I hope the adults read this because I think they’ll get a kick out of it, and that they will agree with it. But if the truth be told, the message in it is for young people, so I hope they’ll read it, too.
I doubt, though, that they will get a kick out of it, or agree with it
Anyway, the message is a simple one: children should listen – at least casually if not very intently – to their parents, for that is one of the ingredients for there being harmony at home.
I know, I know, children think their parents aren’t cool enough, with-it enough or smart enough to tell them anything that’s worth hearing. What parents say is just noise that needs to be ignored until it mercifully goes away.
But this attitude isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. Since time began, kids have always thought their parents were dolts. I know I did. And I’m sure you did as well. We all did.
I get it that children want their independence – they want to sprout their wings and be who they want to be, and who they feel they were meant to be – but what they don’t realize is that adults really do know a lot because they’ve lived a lot of years.
When I turned 20 years old in what now seems to have been the Dark Ages, my dad very proudly gave me a birthday gift. It was one I am sure he bought totally on his own.
It was in a legal-sized envelope. I was sure that it was one of those money holders stuffed with cash. When you’re a 20-year-old male, and you excel at wasting money by buying stupid stuff, there is nothing better than getting money.
I breathlessly opened the envelope, and when I pulled out another envelope that was inside, I became even more breathless.
It was an auto club emergency card. For the next year, I could get emergency road service wherever I went – even if it were someplace I shouldn’t have gone.
If my dad had given me a pair of socks, some underwear or a goofy hat of some sort – or if he had simply taken out a pair of pliers and used it to rip all my teeth out, one by one – I would have liked it better.
After I caught my breath again and picked my jaw off the floor, he told me how valuable the card would be as I began to travel here, there and everywhere in building my life.
I don’t think I ever told him thanks, and to this day, I very much regret that, in part because it was extremely rude, especially to a parent and also because he was right on point with what he told me. That card has saved me so much money that I can’t even begin to count it. It has pulled me – literally and sometimes figuratively – out of so many really tough jams and desperate situations. I don’t know what I would have done without it.
The other day, on the anniversary of getting that birthday gift, I took out this year’s auto club emergency card and got great pride in reading on it that I was now a 43-year club member.
But this trend – that is, of my parents, especially my dad, telling me things I loathed to hear but later found to be very true – actually began in earnest almost seven years to the day before that. It was the day of the 1968 Ohio State-Michigan football game at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes would crush Michigan 50-14 on their way to winning the school’s first national championship in 14 years.
Unlike today, when every Buckeyes game is televised, back then only two regular-season contests were on TV. One was always the Michigan game. So getting to watch the Buckeyes live and in full living color – we had just purchased a color television, a Magnavox with the incredible "works in a drawer," don’t you know? – was a big deal.
But watching halftime?
I was 13 years old, and young teenage boys can’t sit still for any real length of time. So as soon as the first half ended, I quickly grabbed my coat and my football, and put on my tennis shoes, and started to head out the door to play in the front yard as I imagined I was Ohio State stars Rex Kern, Jim Otis, Jim Stillwagon and Jack Tatum.
"Wait a minute," my dad called out to me. "Instead of going outside, why don’t you stay in here? I want you to see something. I think you’ll like it."
"What? See what?"
"The Ohio State marching band."
I loved the Buckeyes, but that included only the football – and basketball – teams. Sitting there watching the marching band was not something I would have loved. Having to do that would be akin to … well, having my dad take the pliers to my teeth.
"Aw, come on, Dad! What is it that the marching band is going to do that I have to see?"
"It’s called ‘Script Ohio.’ It’s this routine that they do where they spell out ‘Ohio’ as they march around in formation and then finish it by dotting the ‘i.’ "
I was an excellent speller. I sure as heck didn’t need the Ohio State marching band to teach me how to spell the name of the state in which I lived.
But my dad persisted so, grumbling to myself, I reluctantly took off my coat and shoes, put down my football and sat back down in the living room. To this very day, I am so glad I did, because what I saw … well, made my jaw drop and caused me to become breathless.
I’ve never been able to play a musical instrument but that routine – that performance – caught my attention and kept it. It was so incredibly cool.
So on Saturday, when Ohio State and Michigan play in Columbus on the 50th anniversary of that game long ago, I will stand mesmerized in front of the TV, watch "Script Ohio" and revel in every single, solitary second of it.
And I will think of the importance of children listening to their parents.