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Things My Parents Did Right

A lot of people criticize their parents for everything they did wrong when raising them.  When I look at couples with kids, I think, "Damn.  That doesn't look easy."  Dirty diapers, public temper tantrums, teen pregnancies, and memories of how much of a pain in the ass I must have been don't exactly encourage me to impregnate my wife-to-be any time soon.  I dunno how they did it, but my parents raised 4 kids.  They weren't perfect, and we're far from perfect, but here are some great things they did that have paid off time and time again in my adult life:

Made Me Go to School
Not a day goes by that I don't appreciate the kick-ass education that my parents got me.  They paid every penny for a 12-year private Catholic school education for all 4 of us.  We had to go every day.  A mild cold or finicky tummy was meaningless.  Only a life-threatening outbreak of leprosy would be cause for absence.  When summer vacation came, they signed us up for summer school.  Fortunately, those classes were more "fun."

My high school favored critical thought over rote memorization.  I was blessed with talented teachers that forced me to think, analyze, argue, challenge, lead, and support my opinions.  I was taught how to write.  I can't tell you how many times I'm correcting the grammar, punctuation, or writing style of my native English-speaking coworkers.  I was encouraged to take advanced placement and honors courses.  These put me in a very advantageous position when I was moving on to college.

Again my parents paid for my entire college education.  My mom is a college math professor and always emphasizes the significance of obtaining a college degree.  I must say that it does make quite a difference in the professional world.  I wouldn't have qualified for my English teaching gig in Japan had I been without my 4-year degree.  My mom always said, "Get it now while you're young and motivated.  It will be much harder to go back and get it later in life."  Apparently, many of her own students were in that exact position.

Encouraged Me to Participate in Outside Activities
My parents also pushed me to do things outside the classroom.  My family is pretty geeky, so I never clicked well with team sports.  Before blossoming into the tower of toned muscle that you see before you, I was a scrawny little runt that continuously got the kids' menu at Denny's well into my teens.  Individual sports were a much better fit.  I learned to swim at the local YMCA.  I took jujutsu too.  Later I took taekwondo and got my black belt when I was in college.

I also bonded with music.  My mom signed me up for guitar lessons as a child.  I sucked, but picked it up again near the end of high school.  I joined the high school choir and learned to sing.  I performed in the school plays and musicals.  I joined a melodic rock band in college and performed around Hollywood and Hermosa Beach.

Studying all day long doesn't do much for the social skills, so these outside activities really helped to restore balance.  My high school was an all-boys private Catholic school, so that put me at a major disadvantage when it came time to develop social skills--especially social skills required when talking to cute girls.  How do you learn to talk to girls when there are no girls at your school?  The cool football jocks used to make fun of us wimpy drama dorks, but we were the ones that got to hang out with cute girls all day at rehearsals.  They got to shower with each other and snap their asses with wet towels.

Made Me Clean My Room
Maybe it's because my mom is a math teacher, but whatever the reason, she's anally tidy.  However, instead of cleaning our rooms for us, she made us clean our rooms ourselves.  My parents also paid us to do household chores.  I cleaned, swept, dusted, and vacuumed my way to childhood financial freedom.  I had to fund my tremendous Nintendo video game habit somehow.

Now I myself am shockingly tidy--maybe a little OCD excessively so.  But I think it's much better than growing up leaving old pizza boxes under the sofa cushions and dirty socks in the refrigerator.  My tidiness could also be the reason I clicked with Japan.  Much of this country is a sterile OCD paradise.

Tidiness aside, pure organizational skills learned while growing up doing housework have helped me immensely.  I can organize, sort, and shift-through not only boxes of old photos and movie DVDs, but also things like computer data.  My professional value as an IT Systems Engineer increases that much more when counting my data organization skills.  Tidiness also makes a great first impression.  Professionally, socially, or whatever--it's far better to be tidy and organized.  Whether it be when having company over at your house for the first time, delivering a speech, preparing a presentation, writing an essay, or planning a first date, sheer organization goes a long way.

Taught Me Financial Responsibility
On birthdays and holidays I would often receive a card and money from relatives.  However, half of the gift was swiftly seized by my parents and deposited in to my otherwise untouchable savings account.  Fortunately, my parents weren't running off to Vegas with my money for a decadent weekend of lavish gambling.  Over the years that money grew into a significant nest egg that I was later able to invest and grow into a down-payment on my first home purchase.

My mom and dad's smart money sense early on influenced me to follow suit.  I studied accounting and economics at university hoping that the knowledge would endow me with financial skills applicable to smart living.  I saved, invested, and had my fair share of failures, but I almost always walked away with something learned.  In the end I was able to accumulate my house down-payment without financial assistance from my parents.

Bought Me a Computer
My mom being a math professor and dad being a engineer, it may come as no surprise that dad bought our first family computer (Atari 800) when I was six years old.  I initially used it to play video games, but soon tried BASIC programming and old-school word processing.  Later my dad added a PC to the house, and I played with that too.  With child-like fearlessness I opened it up, modified it, installed hardware, and got connected to pre-Internet-age dial-up bulletin board systems.  The true challenge was getting the computer fixed before dad got home!

He bought me my own computer for my room, and I tore that thing apart.  My PC had constant problems because of how often I changed things, but I learned volumes through the often frustrating repair process.

Later in life my hobby proved valuable in the professional world.  As a university student, I ran a one-man PC repair/tutoring business that paid much better than any typical college job.  One referral led to another, and I was able to land an IT job after graduation.  The enterprise-level IT experience really came in handy after my adventurous stint teaching English in countryside Japan.  I moved to Tokyo and re-entered the professional IT world.

Well, instead of ending this by ignorantly preaching about how to raise kids, I think I'll simply say, "Thank you Mom and Dad!"  They've given me many a silver spoon over the years, and I should never forget that.

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