“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” —Exodus 20:12
This commandment thundered from Mount Sinai thousands of years ago, written by the finger of God. It was good advice then, but it is more relevant today when there is a full-force attack on the family.
The attack didn’t start a few years ago. The march against the family started when the so-called enlightened flower children of the ’60s decided to rebel against the establishment.
I was just old enough to remember the flower painting, the radical hairstyles, the illegal mind-altering drugs and the illicit sex that splattered the news. Back then, I was into country-western music with Charlie Pride, Buck Owens and Loretta Lynn, or I might have been tempted to follow the crowd to the streets of California.
Looking back, though, it wasn’t my taste in music that made the difference in my choices – it was the respect I had for my parents.
My parents were country folks who grew up in rural America where traditions and faith governed their lives. My father, though a newlywed, volunteered to go defend liberty in Europe in World War II. He was barely 19 and my mother was reaching toward 16.
They had a baby on the way so Daddy could have asked for exemption, but he felt an obligation to God and his country. It wasn’t easy for my mother to let him go, not knowing if he would ever come back, but she did. She, too, felt an obligation to God and country.
I wasn’t even a twinkle in my daddy’s eye when those decisions were made, but their firm unwavering commitment to values and principles taught me what patriotism is all about.
As parents, we teach principles not by words, statistics or charts, but by who we are in our daily lives. Our choices make a bigger impact on our children than anything else.
My parents taught me the value of work, but worked beside me. My mother held the hoe when she poured seeds into my hands to help me plant my first row of radishes in the garden.
She pointed out her own straight rows when she told me of her grandmother’s commitment to orderliness in the garden. My mother is 86 years old now and almost blind and deaf, but she is still committed to straight rows in her garden.
You mean she still gardens? Yes, and it is not a window-seat garden – it is a quarter of an acre. She has done that every year since she was a little girl. People rave about her vegetables and flowers. How do they know about them? She gives much of them away to family members and people in the community.
My father taught me his commitment to education when he sat by my side and helped me with my homework. I know he was tired because he would drift off to sleep mid-sentence.
He worked shift-work on a paper mill to make a living for his family. He would do a full shift, then come home and help his father in his saw shop repairing saws. When that was done, he didn’t sit down to read the news or sleep.
He helped his kids with homework or performed tasks around the house. He also taught me the value of education when he went back to high school while he drove the school bus.
He could have sat in the bus and read or listened to the radio in the hours he waited for school to be over, but he didn’t. He chose to get the high school diploma he missed when he went into military service.
I am still learning from my father, who is 90 years old. He can’t get around like he used to, but yesterday, he was outside working on the lawnmower. He is shaky and feeble, but he is determined to get the grass mowed.
He is fiercely independent. My dad has had two heart attacks, a stroke and many accidents that would have put a lesser man in the grave, but his commitment to his family and his work ethic has given him strength. Daily he leaves a legacy for me to follow.
I learned about faith sitting beside my parents in a pew of a small church listening to sermons that shaped my life for the better. I listened to discussions on the scriptures over Sunday dinner. I knew about Adam and Eve long before I could read.
I learned about Moses, Abraham and Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, from snippets of conversation before I ever went to Sunday school. I knelt beside my parents in family prayer and was taught to be the voice of the prayer long before I knew how to put my own thoughts together to petition an all-loving Father in Heaven.
I listened to the prayers of faith my parents gave when anyone was sick, and I saw healing take place. I heard stories of my mother’s faith in the prompting she received to bless the family.
As children, we knew that if mother said, “I don’t feel right about it,” we would be wise to heed her prompting because she had a special connection with God.
Once we had planned to go swimming. We were all ready in the car and started on our journey to the pool when she said, “I don’t feel like we should go.” We were disappointed, but we knew not to argue. We decided to go to my brother’s baseball game instead.
The game had hardly started when my brother got hit in the head with a baseball and was knocked out. Mother was the first to be by his side. If we had gone swimming, she would not have been able to give that comfort. She knew when to listen.
From my parents, I learned to value people instead of money and things. My parents were not rich in the things of the world. They ran a small cattle ranch that never really paid for itself, but it was a vehicle to teach work ethic and family unity.
We all worked as a family to gather and brand the calves and for the shipping in the fall. We learned to get along and forgive each other’s weaknesses and mistakes.
Today, we are a unified and loving family. There is not one member of the family who would not give everything to help another family member.
This generosity didn’t just extend to family members; it reached out to community members as well. My parents weren’t always treated right, but they made sure they always treated other people right. They paid their bills, and if a trade was made, the other guy always got the best deal. That is the way my parents are.
I learned to laugh and enjoy life from my dad. He always has a good joke to share. Recently, he found a funny story in the paper. He clipped it out, and everyone he talked to was given the story to read.
He watched their faces and laughed again as he saw the smile come to their faces. He may be 90, but his heart is young because he enjoys making people laugh.
It is easy to discount the power of a good sense of humor, but it can change the mood of any situation. It makes life’s burdens seem lighter. People love to be around my father because he can make them laugh.
I don’t have any rules for teaching children to honor their parents. I just have examples from my youth of what my successful parents did. With so many television movies promoting children as smarter than their parents, it is an uphill climb to teach them to honor their parents, but I also know that the effort is worth it.
I have learned through trial and error (more trials because of my errors to be exact) that 90 percent of teaching is by example, and 10 percent is explaining why you made the choices you made and then praying that your children will hear the prayer of your heart.
The commandment to honor your father and mother is a two-edged sword. Children need to honor their parents because it keeps them looking to the time-worn traditions that have protected society for centuries, but it also gives parents an awesome responsibility to give their children something to honor.
It is good sometimes to just sit down and say, “If I were my children, what would I see me doing in my spare time?” Do I spend the best time with my children, or do I spend my best time in front of the computer or perfecting my sports ability?
Do my children know what I value most in life? Do they know that I have faith? How do they know? The answers will tell you if you are teaching them to honor their parents and truly giving your children someone to honor and to call blessed. PD