Sheila CallahamFrom the Series: Life on Dog Hill

I came home from my 13-year-old’s middle school open house with a big smile on my face. I spoke to every one of his teachers, and the one comment I heard repeatedly was how respectful my son is, and what a pleasure he is to teach.

[Cut to Hallelujah chorus!]

Hallelujah, indeed. We must have done something right.

Teaching my children the importance of respect has always been at the top of my list — whether it’s respect for each other, or their elders. But the truth is, parenting is hard. In fact, I would assert it’s the most mind-boggling experience I’ve ever faced. Teaching children the importance of character traits such as respect, honesty, integrity, kindness, loyalty… well, let’s face it. It’s easier said than done. Not to mention, it’s a lesson that must be repeated for many years.

Getting an outside perspective on the impact my parenting has had on my kids is one of the reasons I always go to the annual open house. I need to gauge how my kids are behaving without my oversight, void of any reminders for what to do and how to do it. Teachers are with them every day, often for longer periods of time (collectively speaking) than I am. I want to know what they see in my child.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@SheilaCallaham”]”Teachers are a compass reflecting my parenting imprint.”[/tweetthis]


Together hubby and I have seven kids. We refer to our children as “his, mine, theirs, and ours.” His three from his first marriage, my one from my first marriage, our adopted twins, and the last one who we had together. We frequently talk about how dissimilar our children are, and how our relationship with each of them is uniquely special. The one thing that remains the same, no matter which child we refer to, is that we love them completely…only the way a parent could.

That doesn’t mean we don’t feel upset with them when they make stupid mistakes — and inevitably they do. Not only is parenting tough, growing up isn’t a walk in the park either, and I often remind myself of that when I’m aghast at the latest “episode.” When those difficult times are upon us, I confess that we often raise our voices, shake our heads, and ask ourselves, “What the bloody hell was he/she thinking?!”

You’d think that parenting would get easier with all the practice we have under our belts. Now I understand why the youngest is typically the most spoiled. It’s because the parents are so tired of saying “no” and arguing over what makes sense that they just throw their hands up. But in our house, the youngest would argue that’s hardly the case; hubby and I have taken the lessons learned from 1 – 6 and apply daily to #7.

Poor thing. He’s not getting the benefit of being the baby at all. Not to mention, he’s slightly peeved at his older sibs.

Parenting Challenge Is Old News

Did you ever think that it’s just “this generation?” Well, forget about it. The challenges of youth go way back.

“Ask the young. They know everything,” offered French moralist Joseph Joubert (1754 – 1824).

Okay, so a couple hundred years ago, they were complaining about the pretentiousness of youth. Not impressed? How about if I took you back a whopping 10 centuries?!

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

Hesiod, Eighth Century B.C.E.

Lessons Learned Up for Bid

Hubby and I agree that our parental experience with seven kids has given us plenty of time to sharpen our skills (never believe what they tell you after age 13), hone our best tricks (I’ll sell these to the highest bidding publisher), toss out tactics and strategies that prove ineffective (don’t take away sports because the grades suck), and use the best of what’s left on number 7.

Yep, we must have done something right because all of his teachers said so.

But before you click away thinking I’m way too smug with myself, let me end with the most important quote of all:

Aristotle quote_teachersOne thing I know for certain is how grateful I am for school teachers who have a passion for their area of expertise, and desire more than anything to share that passion with young minds.

Yes, I like to think of myself as parent and teacher, but I know that institutional teachers — going all the way back to Socrates, who taught Plato, who taught Aristotle — are the true heroes of youth.

Pin It on Pinterest