This is a question I hear from my niece quite often lately. Or the variation, How did you know that? Who taught you? And even sometimes, Can you teach me? I particularly love that last one. But she got me thinking. Where did I learn what I know?
Growing up was an experience. I won’t go into the details but let’s just say dysfunctional is a polite term. I went to 17 different schools between Kindergarten and 12th grade. And no, neither of my parents were military. Some of those schools were in the same school district. We just moved, for whatever reason. It’s amazing what you learn through that.
I learned to adapt. Quickly. Was a I ever bullied? Yes I was. Never to the point of wanting to kill myself, but it did make life suck for a while. I just learned a new route to my class and carried my books differently so they weren’t spilled all over the hallway by someone yanking them out of my hands. Thankfully, I was only at that school a month. My parents both worked and were usually gone before I even got up to get ready for school. So I had to learn to be responsible. I set my alarm clock every night before I went to bed, got up in the morning, got ready and knew when I had to leave to make it to school on time. Most of the time, I rode my bike to school. Sometimes, I rode the bus. This responsibility started around the age of 9. Most of the nine-year-olds I know can barely remember to bring their books to school.
Because I had to get myself to school, my dad taught me how to navigate through town. In the U.S., if you head out from whatever the center of town is, even numbered addresses are on the right, odd on the left. If you know the address, he said, you can find just about anything. He also taught me how to read a map. To this day, I’m still navigator on trips, though I have to admit, I’m getting out of practice now that we have GPS. (I still print paper maps for vacations, just in case).
My dad also taught me how to drive. He was the poor person who got whiplash and I’m sure, a few heart palpitations in the process of teaching me. My mom tried to teach me. Once. We ended up stuck in the soft sand of a side street laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our faces. After we switched places and she got the car backed out – it was a standard and reverse just would not work for me that day – we got back to the house and my mother said “Richard, you’re going to have to teach her” and we erupted into tears of laughter again.
My mom taught me about hard work. She said when I was little, I think my brother was an infant, we had to go on food stamps for a short time. I don’t remember why. I just remember she said it was the most humiliating thing she’d ever had to do. And she never did it again. If one or the other got laid off or couldn’t find a job, the employed parent would somehow pick up a second job. I worked two jobs at once more times than I care to count. She also taught me how to save for something I wanted, how to handle money and how to wash my own clothes. At the time, I just thought she didn’t want to do it. I’m sure that was partly the case, but I was also old enough to do it myself and help out around the house while they were working. I definitely pulled my weight growing up. I didn’t have anything close to a free ride.
Where is all this heading? Simply back to the fact that I’m realizing just how much my parents taught me. And how much of an impact it still has on my life. I could easily be one of those people who sits and moans about how many things have gone wrong in my life and how miserable of a childhood I had. I don’t WANT to do that though. Sometimes, I get depressed and I may say some of that stuff, but I try to drag myself out of it as quickly as possible. I have too many things I still want to see and do in life. So I work in order to see and do those things.
I’m using my past experiences to guide me on my current path. Not to mention some of it is turning out to be fantastic writing fodder! LOL. Got to find the positive somehow. Plus writing has become cathartic. I’m thinking about things from my childhood that I’ve long buried and tried to forget.
How did you learn to read a map? Who taught you to drive? Are you ready to teach someone else to do these things? Whenever my niece asks “Can you teach me?” my answer is always “You betcha Dee.”
Have a great weekend.