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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Life's lessons

by Terry McLaughlin

I was blessed with parents who placed a high value on education. They sacrificed for private-school tuition, and donated hundreds of hours of volunteer service, and spent an incredible amount of time transporting us to the best possible schools.

Occasionally, they'd supplement our school days with additional programs--music and dance classes, foreign language tutorials, symphony tickets, college extension courses, travel opportunities. One of my favorite family traditions was the annual Christmas-break visit to a museum.

Two sets of extracurricular lessons I'm especially grateful for are those my mother arranged for me the year I was in the seventh grade. She felt that some practice with public speaking would help me conquer my shyness. And since she'd always wished she could sew, she decided I should learn that skill.

I wasn't interested in sewing, and I really didn't want to stand in front of strangers and make speeches. I whined and complained and made a preteen fuss over both after-school activities. But my mother was stubborn--and she was right, as mothers so often are. By the end of the year, I'd discovered I had a talent for speaking, and I'd begun to compete in city-wide forensics tournaments. I'd also begun a lifelong love affair with needle and thread.

Since that time, I've spent thousands of happy hours creating costumes, gowns, quilts, curtains, and upholstery. I designed and made my own wedding dress and veil, and one for my sister, too. I find fabric stores every bit as tempting as bookstores.

There's a box in the attic filled with medals and trophies I won in speech contests, and some of my happiest teaching memories are the afternoons I spent with my high school Speech & Drama students. After so much practice, I've never been uncomfortable speaking to a crowd of any size.

So thanks, Mom, for the lessons. They gave me far more than knowledge and skill--they brought me contentment and confidence.

What lessons are you grateful for?

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At 7:12 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

At the time, a freshman in high school, I was a little p.o'd that my parents forced me to take Home Ec for my one elective. I wanted to take art. But my dad and mom bought my older sister a sewing machine because she liked sewing in Home Ec, and my younger sister and I had to take it. They also made us take typing, due to purchasing a typewriter after my older sister took Typing. Again, I was indignant that my sister was determining my electives. Now, as an adult, both sewing and typing are skills I use almost every day. And I know it wasn't easy for them to afford to buy a nice sewing machine and typewriter when they had four kids to raise.

The lesson I learned? Be the oldest child! :) Only kidding!

Actually, I learned that parents have a better perspective of what skills may serve you later in life. Knowing how to type sure makes writing easier!! It made college easier, too.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

My parents let me and encouraged me to be involved in as many possible clubs as I could handle in high school. It was big deal for them because we farmed and getting into town took planning, around all the chores. I think kids learn as much from those things as their actual lessons.

We are scraping and scrimping so the girls can go to Europe before their senior years. We said we would as long as their grades were good and they took their language studies seriously. They have kept up with their respective languages (French and Spanish) for several years, and so my oldest will go to France and England in two years (for 10 days) and then two years after that my middle daughter will have two weeks in Spain, each with their language teachers in a group. It's so exciting to see the world open up before them. And my youngest daughter is already fussing over which language to start studying in middle school, because she knows what's coming. :)

I'm grateful that my parents got me up before dawn to help take care of cows, cut wood every fall, spend hours weeding huge gardens each summer. I'm glad they made such a fuss over every dollar, and taught me what it means to really work for a wage, and be thankful to have a job.

Goodness, sorry for such a wordy response! :)

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

What a fabulous gift you're giving to your children!

At 12:25 PM, Blogger PatriciaW said...

I can't say I learned much of anything in Home Ec, but I too am grateful for sewing lessons, most of which I got from my mother. She also taught me to crochet, although I haven't done that in forever.

Loved the music lessons even if I hated practicing.

I wish I'd taken those years of twirling more seriously. Not that I wanted to be a professional twirler, but back in those days, before Title IX, this was an attempt at getting me to be comfortable in my skin and to be physical in some way.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Mo, I ended up in a high school typing class when another class I was taking got canceled, and I had a lot of catching up to do! I had a strict teacher who wouldn't listen to excuses, and when I got to college, I was glad she'd made me do the work. I even earned a little money typing papers (and correcting spelling & grammar errors) for fellow students.

I wish I'd been able to take a Home Ec class, but I was never able to work it into my schedule. Our son wanted to take drama, but because of scheduling, he got stuck with Home Ec. I bought him one of those high, puffy chef hats, and the first day he put it on, his teacher laughed and laughed :-).

LOL on your "be the oldest child" lesson :-)!

Gillian, what a wonderful testimony to your parents' values. So few young people learn the connection between hard work and earned rewards. Your daughters are very fortunate, for so many reasons :-)!

Patricia, I love to crochet, too :-). So many of the things I enjoy (tea, embroidery, crochet work) I learned from my grandmother. I'm hoping to pass along a few things to my granddaughters. My oldest granddaughter already thinks tea time (decaffeinated, of course!) is a big treat.

Like you, I hated music practice sessions. I got to quit piano lessons when I broke my leg (couldn't sit on the bench with that cast).

A few years ago, I took up the violin, since I'd always wanted to play it and thought I'd be better about practicing as an adult. Nope :-). Those lessons lasted about a year before I gave up. Now I stick to playing the radio.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I learned so many things from my mother and my aunt: sewing, crochet, knitting, embroidery...but working full-time, I never had the time to teach my daughter any of it. I particularly wish I had taught her to sew (then she could hem her own pants!). No, really, I think she'd be good at it.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

You were blessed with wonderful parents, Terry. Lucky you and lucky them to have such a grateful and talented daughter!

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Judy said...

What Theresa said. :-)

And what a cool language plan, Gillian!

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Diane, recently my daughter went with me to a fabric store and chose supplies for some cute pajamas. She'd like me to teach her to sew before she leaves home (again), but so far we haven't found the right time to sit down and start the project.

Thanks for the kind comments, Theresa and Judy. I wish everyone could have parents as wonderful as mine :-). They're still lots of fun!


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