Last year on Thanksgiving I made a big list of everyone I knew and thanked them each for something. I was going to do this again, but almost all of them would be the same as last year.
Instead I'm going to talk about my parents a little bit, since they've surely had a bigger influence on me than anyone else.
A lot of the good habits I have today, which essentially define who I am, come directly from my parents. They managed to steer me away from TV, drugs, and alcohol in such a way that I never considered rebelling by indulging in these things.
I remember distinctly wanting to watch TV once as a child. My father told me, "One day you'll thank us for not letting you watch TV." At the time that seemed absolutely ridiculous, but here I am today thanking them for not letting me watch TV. This isn't to say that I don't watch ANY TV now, but I only have a few shows that I download and usually watch with friends.
When I have kids I'll ask my parents how they got me to not drink and do drugs. I've never once felt tempted to try or do either, despite having an insatiable urge to do everything else under the sun.
They also encouraged me to be independent, which certainly made raising me harder.
When I was in 10th grade I was having a tough time in history class. I didn't care, so I didn't pay attention. I was failing. One day, after receiving a grade of perhaps 50 or so on a test, my teacher took me outside to the hallway.
"You went to a Montessori school, didn't you?"
What a strange question, I thought.
"I can tell. You Montessori kids are always more independent and don't study if you don't want to."
She said it with a smile on her face, as if to say that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
Not only did my parents enroll me in a Montessori school, which I still remember loving, but they also put me in a private middle school called "The Pike School" in the Boston area, where we lived. It was expensive for them and for my grandparents, but it was such a fantastic school (and the last time I really liked school) that I'll probably move back there when I have kids so that they can also attend.
When I was at Pike I made friends with a Taiwanese kid named Charlie. He and his family taught me Chinese (I could write a whole entry about how thankful I am to them as well), and my parents allowed me to travel to Taiwan for a month with them when I was only 13! It was the first time I'd even been on a plane, and turned out to be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. I loved it so much that I'm going back there this summer as part of my trip around the world.
I got interested in computers. They bought me one, and my mom bought me tons of books about them. Back then you couldn't just learn everything on the internet. When I went around to yard sales and bought three more old computers, my father built me a huge desk that spanned an entire wall of my room. He drilled holes in it for the cords and mounted power strips to the underside.
Of course, we had our disagreements as well. I inherited my mother's stubbornness, which led to many heated arguments, mostly about school. We'd yell at each other, but I was never punished unfairly. I'm glad to be so stubborn, so it's probably a good thing anyway. Our worst fight was when I dropped out of school to become a professional gambler.
My mother wouldn't speak to me for a month. She was livid. To this day she'd be thrilled if I decided to go back to school, but a year after I dropped out she let me gamble under her name.
When I decided to buy a house but didn't have the traditional steady paycheck to get a mortgage, they got a home equity loan on their paid-off house and let me make the payments. I had refused to tell them (or anyone) how much money I was making gambling, but they trusted that I would pay off the loan and not ruin their perfect credit. To this day I'm awed by how generous and trusting they were.
Whenever I had a crazy project at the house, my father would come help me with it. They warned me that tearing a closet out of a bedroom and turning the bedroom into a theater would be bad for resale. But when I decided to do it my father drove with me to Houston to buy the theater seats, and then stayed at my place until midnight building stadium seating and a 10' diagonal screen that we mounted to the wall. I tried to help, but he did almost all of the real work.
As with any project at my house, I'd be satisfied with our progress and say, "It's good enough", but my father would insist on working until it was perfect. I'm trying to adopt his attitude while making Conversion Doubler.
When I decided that I was going to become a pickup artist and move to Los Angeles with three week's notice, both of my parents fully supported me. My father told me that he admired my independence and would have liked to do the same thing if he was my age. I think my mother was just hoping this would result in me getting married, rather than being totally dateless.
I wasn't an easy child to raise, either. My favorite hobby as a toddler was pulling all of the books off the bookshelf. I refused to go to sleep in my own bed unless my father heated a pot full of water and sat it on the mattress first to warm the bed. Until I was 13 or so I wouldn't eat any meat, and only ate 4 different vegetables. My mother tried to encourage me to eat vegetables and organic things, but I told her I didn't care about things like that. Many years later when I became a vegan I finally appreciated what she had tried to do.
Even to this day I'm probably not the easiest son to have. I routinely do insane things like climb a radio tower, jump on a freight train, or break into the tunnels under UT. Years after the actual event my mother saw a piece on TV about the UT tunnels. Unable to make me out on a small screen she thought "Thank God Tynan isn't at UT anymore, or that would be him."
I'm sure that me leaving the country for a year to have adventures isn't the easiest thing to stomach either. Despite this, my parents support my ideas and whims, and I have an excellent relationship with both of them. There's really nothing in my past that I hold against them, nor is their anything I wish they'd done differently. At least once a week I'll find myself thinking about how fortunate I am to have had such a fantastic childhood. The majority of the things I like about myself are directly related to the childhood my parents provided for me. When I'm a father someday, I hope that I can do as good of a job.
