By both example and by their words, parents teach their children lessons that last a lifetime. Linda Esterson’s story (Things My Parents Told Me, page 22) offers a wonderful collection of parental advice that folks treasure, more now than they did as children, perhaps.
“Do not ever sully the family’s name.” – Steve Hersh
“Do what you love to do and the money would come eventually.” – Kirsten Smith
“You don’t have to like it, you just have to finish it.” – Jeffrey Pope
These are just a few bits of advice captured in Linda’s piece. If I share more, you might not open the magazine to read the whole story. So, ha…
It is amazing what sticks when it comes to parental advice and when you find yourself using it. Some of my favorite words of wisdom by my father are probably rooted in Texas folklore. There is no way he coined phrases like this personal favorite: Guilty dogs bark the loudest.
Dad called on this truth when he was trying to discern who did something and failed to come forth with the truth before being asked.* He would bring in all seven children to one room, just like the Von Trapps were called to bid party guests adieu, and ask the weighty question: “Who broke the lamp?”
And then he would wait…and wait..and wait….And as he waited, he listened.
Several of us would chime in: “Not me, I didn’t drive the car this weekend.” “Not me, I haven’t been near the room where that lamp is in ages.” “Lamp? I didn’t know there was a lamp.”
Eventually, based on the level of protest or even quantity of details provided, Dad knew who did it because he knew that the guilty dog always barks the loudest.
Now as an academic dean at McDaniel College, I cherish the guilty dog adage when I talk to students. Just imagine what is rolling through my head as students answer questions about excessive absences, questionable use of spare out-of-class time, missed deadlines for papers.
More often than not, the guilty ones do bark and bark and bark. To gently tease out truths (which I wish came out first), I follow their barks by telling them about Dad’s guilty dog adage. Ultimately, Guilty dog has revealed not only that the guilty tend to talk more than the innocent right out of the gate, it has also highlighted the fact that humor can be that spoonful of sugar that helps life lessons go down.
This column opens by noting that parents mentor by what they say and by what they do.
Take a moment to think about the lives your parents are leading, or that they led. If you are a parent, think about what your child sees as you move through the week and the weekend. What are some of the lessons as a result?
Hopefully, they are positive lessons. Hopefully, because of how your parents went about their daily lives and you do yours, others are recognizing how goodness manifests.
Just in case you have less than perfect days (or weeks) like I do, keep these words of wisdom nearby: “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank
Partly because Mother’s Day nears and Father’s Day follows soon, I really enjoyed Esterson’s (and local residents’) tribute to parents. We hope that you do too.
Thanks for reading the magazine that we lovingly create.
Lisa Moody Breslin
(* Recollection has enhanced details in this example. More importantly, my siblings and I are more honest than this column suggests.)