Parents are never done helping kids

As I reflect on the 4-H pledge, “I pledge…my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world,” I’m fairly certain my kids would have given it one last line, “And I pledge to never do another record book for as long as we shall live.”

Our offspring were in leathercraft, rockets, art, sewing and cooking, went to meetings and did presentations, all somewhat unhappily. Then they noticed that the time they did 4-H was time they didn’t have to work for their mother so it was a trade-off they could endure. In their adulthood, I asked if they thought 4-H helped them? All gave a quick, “No” except the eldest, who said, “It gave us something to do, but I don’t look back on it with any fondness. There was no real benefit either that I can think of.” Gar and I love the program so we beg to differ, if for no other reason than they are all fiscally responsible, good at problem solving/making decisions and can speak in public without wishing they were dead. The child that gave the lengthy response was the president of his university his senior year and the guest speaker at graduation, so he can just shut it, or not, since he knows how to speak in public.

I do think 4-H is a hecka lotta work for mom and dad. The shuttling to and fro is small potatoes compared with the money, time and nagging involved. And I’d like to tell parents, if you think when it’s over and your kids are on their own, your labor skills can rest, you are so naive. Children will work you into old age if you readily volunteer.

Last February, Texas temps dropped to 15 degrees and since houses are built on slabs, the water lines are in the ceilings. Our kids wrapped everything and had the taps running to no avail. One of the pipes froze, then thawed, and began flooding out of a bedroom light fixture. Our son was at work so our grafted-in-daughter turned off the water and began swamp extraction; then the electricity went out. A plumber couldn’t be called because cell service went down. With so many people’s pipes bursting, the water treatment plant couldn’t keep the pressure and undesirable bugs developed in the drinking water. From Florida, we drove 9 hours in the middle of the night, with water, gas and a generator. When midmorning arrived, so did the electricity, but water eradication was futile, as a river was seeping under walls and up the sheetrock. Finally able to contact the insurance company, the kids were told an inspector couldn’t come for two weeks so they were to take photos and do what was necessary to save their home. Our son, a plant operator for Dow, was held up at work due to the same scenario going on there, so – enter devoted parents (well, one is devoted – one is demented, and you know which is which).

Gar began working on outside problems, including replacing the air relief valve for the irrigation system, which busted and was flooding their and the neighbor’s yard. I launched into cutting swaths of soaked carpet, pulling it, the pad and the tack strips. We took beds apart, moved dressers and four kids’ paraphernalia to the living room. Hauling soggy carpet to the garage is no summer breeze and to make it even more special, it leaked a flood all the way. Realizing this was dumb, we got the Little Tykes wagon and threw carpet in it. As we pulled, water poured out the bottom from drain holes, I obviously hadn’t noticed. Laughing, because with little ears listening cussing was verboten, we used plastic to cover the drains and managed to get all the rooms of carpet cleared. Twelve hours later, we started cleaning up, when Avy, the 5-year-old granddaughter, noticed, and since she loves to walk with me, quipped, “Ready for some walking Grammy?” Much to her dismay, I did walk, but only to the ibuprofen.

I opened the door to let the dog out and, frantically barking, she raced after a squirrel. Coming back, she sat at my feet gazing up at me expectantly. I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t make that wicked rodent go away.” Her sad brown eyes portrayed what she and Avy both felt, “Grammys are helpful but they’re also quite a disappointment.”

Trena Eiden            [email protected]