When I was a kid, I was privileged, privileged because my parents were amazing. In fact, they were trend setters, but it’s not what you think. At the time as a kid, we were actually somewhat mocked, ridiculed and laughed at. Although, while privileged might connotate a bad word these days as if I have something that others are not privy to, due to money or prestige, I was very privileged due to my parents belief system and actions toward us as kids where money was constantly tight but my parents seemed to stretch what we had to help us thrive. So, what qualities make my parents the coolest ones in the world? I’ll start with some stories and then end with an outline of my takeaways.
My parents cared about our livelihood enough to take us out of public school and homeschool us when they realized that it was their responsibility, first and foremost, to train up a child in the way we should go. This is not to say that public school or private school could not accomplish this, but, in our situation, they felt that it was the best for our family dynamic and for our personal growth. At the time, it was not cool to be homeschooled like it is now in many circles. In fact, it was often isolating in that some groups did not accept us into their clubs, teams, or friend circles. In most cases, we were treated as odd or unusual. Most had not heard of kids being homeschooled and immediately went to, ‘Well, what about your social well being?’ and meanwhile must have pictured homeschoolers as hermits who never left their house and never talked to anyone or learned how to relate to other people. Then there was the other side of the coin, where after a period of time, people that were artificially close, you know, the types that are not close but close enough to vainly believe we were golden children and had the perfect family as if we did no wrong. Oh please, I tried to convince them that one of my brothers had the biggest temper and they just wouldn’t believe me. As many times I tried to show them the faults of everyone else in my family, not me, I was perfect, no one believed me. The truth is, when 6 people live in close quarters together, your heart and true identity show up much quicker and more regularly. The others get on your nerves and you are forced to work it out and learn to relate to your peers, both young and old.
We were also privileged to not have what we wanted. When I was a kid my family and I were only privileged enough to drive 2 hours from our home to go sit in the nosebleed section and watch the Texas Rangers play baseball. No paying for the astronomical food while we were there, just sandwiches before or after. The first time I went to a Rangers baseball game and had a box seat, I had already completed college. This opportunity was all on the company that my mom worked for. We also were privileged, after college, to go to a Dallas Stars game. I still have not been to a Dallas Cowboys game. We also were privileged to go to Six Flags Over Texas and play all day, taking a lunch break only to go back to our car and eat string cheese and pinto beans wrapped in tortillas. I always wanted the treats you could buy at the ballpark and at Six Flags but it just did not work out, no matter what angle I tried to get my parents to buy something for me. Ok, there was an occasion that we got to choose 1 snack, like a frostie at Six Flags, or peanuts at the ballpark. Those were golden moments for me as a kid. We were so privileged, after I had spent about 6 months learning to play the guitar on my dad’s old classical (which had steel strings on it, making it the most difficult guitar to ever to learn to play on), my mom took me to get my own guitar, an electric, at Sams. It was a ‘Silvertone’ electric guitar with a tiny amp and it was the best thing ever. I played that guitar in my first band. In fact, after I had become pretty good, I bought a used Fender Strat (a mexican brand, not American made) and played that for the majority of my time in music – that’s about 20 years, including producing 2 professional albums and performing over 200 concerts and events across the Southeast, all with my $300 Fender Strat.
We were privileged to have parents that cared about our well-being, and yes, that includes our ability to work and our social interaction. My parents had all of us working at the age of 12, at a minimum, as a referee in our local public soccer leage on Saturdays before and after we played with our team. As I got older, we also worked other part-time jobs. At one point, my mom found out that a local housebuilder taught teenagers how to do house construction. So, a kid like me, who did not know the difference between a Phillips and a flat-head, and who still swings a hammer like a girl, was able to develop a level of skill at house construction (that is still put into practice today). Socially speaking, my parents created homeschool events from scratch when the social activities were either not present or not good. We were also heavily involved in church youth choirs and recreational sports at an early age. To fully understand the lengths that my parents went to make sure we had a great experience, when we were older they set up a homeschool senior class group where a sense of comraderie and accomplishment with our peers could be cultivated through activities and events all year long. We even had a homeschool prom and a formal graduation with these peers. And let me tell you, it was not ‘cool’ at the time, it was often quite hokey, but times that I look back on with awkward appreciation, probably not much different than any kid does in any situation – always wanting to fit in, but not quite reaching the level of status they desire. My siblings and I were all forced to learn piano for 2 years and then pick an instrument to pursue throughout our early years. When I would have joined the band in school, I instead sang in the church youth choir and started and assembled my own rock band. When my brothers were older and my parents could not justify playing club soccer in Dallas, they even created a club soccer league in our small town that is still going to this day.
