Most of the time it is the trials in life that shape and mold us into people with character and strength. It makes us better people.
But if I wholeheartedly believe what I just said…than why do I want the opposite for my children?
Paul and I are both (gulp) intellectuals. We try to provide an environment that stimulates learning and promotes education. We read the kids a lot of books when they were young. Paul and I both love to read. Paul spent half of our children’s childhood working on his Master’s degree. He spends hours researching topics of interest, such as, making a geometrical chart with the wind trajectory and sailing co-ordinates to try to improve his race to learning how to rewire his boat. They always see me writing.
We thought that our children would embrace learning, and most of them do. That is why we had such a hard time the last several years when our son kept bringing home failing grades. We knew that he was smart.
We weren’t expecting him to be just like his dad…
Paul grew up in a completely different environment. His mother, Martha, dropped out of high school before she got pregnant with him as a teenager. She tried over the years to get her GED, but never could pass the test. When she was in her 50’s, she went back to school to get her CNA certificate. Paul, the kids, and I watched her walk down the aisle in her cap and gown to receive her diploma. She was so ecstatic. It was the first degree that she earned in her life. Her excitement saddened me.
When Paul was in 4th grade, he moved from Chicago to a small rural town in Wisconsin. He moved up with his mom and grandma. Due to a brief marriage, Martha had a different last name than Paul. Paul shared the last name of his grandma. This was a very unusual situation back in the 70’s in that area. The kids picked on him because he had no dad. He had a mother with a different last name and still no dad. Everyone thought that Paul was stupid because his mother was intellectually slow. Paul thought that he was stupid too.
He didn’t have a parent that valued education. On parents day at school, he sat alone. His mom couldn’t take time off of work because she was a single parent and had bills to pay. She did what she had to do. He didn’t have someone in the house that could help him with homework. He didn’t have a dad to play catch with.
He failed a high school class and had to take remedial summer school. He ended up going to college because a friend was going and he thought it would be fun. He went to college, did too much partying, and still got bad grades. It caught up to him eventually.
Paul ended up getting kicked out of college for a semester. He went back to his small town and got a factory job alongside his mother. He noticed how poorly his mother was treated there. He couldn’t see himself living that way for the rest of his life. The next semester he went back to school and decided that he wanted to work hard to get good grades. He turned his life around. He even applied for law school, but got rejected.
Sometimes Paul feels like he could’ve been so much more..
He wanted a better life for our children. He gave them something that he never had, although it seems so simple, so basic..
Now it is up to them what they will do with this gift.