“To bring up a child in the way he should go — travel that way yourself.” (Josh Billings)

I consider myself to be an extremely lucky man. My father has contributed more to my life than any other individual and now my son has given me an equal opportunity to share those lessons with him. Since my dad just turned 90 and Thomas is a few days away from 26, maybe now would be a good time to express my appreciation to both of them.

I really can’t imagine how my life would be without them. There is a bond between us three that is unlike any other relationship I have ever had. I started working for my dad when I was just 10 and it always felt like I had been asked to join the club. I was given secrets about the graphic arts business that were handed down from my grandfather and great-grandfather to my dad and now it was my turn to inherit this legacy. I can remember vividly, listening in rapt silence as he explained what seemed like alchemy and then watching as his words turned into photographs right before my eyes. I think the nature of photographic darkrooms added to the mystery of his teachings. Behind the closed doors, in pitch black rooms filled with strange chemicals he would flick on a single red light,  make his magic happen and then give me the chance to do the same. I’m not too sure what those chemicals were doing to us but since he’s still alive at 90 it must not have been too bad.

My dad didn’t stop coming to work every day until he was in his 70’s and those years we shared bent over the light tables were simply incredible. He was a master of his craft and as such he always felt obligated to impart his wisdom to anyone who needed help, and we all did. He was the resident expert and all of my best employees showed him due respect by seeking his opinion frequently. He was like a father to all of them and I’m quite sure they still miss working with him.

It’s kind of sad that the business ended when it did because I never got much of a chance to teach Thomas the way my dad  taught me. By the time Thomas was old enough to start working there it was already clear that the end of traditional photography was in sight and it would be better for him to plan on a different career path. Without trade secrets to share with him, I decided to concentrate on people skills and he was born for that more than I ever was. Thomas always had the ability to make people like him. He was articulate from the moment he spoke his first complete sentence and funny like no one’s business. His teachers always commented on his personality and sense of humor. He was unafraid of speaking up and always managed to break the tension with a well-chosen comeback.

Some of that ability probably came from the hours he spent watching old movies like Bob Hope’s Road  movies and the Marx Brothers. As he got older, I introduced him to Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Airplane, Animal House, Love and Death, Bananas and the like and it obviously affected him in a good way, even if his mom didn’t quite agree. Although, I don’t know why she complained because she got to be there for all of his wacky clowning around the house while I was toiling away at the office. I can’t count how many conversations started with, ” You won’t believe what your son did today…”

I remember one time when he was just 12, our church was having a spring fling picnic and Thomas volunteered to help with the games for the younger kids. They let him run the cake walk and he turned it into his best impression of Monty Hall, complete with play-by-play narration and color commentary. The kids loved him and their parents just kept asking how he got this way. My wife was kind of embarrassed at first but she came around when she saw how much fun the little ones were having with Thomas. I wish I could have been there for that one.

Thomas was given every opportunity to become his own person and I made sure he followed his own path. He never had much interest in competitive sports but he loved acting and the theatre. During high school he performed and directed numerous plays and he was always outstanding. He could memorize lines like no other and he just had a knack for Shakespeare and comedy. He’s done some community theatre since then and his performance in the Rabbit Hole was given fantastic reviews. Unfortunately, his job is on the night shift now so his performing arts career is on hold for a while, but we all hope he gets back to it some day.

I now know exactly what Josh Billings was talking about. Parenting isn’t about you, it’s about your kid. The more you try to make them into something the less likely they are to go that way. Good parenting is about letting go of the reins and riding along side them as they grow. Sure we need to be there to protect them from danger but the rest of the time is just coaching and learning to deal with failure is part of the process. We all fall down from time to time and then we all get back up. It might not be pretty some times but the end result, a functional well-rounded adult, is all that matters. Once you have shared your wisdom and experience with them, then they have to make it on their own. We’re not doing them any favors if we make it too easy. I guess it’s easier for me to see this now because I’m the one right in the middle and my two best friends are my dad and my son. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content


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3 Responses to “To bring up a child in the way he should go — travel that way yourself.” (Josh Billings)

  1. Becky says:

    Good job…writing, being a good son, and being a good father! Isn’t life grand????

  2. Liz Abras says:

    I am glad that you have had so much time with your father. We also gave our sons a “quality” education with Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and many other movies, that along with my husband’s interesting sense of humor, have created many interesting discussions with teacher over the year. The best one was when our youngest was in 7th grade and his Social Studies teacher told me at conference time that she was so happy to have a student who actually got her jokes. She would say something and the rest of the class would be going..”WHAT?” and Tim would be in the back of the classroom rolling on the floor laughing. We were taught well and we have passed it on. Tell your father hello from us Heddens, and enjoy both of them.

  3. Liz Abrams says:

    I need to proof read everything….LOL That is Abrams not Abras

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