I confess, we DID actually get everything we needed and many of the things we wanted, but not in the way we wanted them. In fact, if I had what my friends had and I often coveted, I would have been able to get 3 or 4 really nice guitars! I am thankful looking back that we did not get box seating at a Rangers game until I was in college. I might have not enjoyed the nose bleed section anymore!
I poke fun at a lot of things in this article. But, my desire is to remember that, in order to be ‘cool’, you have to be willing to do listen to where God is directing your family, what is best and what is right for your family’s situation, regardless of what the cultural norms are around you. Also, getting the chance to learn and try new things, not to accumulate toys due to monetary wealth, is the true point. In most cases I would even say, don’t give your kids the deluxe version of things. I hope that I have the discipline to teach my kids to enjoy the little things and to follow a different path than just going along with the cultural norm, both spiritually and physically, in our expectations about how we pursue our toys and the experiences we enjoy. I am certainly more ‘wealthy’ when it comes to money than my parents ever were but there is a true ‘privilege’ in putting God first, loving each other in close community, and enjoying little pleasures that are often a little hokey. A little strain and discomfort for the right reasons is of benefit in growing in maturity for the good of the parents and the kids.
And it’s not that surprising, I assume to look back on all this and realize how ‘cool’ my parents were even though I still have only started to understand how true it is. It continues to be more and more evident as I continue living and learning. I still can’t put into words how privileged I was, and at the same time, was not. Homeschooling is now trendy and being a jack-of-all trades is often coveted. When I was often labeled as weird as a kid and many did not give me the opportunity to be a part of their group, my parents taught me how to persevere in the midst of troubles. When something was not made available to us, my parents helped us get to the root of what it is we were wanting to learn or do, and in some cases, when it was out of our comprehension or reach about how to do something, they created the opportunity for us and in many ways forced us to get involved. And in that, learning to try regardless of the outcome, in that ‘privilege’ alone, to learn to be a little brave and almost odd, we were that much more capable and fulfilled. I hope that I am half the man to my kids that my cool parents were. As my brother put it so well, “Being confident in our purpose in Christ, seeing and executing a plan for His glory, and showing grace and mercy the same way He does for us every day.” How can you not give your best effort, when this is your perspective?
Here’s a simple outline of what makes a parent the coolest in the world:
- They understand it is first and foremost, their responsibility to train up a child based on their specific needs and bent as God has entrusted them to you. This looks different based on a lot of factors, but regardless, let this be the standard to strive for in all circumstances. Realize it is not anyone else’s responsibility but your own.
- Put God first and your family will reap the benefits of that. This includes doing what is right and best for your family regardless of how it is perceived by others and in many cases whether others accept or reject you. Do not become more and more reclusive as you realize your differences. Instead, embrace who you are and the culture around you in the way you know how and how God is directing you.
- Provide your kids opportunity to interact with people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds (by the way, this can’t be done by just putting them in public education – they are primarily relating to kids their own age with most likely their own perspective of the world) while making sure that the key intentional training grounds for your kids are focused on the values and morals that are important for your children.
- Teach your kids to work and make sure that they play, looking for opportunities to stretch their skills, knowledge, and view of the world through different experiences
- It’s ok and sometimes important for your children to face difficulty with age when it is principled with the right morals and perspective and something worth pursuing
- Living in close quarters with other people (your siblings, primarily) helps build character and comraderie
- Give your child every opportunity to try new things knowing that the goal is not to give them the finest quality toys or experiences and instead it could actually be better to not get the finest quality things and experiences and instead focus on the important part which could be one of several things: quality time with quality people, learning something new or stretching their knowledge/skill/understanding of themselves or others, and learning to compete both individually and being a part of a team. Giving a child every opportunity in some cases means creating something from scratch so the experience can become a reality.