The wisdom of parents

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The Boy Scouts were at camp. In an inspection, the director found an umbrella neatly rolled inside the bedroll of a small scout. An umbrella was not listed as a necessary item, so the director asked the boy to explain.

“Sir,” answered the young man with a weary sigh, “did you ever have a mother?”

Everyone has heard of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but do you know about Parents’ Day? In 1994, President Bill Clinton established Parents’ Day as the fourth Sunday in July for “recognizing, uplifting and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.” This year, Parents’ Day is on Sunday, July 23.

I always end my columns with a moral that wraps up the message in a tidy little package. The following lessons are kind of like that: You get the gist without any extra words. This kind of education will especially bring back memories to baby boomers and those older, who can attest to the tremendous “home schooling” we received. As I look back on things, moms and dads got their points across, often in a humorous way.

I can’t claim credit for the subsequent text, and the authorship is variously attributed on the web. But it’s full of gems, and in the middle of the long, hot summer, a little humor might brighten your day. Here goes:

My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE. “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”

My mother taught me RELIGION. “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”

My father taught me about TIME TRAVEL. “If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!”

My father taught me LOGIC. “Because I said so, that’s why.”

My mother taught me MORE LOGIC. “If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.”

My mother taught me FORESIGHT. “Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”

My father taught me IRONY. “Keep crying, and I’ll give you something to cry about.”

My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS. “Shut your mouth and eat your supper.”

My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM. “Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!”

My mother taught me about STAMINA. “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”

My mother taught me about WEATHER. “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”

My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate!”

My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION. “Stop acting like your father!”

My mother and father taught me about GRATITUDE. “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”

My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION. “Just wait until we get home.”

My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE. “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way.”

My father taught me HUMOR. “When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.”

My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT. “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.”

My father taught me WISDOM. “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

And my favorite: My parents taught me about JUSTICE. “One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!”

Humor aside, parents are smart. Despite what their children think, they have been around the block a time or two and know what they are doing.

Let me close with an old story about a king who had a beautiful ring and three sons who each wanted the ring. When the king died, he left three rings for his sons and a note that said, “My dear sons, one of these rings is real and two are fake. The way you will know who has the real ring is that the son with the real ring will be kind and generous to all people.”

Each of the three sons spent the rest of his life being good to others to prove that he had the real ring.

Mackay’s Moral: A child’s life is determined by just how hard his mother and father work at being parents.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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