Here is a photo of a family / neighbor outing. The people on your left are the important ones, the Johnson children, all but Steve who is on his honeymoon. The man to my left is my second son, Jeff, he to my right is my oldest son, Chris, and next to Jameson, my son-in-law, is Catherine, the favorite daughter. The ones to the right are the Johnson family nemesis, the dreaded Browers. We invite them as an act of compassion and mercy, and to build our tolerance for being teased.
(Photo courtesy of Catherine’s phone and an anonymous hiker whom we tried several times to run over.)
My bicycle, a custom-build on a Canfield Brothers frame, is featured to illustrate that this is a mountain biking trip.
The location is the Crest trail, a mountain trail known as one of the most beautiful mountain biking trails in the country. It is often listed as one of the top ten. Here is a quick tour:
(At 2:23, the bikers are descending The Spine, and I must say I walk my bike down that, being too scared to attempt it as the younger people do.)
The occasion is to celebrate the visit of Jeff. His home is on the east coast, and he brought his family to town to help celebrate Steve’s wedding.
Years ago we decided to get some family pictures and went up a local canyon. We posed and posed. At the end of the shoot, the photographer commented, “Your children really like each other!” We were extremely pleased.
How do you get to almost your 70th year and see great love and unity among your children? At this advanced age, I will offer a few comments:
My first rule, one I somehow stumbled across, is that my main job description is to enjoy my children. While I haven’t been perfect, I have generally looked for the good. I have focused on what I find elevating and inspiring in my children. I think they have adopted that, and look for the good in each other. So the photographer who complimented our family was right, they like each other because they see the good in each other. We like those who see and magnify the good in us.
Subrule one-A would be to give as little direction and correction as possible. I decided that correction was an obnoxious experience for one being corrected. The golden rule would require that I give as little of that experience to my children as possible. All three sons achieved an Eagle Scout rank, although I never told them they should do it. The children graduated from college, although I didn’t tell them to. My daughter went to Uganda for a summer of service to people in need. I didn’t tell her to do it. As much as possible, I thought children raise themselves. My job is to be surprised and amazed.
I notice people who have nagged their children get more variable results. Some children benefit from being guided and directed. More do not.
My second rule is to remember rule one. That’s my parenting tool. It also works as a marital happiness tool.
(That’s a bit disingenuous. There are other tools. I also spent a lot of time with my children, emphasizing being outdoors. Being in nature also helps children’s brains and emotional skills. And, there is just no substitute for spending lots of time, indoors or out.)
Here is the concept: People are basically good, but we need to be appreciated. We are pack animals, and we thrive in a high functioning pack environment. When we appreciate each other, we appreciate, in the sense of growing in value. We crave appreciation, and we grow from it.
A friend recently asked my thoughts on parenting, and asked whether I had written anything in the blog about it.
This is my offering. My new job description, in case you are curious, is to appreciate my grandchildren. My job is to find the good in each one, and to convey to each one that he or she is my favorite. It is a fun job. I’d recommend it to every parent, grandparent, or anyone who is around children.