April 19, 2005


Sweet One is now twelve. As her nickname implies, she is a sweet child who very much resembles a young lady of sixteen or seventeen in appearance and the manner with which she comports herself.

While the environment in which she has grown up was and is markedly different from the setting of my own childhood, she has had the opportunity to experience similar things. My mother remains on the old homeplace, the pond still has fish, and there are chickens and ducks about the place, but no cows, horses or pigs.

Sweet One usually spends time during the summer with my mother helping tend to "things." As such, she has an idyllic view of life in the country. She is fortunate.

On the homefront, instead of barnyard "chores," Sweet One is expected to care for her dog, the ever clever and wiley Cairn Terrier Riley, as well as the family's Golden Retriever. She is also expected to help around the house, as needed, and maintain her room in an orderly fashion while managing her school work.

All that may seem like a lot for a twelve year old, but I believe in teaching children responsibility and the functions for which Sweet One is tasked truly pale in comparison to what my sister and I were expected to do at her age.

When I was twelve, my father had a hobby: shrimping. An odd hobby, I agree, but most things in my young life seemed to revolve around food and my mother's insatiable desire for fresh food for her family. I have long since accepted her primary expression of love and nurturing is through food. Preparing and serving the best quality of food to her family and others demonstrated her love and affection. Further, she derived a real sense of self-worth and acceptance through others' enjoyment of her meals.

My father was an extremely intelligent man. He spent twenty-seven years traveling the world and was fluent in five languages. Musically, he could play the piano, guitar, flute, clarinet, and saxophone. His interests were wide and varied; however, he was easily bored and after relatively brief interludes of completely immersing himself in a subject or hobby, he moved on to something else that struck his fancy or otherwise posed a challenge to him.

In search of fresh seafood, my father decided to shrimp on weekends when they were in season. Within a year of this particular obsession, he acquired two shrimp boats, each with specially designed nets with hand powered wenches and pulleys. One boat, the main one, was outfitted with a triangular-shaped drag-type net for trawling Big Lake and the Gulf of Mexico around Hackberry, Louisiana. The second had nets mounted on rectangular frames (called Butterfly nets) that were lowered into the water on either side of the boat and utilized the current to wash the shrimp into the stationary nets.

Whether due to his genius and research or sheer luck, my father was most successful and opened a seafood market, in addition to the three television and electronics stores he already had. Mine was the unenviable task of accompanying him on the shrimping expeditions when I was not in school and cleaning boats, nets, and all manner of paraphernalia afterwards. My sister, smaller in stature and strength, was not much help with the physical work of shrimping and was left to sort shrimp and crabs, as well as de-head shrimp when we returned.

To be honest, I actually enjoyed being on the water, despite the very early mornings and hard physical work. As a bonus, my father often allowed me to "drive" the boat and for whatever reason, he permitted me to use "colorful" language on occasion. I guess, it could truthfully be said, even I can make a sailor blush.

In addition to working the boat, I was expected to depart the bus after school at the fish market to wait on customers, clean fish, and mop floors. If I recall correctly, I believe I made $2.50 an hour. As soon as I received my first "paycheck" my father insisted I open a checking account to learn how to manage my money.

After working and saving for weeks, my very first purchase with my own money was a pair of Wolverine boots and a new bridle for my horse. I was so proud to write that first check. Because I was not old enough to drive, I did not have a driver's license and had to rely on my scuba card (I was certified at nine) and my passport as my only forms of picture identification.

If anyone had asked me, I would have expressed my preference NOT to work on my father's shrimp boat and NOT to work in his fish market; however, no one ever asked.

Through experiences such as these, I learned a great deal about the rewards of hard work and the importance of a solid work ethic.

I often wonder if I am providing my children adequate opportunities to learn these same lessons. I believe if we as parents do not insist on these kinds of lessons for our children, we endow them with nothing more than a sense of "entitlement" that will do little to serve them well when the responsibilities of adulthood befall them.

Posted by Christina at April 19, 2005 11:04 PM

Back to Main