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Effective Parenting!

Zenas Sikes

When my eldest daughter arrived at what she thought was her entry into an independent state of adulthood, I nestled her onto the bed between her mom and me. Lovingly I glanced down at her, and remarked gently, "So, now that you know just about everything there is to know about life, you have a choice between continuing with your formal education or getting on with why God placed you into this world. Will it be marriage or the start of your life's work that you embark on next?"

You all know the kind of look a woman gives a man when he has just either said or done the dumbest thing in his life? Well, imagine getting that look from your wife as well as a young lady in her early teens, one who has been ready for months to be finished with her middle school experience! But, not so fast: I held my train of thought. "So which will it be?" I continued. "DAD," she answered back, "I can't EVEN get a job at McDonald's without at least finishing high school!"

Again, the language of a woman, albeit young, who is demonstrating just how stupid a man can be. But wait, it went further. "Well, you know, part of my duties as a dad is to teach you how to drive, be knowledgeable about financial affairs and last, find a proper suitor for your hand in marriage." More stares, this time blanker than a freshly whitewashed wall. "Excellent," I thought to myself. "They now both think that whatever sense I have about raising kids is completely gone!" Not entirely true! My underlying intention was to discover how committed she was to her formal education. Driving, finances, and marriage all require a higher level of learning in this day and age. Based on her reaction, I figured she'd stay focused.

The firstborn bears the brunt of all his or her parents' failings as parents. Most of us tend to have more than one child, precisely because at some point we would like to know that we were successful in the raising efforts of at least one future contribution to the human race. But it's typically not the firstborn, who ends up constantly dealing with trying to be perfect. And the second has issues as well, leaving it up to the third, fourth, fifth and so on. I know now that the farmers who had large broods typically did so because they were constantly wanting to perfect their parental skills. Much like the first couple of batches of oatmeal cookies which take the heat of ignorance for the good of the next batch, which are just right.

When God created Man, He certainly must have known that some day the automobile would be part of our everyday life, and therefore made sure that driving ability was part of our chip set. No need for additional detailed training, just place us behind the wheel, start it up and go. So when the time came to pass on these skills, I was ready for the task at hand, anxious to get started. Knowing, just knowing that my first student was going to set the bar for those who followed. Laughing are you? Its not funny to watch your first born in tears because every time she almost got the two of us killed, I ended up "yelling at her." YELLING? If keeping two thousand pounds of metal from running a stop sign or entering into the path of a tractor trailer moving at fifty miles an hour isn't a reason to raise one's voice just higher than a mouse squeal, then I don't know what is. Yelling it was not. Saving our lives it was. Uhmmm, the chip set never took into account the internal hormonal rollercoaster workings of a teenage daughter.

As I look back on the trials of drivers education, the best trained was certainly the last trained. The first trained was half baked, burnt on the bottom, and unequal in size. One out of three Dad duties completed and doing only so,so. But hey, the average can get better since there is still finance and marriage to come! Besides, isn't the financial chip set in men almost as significant as the driving one? Aren't we supposed to be the masters of the house, setting the fiscal tones for everyone else?

Something tells me that a second round of yelling just wasn't her idea of a good time and since she taught herself to drive, what could be so hard about setting up a bank account and using a bank debit card? Always write down money deposited and money spent so the bank won't charge fees for overdrawing funds. What more could there be to know? Besides, the bank with the best lollipops was the right place to start. This was the extent of her training. Perhaps there should have been more, but there wasn't.

That same daughter is now on the launch pad from a four year institution of higher education. Needless to say, she HAS come a long way. She earnestly took on a four- year dual degree in Economics and International Studies. All with an intention of helping emerging countries get their economies together. WOW, I have to look myself in the mirror and thank all the grandparental genes for using me as a conduit, because it certainly didn't come from her mother or me! Her fiscal skills and independence would make any parent proud. Frugal to the core, she figured out how to finance most of her college education, which included not one, but two trips to study abroad, and she only incurred a minor amount of debt. Her first car purchase was not new, but road-tested and safe. She struggles with her own economy, looks brightly to the future, and pauses every once in a while to ask questions about how we managed to raise the brood without going broke. (I am too abashed to tell her that we did go broke, just ask my uncle.)

So just where did she get her skill set for fiscal constraint? My second feat of fatherhood clearly shows that the student made it with very little coaching from the teacher. But the lesson learned was crucial for setting the course for an adult life with proper and sound fiscal policy: never take on more debt than you can comfortably afford and be prepared for economic times like these. Uhmmm, two out of three dad duties and I find myself suffering greatly from lack of effectiveness!

Which brings up the matter of marriage. Perhaps I ought to just stay clear?!

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