunned us both into silence. The he laughed and mumbled some more Danish words before he taught me that a “smack” was another way of saying “give me a kiss.” He patted his cheek to emphasize where the smack was intended to land.
There were many things that “Pa” taught me that came more from just being who he was than from any intentional purpose. My sisters and I felt privileged to call my mother’s parents Ma and Pa, as she did, because we lived above them in an old two story house for many years.
Papa was a blacksmith by trade, and a musician from his internal joy and passion for life. He played the violin and he composed music. Through his playing of both piano and violin, I gained a love for the music of stringed instruments; especially the cello.
My mother had a musical family and one of my aunts would play the piano while the sisters sang together. Her brother and his family played the fiddle, the banjo and guitar and the whole family played and sang, entertaining throughout our whole community.
Family traditions can form a strong network of love that may help keep young people on track. The thought of disappointing my parents or grandparents in any way kept me from doing some of the wild and crazy things my friends did. Often called “the ties that bind” this network reminds us of family values and those we love. Some may look upon this support as restrictive, but I view it as a safety net that certainly kept me from trying many of the things that entice youth.
I’m grateful for my parents and both sets of grandparents. Their lives are still cherished long after they’re gone. The influence of my Danish grandpa’s music and his playful spirit still resonates through succeeding generations and will probably continue to do so.
I’m always surprised when my own children retell something I said when they were younger or recall an action that I’ve long since forgotten. You never know the affects of your love, your example or influence on the lives that go after you. Don’t diminish those moments. Make the most of them!