- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2006

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.”

Her story:

“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 the boss.’

“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 I’m grateful.”

And I am grateful to her for sharing this inspiring tale.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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