A Priceless Christmas Gift

Holiday DinnerDuring the holidays I generally share mentoring ideas. A top article, in terms of positive reader feedback, appeared three years ago. As we have quadrupled our readers since then, my wife Jo suggested I update it – the message is timeless.

We recently celebrated our 60th high school class reunion. I love to meet old friends and play catch up, share some laughs and we eventually end up complaining about the state of the world today. It ranges from out of control government, bathroom choices, disrespectful young folks and a lot of points in between.

Jo often remarks, “We’ve turned into our elders”. Our parents and grandparents complained about many of the same things when we were young.

While generational complaining is traditional, I did a double take when I saw a recent post, “If your kid is disrespectful, respect is taught at home, do your job!” It’s more than respect.

Many basic values are not being taught in the churches or schools and need to be taught at home. Grandparents must take and share some of that responsibility.

Many children are more likely to listen to a grandparent than their own parents, particularly when it comes to handling money. A TIAA-CREF Intergenerational Study finds grandparents vastly underestimate the influence they have on grandchildren’s financial futures. They go on to say, “…. Grandchildren value their stories.” If you don’t think they are listening, try uttering some profanities under your breath and see how quickly they pick them up!

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Mentoring future generations, teaching them real values in life, good work ethics and individual responsibility will pay off far more than a donation to their college fund.

Forget the excuses, the iPod, too busy, disinterested, geographical challenges, etc. When you are with them, pick your shots and have some fun.

Where to start?

I made a list of topics and it’s growing. This year we enjoyed the holidays with our youngest grandchildren, ages 9 & 14. They are old enough that quiet time with grandpa & grandma happens. I love sitting on the side of their bed having quiet talks. Things go better when they come to me or something happens to make my remarks appropriate.

Better to focus on a few important topics.

Mom and dad are generally supportive as we are reinforcing things they hear at home. Even teenaged grandchildren love time with grandma and grandpa – even if it includes a short lecture. Don’t be surprised to find yourself discussing things they would never tell mom and dad. When that day comes, you are a trusted mentor. How cool is that?

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Here’s my list:

  • Good manners and respect are never old-fashioned. As you go through life you want to earn the respect of others. Respecting your parents, teachers, elderly and others is where it starts. Young people who are disrespectful generally get noticed and receive a lot of attention; however, the same holds true for respectful children. Children can choose how they get attention. They have a choice in the kind of reputation they want to build for themselves. The young ones have already learned that their reputation among the school faculty is important.
  • You are responsible for your own behavior. Leaders are not followers, they think and act independently. They don’t always go along with the crowd. When you screw up it is not someone else’s fault, you made a choice and behavior has consequences. While you may want to be popular, going along with the crowd is not always the right thing to do. Make good, responsible choices. In time you will be looked upon as a leader and respected.
  • Life is not fair. Much of society stresses fairness to the point of being ridiculous. Everyone should have a fair and equal opportunity, but no one can guarantee an equal result. In a race, one person will win, the rest will lose, and yes, one person will finish last. Assuming no cheating, there is nothing unfair; each person is blessed with certain skills and they are different from others. One of my proudest moments was when my son got beat in the state wrestling playoffs. He was probably the hardest-working, best-conditioned wrestler in the tournament and he still got beat. He congratulated the other wrestler, walked off the mat and told the coach, “I got beat by a much better athlete, there is not much I can do about that.” When you do your best and the results don’t go your way, hold your head high. It is a waste of time and mental energy lamenting the unfairness of life. Focus on doing the best you can – that is something over which you have control.
  • Win the laps at practice. Whether it is football, soccer, basketball or hockey, at the end of each practice, the team does laps. Most players run in a herd with the pace set by the slow and lazy. There is a reason for doing laps; it is called conditioning. Being in shape pays off late in a tight game. Don’t say anything; just start doing your best, going hard all the way. Soon others will catch on and the entire team will start to speed up. That is where leaders learn to lead.Build good study habits. Spending time studying is like running good laps – it pays off. In the business world, your laps are how you spend your time improving your skills. Successful people use some of their free time to read, learn and improve. Others may go back to school to improve their skills. You won’t find a book in the library, “Famous Members of the do just enough to get by club”.
  • Life is competition. Take most of your “participation trophies” and throw them in the trash; they are counterproductive. Too many school systems want to issue pass/fail grades as opposed to earned grades, giving honest feedback to each student. That is a disservice to all involved. The potential high achiever gets lazy; what incentive do they have to work hard? The lazy student learns that doing just enough to get by will earn a passing grade. When graduation comes, they are ill-prepared for the future.Those who succeed generally work harder than most. With a few exceptions, those that do not succeed are not victims. Generally, they jogged their laps, happy to be in the middle, as opposed to running hard to be better conditioned than their competition. There is no EASY button in life. You get paid on accomplishment not merely activity. In the real world, society keeps score! There are times when “earning” a participation trophy is significant. My oldest son rode a bike race over the Tour de France course – at 56 years old! Thousands of laps and hours of hard work before he took the challenge. While he reminds me, “Dad, I never won a bike race” – finishing the entire race is something to be proud of. When I see people in wheelchairs cross the finish line, I normally find a little moisture on my cheek as I admire their accomplishments. Many have overcome big challenges to participate and “earned” their trophy by doing a lot more than just showing up. Those trophies are the keepers!

The end game

I never know how many chances I will have to make any of these points; but I am prepared should the situation arise.

One of the greatest joys of grandparenting is positively influencing your grandchildren and seeing the result. I was in tears when my granddaughter, with college diploma in hand, gave me a big hug and kiss, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for everything you do, I love you.” Now she has two children and the process continues. Mentoring the younger generation is the gift that lasts forever!

I will never live long enough to see this particular dream come true. I hope when my grandchildren are my age they can proudly say, “Oh my! We’ve turned into our grandparents”. It will mean we did our job.

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On The Lighter Side

I want to thank all the readers who took the time to send me a note after our last article. I wasn’t sure talking about my childhood would be well received. It’s kind comments from all of you that makes my day.

Jo and I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. As an only child I always looked forward to the large gathering of family and friends for the holidays. Somehow the world was put on hold and it was quality time.

As grandparents, we love it when the younger ones talk excitedly about their fun memories of the family gatherings past. The memories last a lifetime.

And finally…

Good friend Toots reminds us that the New Year is just around the corner:

A January Poem

‘Twas the month after Christmas, and all through the house

Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.

The cookies I’d nibbled, the eggnog I’d taste

At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.

When I got on the scale there arose such a number!

When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber),

I’d remember the marvelous meals I’d prepared,

The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared.

The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese,

And the way that I’d not said “No thank you, please.”

As I dressed myself in my husband’s old shirt

And prepared once again to do battle with dirt,

I said to myself, as I only can,

“You can’t spend a winter disguised as a man!”

So away with the last of the sour cream dip.

Get rid of the fruitcake, every cracker and chip.

Every last bit of food that I like must be banished

‘Till all the additional ounces have vanished.

I won’t have a cookie, not even a lick.

I’ll want only to chew on a long celery stick.

I won’t have hot biscuits, or corn bread or pie.

I’ll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.

I’m hungry, I’m lonesome, and life is a bore,

But isn’t that just what January’s for?

Unable to giggle, no longer a riot.

Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet.

I wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Until next time…

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