Expertise at Home

            By Maida Korte

“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
― Abraham Lincoln

          My mother once told me that upon dying, the very first thing she was going to do in heaven was to perform a tremendous athletic feat.  This, from my mother who spent a life-time watching her children throw balls, dance on toes, tumble on mats, swing bats, run far and fast, vault over large objects, skate until frozen, and all the while yearning for the perceived excitement of excelling in sports.  She wanted to be excellent at something unnatural to her and visible to the world.  Everyone can see the perfect pitch thrown 100 miles per hour with a lightning bolt more than an arm, the dancer balancing a torso and limbs in an impossible split, a runner faster than a cheetah, a diver making not a single splash, or a football thrown with precision over 100 yards.  We humans often measure excellence by what we can see and rarely canonize the ordinary life fulfilling responsibility.  My mother inspired six children to pursue excellence and our pursuits were driven by watching her achieve the impossible magic of raising a family. 

          While many are redefining family in ways that change the fabric of society, there can exist some common denominators that should be noted and heralded.  Much can be said for a priori elements that need no explanation, and yet ‘some splaining’ is essential as time has marched forward from the greatest generation’s birth explosion after WWII.   Baby boomers were born into an America where families were large and resilient.  Work ethic was a value everyone embraced and it was not unusual for whole neighborhoods in the mid-west to raise a barn, as well as give simultaneous parenting directives to small children not their own.  If you are a baby boomer like me, it would not be unusual to have heard a directive shouted out a back door by the parent of one of your playmates and obedience followed.  It would not have occurred to us to disobey this person who was not our mom.  Virtues were generally similar from street to street and suburb to suburb.  Parents worked hard and kids were expected to make their beds in the morning.  A cadence of dress, brush, eat your breakfast, march to school, chores, do your homework, go outside, eat your dinner, go outside again, bath, bed and prayers was the drum-beat we held in our youthful heads.  The following generation began to resist these disciplines and wanted less rigor for their children than they had personally experienced.   Ending up with what some would describe as a spoiled generation, this ultimately led to a culture war that continues unabated.  Rather than commonalities, households and whole neighborhoods hold varying degrees of discipline, parent-hood, educational expectations and even personal grooming.  Add to this social media influences from around the world at the tap of a button held in your hand or worn on your wrist and it has become virtually impossible to decipher an American way of life.  But ‘oh let us try. 

          While esteeming excellence in the external showmanship of sports or theatre, the highly acclaimed still wave to their mothers from the camera.  Even the most hardened or calloused among us want the approval of the hard-working parent who demanded we eat our vegetables and regarded our protests unabashed.  Movie stars bring their mother to the red carpet and professional wrestlers tear up when asked about the sacrifices of their parents.  Mothers and fathers across this great country need encouragement to keep going, keep expecting a central core of ethical behavior from children, keep striving for goodness and grace all the while cleaning up messes, reviewing spelling words and checking multiplication tables.  Don’t be weary in well-doing, for you shall reap great rewards.  My mother expected her six children to clean up after themselves and so we do so today.  My mother expected us to read books every night at bed-time and so our homes are filled with libraries of learning.  My mother expected her children to make their beds in the morning and mow the lawn and sweep the steps and so we teach our children to do so.  This is a heritage of expectation that we can all do regardless of where we live and what generation we line up with.   The times may have changed but the chores still need to be done and so we get to it and by doing so we are becoming brave and resilient and people of gratitude.

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