Friday, August 1, 2014

My House is Dirty but my Conscience is Clean

Now that all of my kids are doing well, I get a lot of people asking me how I managed to have four children all turn out to be high-achieving, well-adjusted people.

There are a few answers to that. One is purely by the grace of God, and I mean that. None of my children are schizophrenic, autistic or mentally handicapped. Those are cards that just get dealt and it so happened that none of them got dealt to me.

So far, we've hit the genetic lottery in this family.

A second answer is that success depends on when you measure it. There have been times during their teenage years when each one of my children appeared to be on the high road to hell.

When people ask that question, though, I'm pretty sure they want a concrete answer regarding something I did.


My house is dirtier than it used to be because my grandchildren live close now and they come over and mess things up. When all of my children lived at home, it was far worse.

I looked at it this way: there were a finite number of hours in the day. It was important to me to have a career where I could both support my family in the style to which I wanted to be accustomed and to "add another grain of sand to the scientific beach". So, I worked.

I believe strongly in the Greek value of a strong mind in a strong body, so I pushed all of my children to participate in sports of some kind and to do well academically. Occasionally, they pushed back.

Taking children to judo tournaments, soccer practice, pole vault practice, SAT study classes, summer science camp, track camp, marine biology camp - all of that took time and cost money.

Paying for private elementary school, high school and college all cost money, which meant more work.

Driving kids to the school, the library, the beach, hiking trails in the mountains, friends' houses where they were (supposedly) studying, bassoon lessons, piano lessons, dance lessons, swim lessons, drum lessons, gymnastics lessons, judo lessons - all took time and most of it cost money.

Having cats, dogs, birds, frogs, guinea pigs and chinchillas takes time, money and effort.

I'm not sure how much of that my kids would remember if  they thought about their childhoods, because they took it all for granted.

"Oh, I just went to marine biology camp once."

"I didn't go to the most expensive private high school in Los Angeles."

Plenty of it - ballet lessons, mommy and me swim lessons, library story hour - happened when they were probably too young to remember.

The rest of it they took for granted because, hey, it was the only life they knew.

If there was something I did right (and so did my late husband, and my current husband), it was to put a priority on our children over stuff.

We still live in a townhouse in Santa Monica. We never moved to a big house in Malibu or bought a sports car. Instead, we put our money into private schools and lessons of every  type. Our children have traveled the world as a member of the Olympic team, an exchange student and just a very spoiled teenager. The one who did not travel very much ended up going to graduate school, so she also cost us quite a bit. When it came to decisions, we invested in our children's futures, not just our money but also our time.

So, if you came to my house when they were young, you probably thought it was a disaster. We did have a housekeeper, but it was an uphill battle for her with six of us running in, out and around the town. For years, we expected her to open the door on Monday morning, see the havoc that had been wreaked over the weekend and say, "Fuck it! I quit!" 

Fortunately, she never did.

Some people think that having a clean house is a matter of discipline. You make the children do the dishes, clean their rooms, sweep the kitchen - everyone has chores.

I had a different view. Everyone had responsibilities and theirs was to excel academically and get enough exercise to be healthy.

Jim Pedro, Sr. once said to me,

"I bet if you didn't go walking on the beach so often you'd have time to clean your house."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"When it came to decisions, we invested in our children's futures, not just our money but also our time." Could not agree with you more on that. I always tell my sons, we may not have much money,but we will use all that we can on you three. We also have the same amount of time as those rich and poor, but we will use all that we can on you boys. CN