Once, without warning or explanation, my father took me and my little sister to a charm school where they try to teach normal girls to act like ladies. After training us to sit properly and to chew our gum without snapping it, we discovered that we’d be given the wondrous opportunity to participate in a fashion show at one of the local shopping malls.
This horrified us. The concept of strutting down a runway in front of our peers was unthinkable. We were tomboys through and through and there’s no way we would live long enough to earn back all of the “cool points” that we would lose on that single day. Faced with this looming crisis, my sister and I quickly devised a scheme whereby we would never have to return.
We successfully bid farewell to the charm school; but my father, never one to be outsmarted, decided henceforth he would blurt out to every single man I met, “Did she tell you she flunked out of charm school?!” This went on for decades (and ceased only upon his physical death!) and provided an endless source of amusement at our family table, church and business meetings. When I finally got up the nerve to ask my father why he signed us up for Charm School, he said that he thought we’d enjoy learning a bit of refinement and etiquette. So his motives were in the right place; however, he was a bit weak on his transparency. I will tell you this, however: had I been asked if I wanted to go to charm school I can tell you what the immediate response would have been!
My father was mischievous. While he insisted that he never directed what we did with our lives, he did confess to a great deal of psychological meddling. I remember times when we’d go to camp for a week and when it was time to leave he’d inform me that I was staying behind to work for the rest of the summer! I remember when he returned from New Mexico Military Institute after a leadership speech and strategically placed a brochure on the table stating that the kids who went there were really going to amount to something. I remember him telling me that if I could master the art of cold-call, door-to-door sales, anything in life would be a cinch.
In each instance, I took the bait. And boy was I glad I did. I learned to work hard during my summers; vacations are still a weird concept to me. I gained admittance to and graduated from a military academy, resulting in a wonderful opportunity to serve my country. I learned how to communicate with people within seconds and adeptly handle rejection. My father’s methods may sound unorthodox when you compare them to many contemporary parenting books, but I learned firsthand to land on my feet and shake off failure no matter what the situation.
So here’s to the mischievous parent—may they continue to outwit children and youth for years to come!