About every month, another parenting book arrives at Barnes & Noble. I bought the most recent arrival and skimmed it quickly — entitled “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” by Julie Lythcott-Haims.
One takeaway from this tome is a familiar refrain — allow your kids to fail. Disappointment builds character. Something I heard once remains true: “Do your kids a favor, don’t make their lives easy.”
Today’s reality, contrasted with the life experiences of our parents, is worth revisiting, My dad, born in 1929, was raised on a farmwith 11 siblings, and endured the dirty ’30s and other events he can still describe, including an infestation that took all their crops. And after that the real hardship began. At the age of 11, he lost his mother to cancer.
From time to time I am reminded how his life was similar to so many others of his generation. And from adversity rose achievement and distinction. The Star’s Sunday’s obituary section recently brought it back to mind.
The life stories included the passing of Burt Wagenknecht. He was a World War II veteran who received the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge. He went on to earn his Ph.D. at KU in biology and was a professor of biology and later served as chairman of the science department at William Jewell College. He was a 20-year volunteer at Children’s Mercy Hospital. He left behind his wife of 64 years, Lee.
I read about Anne Busiek Bass. She married Jack Busiek, who was in the Army Air Corps. Her youthful husband died in August 1942, testing aircraft. In 1943, Anne joined the American Red Cross and went overseas to help wounded U.S. troops as well as Italian prisoners in need of care.
There was the passing of Robert Guthrie. On U.S. Navy aircraft carriers in 21 separate battles in the South Pacific, his carrier fleet escorted the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, the day Japan surrendered, 70 years ago today. His passing left behind his wife of 68 years, Harriett.
There was Carol Williams Russell, who was a registered nurse during WW II. Tony Skabialka was in the Army Air Corps in WW II and returned to earn a degree in accounting; he was a lay minister at his church. Jerry Compernolle served in Korea and was married for 58 years to “the love of his life” — Margie. Earl Day served in the Air Force, earned the National Defense Service Medal, and was married for 55 years to Marinete. Doris Ann Etter was married for 65 years to Andrew. She volunteered for CASA — court appointed special advocates for children who desperately need a determined fighter in their corner.
I read about Orville Johnson, who lived to be 103. He had been married to his wife, Margaret, for more than 60 years when she passed away in 2001. He earned a doctorate in public school music and was the former supervisor of music for Independence, Mo., public schools. Active in his church and community, he was beloved.
The stories continued. Maria Amparo Sola Goforth Mcatee, whose first marriage was to Capt. Oscar Lee Goforth. He was among six airmen on board a reconnaissance mission in England when his plane was shot down by a Soviet MiG fighter in 1960. Later she married Charles McAtee, a Marine Corps veteran who led the investigation of the Clutter family murders, chronicled in the best-seller, “In Cold Blood.”
There were others whose life stories were teachers, laborers, devoted spouses, committed mothers and fathers and made their own contributions to our world.
This generation did not consider their lot in life to be hardship. Challenges were opportunities.
Julie Lythcott-Haims’ book instructs today’s parents to “let the bad things happen” and then watch the wisdom and perspective that comes from these outcomes.
Maybe we should add to the list this suggestion: Read the obituary pages.
Freelance columnist Matthew Keenan writes alternate weeks. His book “Call Me Dad, Not Dude, the sequel” is sold at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Visit his blog at matthewkeenan .com or e-mail him at mattkeenan51 @gmail.com.