I don't like my birthday or Christmas because people give me presents. The biggest reason behind this is that my parents have given me so much in my life that accepting any further gifts from them makes me feel incredibly guilty. They've already given me so much and done so much for me that I'll never be able to repay them.
Thanks Mom and Dad! I love you both very much!
P.S. I'm also very thankful to have this blog and to have people who care about what I say and spend time reading it and leaving comments. It really means a lot to me and helps motivate me to do interesting things and live a life worth examining.
That is so sweet to remember and acknowledge your parent's good deeds.
Sometimes I think I have done too much for our child, he is 33 now. If you ask me if I regret it the answer is no, but I often wonder if my making things easier for him keep him from learning from the experience of having to figure it out.
hey ty, ive always been intrigues about how you made aliving off gambling. einstein himself said you can only win by STEALING from the house.
Try not to feel guilty when your parents give you stuff. I used to complain when my mom sent me money or bought me anything more than dinner. She told me that she didn't begrudge me any of it, and that it was a way for her to feel relevant in my life when I was becoming independant more quickly than she could handle. I told her I really appreciated how much she cared, but made her promise not to spend money on me very often.
PS - this reminded me too much of Tynan not to post: http://indexed.blogspot.com/2007/11/jane-miller-from-high-school-was-tough.html
Your parents sound awesome! I'm going to do what it takes so that my children have such fond memories of me growing up. =)
i'm really glad you posted this tynan. my parents are stopping by in a few hours and i'm now going to write them both a letter telling them how thankful i am to have them as parents and how much i love them and everything they've done for me.
This is part of an ongoing series. If you haven't read them already, read :
I wrote out this entire post before, and then the computer crashed and I lost it all, so I haven't felt like working on it. Finally, I'm biting the bullet and starting over :
I don't feel like hitting your child is necessary. In fact, positive reinforcements and any type of incentive program is an effective way to modify negative behaviors. Do you know what a 6 year-old will do for a fucking sticker? Anything you want. Do you know what a 16 year-old will do for a fucking sticker? Nothing, they don't give a shit about stickers.
The main component missing from parents these days is the skill of instilling fear into their children. Spankings served this purpose. My first real spanking was when I was in the first grade. It was when I was introduced to an actual grading system in school. My father told me not to miss more than two on any assignment. My teacher had passed back the graded work from the week and I quickly made two piles. Pile one would be the assignments I showed my parents and Pile 2 would be the assignments I would get rid of, never to be seen again. I walked home which gave me a lot of space to be creative about how I discarded my school work. I was in the first grade but I wasn't dumb enough to throw my shit away in the classroom. Teachers are trained snitches. Walking home I threw my failed papers and projects into public trashcans. I walked through the park and stuffed the holes of trees with half-assed class work. I did this every week for almost a month.
So on that last Friday I was walking home ready to dispose of my shame when my mother decided to show up and botch my weekly ritual. What the hell mom, are you trying to get me fucking killed? As she waited at the end of the street for me, I needed to think quick. I had the papers rolled up in my hand already so I decided to ditch the roll into a bush along the sidewalk. Then I would follow the quick bush drop with a light jog soon turning that into a full on sprint. I did this and my mom yelled, "You dropped paper!" First graders suck at trickery. I was dumb and uncoordinated. My mom asked to see the papers, saw they were all failed grades (some were not, but I had missed more than two questions). My father came home from work and I was ordered to gather as much of the trashed school work as I could find. I walked around the park, picking up wet crumpled paper from tree holes and dirty trashcans. That night, my dad beat my ass. Twenty licks with the red leather belt changed my life. It's not to say I stopped being mischievous but I sure as hell was better about not getting caught or rocking anyone's boat. As a teacher, that's really all I'm asking. Work smarter to not get caught. Don't make it so obvious that you don't give a shit.
There was one morning when my dad and I were testing our might, playing Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis. He kept taunting me, laughing, and making fun as he kicked my virtual ass. I did what any kid would do and I told him to shut up. I didn’t get a look at his face but I did feel the slap across my legs and his voice saying, “Run.” I had no idea what was happening but I ran. I ran up the stairs towards my bedroom but as I reached for the door, my dad grabbed the back of my shirt and threw me across the bed. I bounced off the bed onto the floor, my dad standing over me while I tried to catch my breath. He put his finger in my face and said, “You’re more scared than hurt. Stop crying.” Christ, he was right. Your father calmly telling you to run FROM HIM could make you shit your pants.
As I got older my dad got more creative. Like the time I answered the question “Who were the first settlers in North America?” with “Vikings.” My dad asked me why I had gotten that question incorrect on my social studies test. I told him the test was too difficult. At that point he felt compelled to teach me the definition of the word difficult. For the lesson I was told to hold a phone book over my head for one hour. After the hour was over he asked me again, “Why did you get that question wrong” to which I answered through teary eyes and jelly arms, “I didn’t study.” "You will think before you tell me something is too difficult."