The Yellow Notebook And Other Stories

A simple formula for living a good life. Are you ready for it? Here it is:

Try not to be a douchebag.

It’s simple. But apparently, it’s hard for some people to put into practice. I would like to offer some help.

So I got to thinking. I’m not a giant douche. My siblings aren’t douchey. Maybe my parents did something right. I’ve got kids. I’d like them to grow up to be decent human beings, and it’s a total bonus if they don’t spend their childhood as tiny little jerks. I started thinking about some of the things my parents did to help prepare my brothers, sisters, and me for this big bad world, and to help us navigate our way through life without being complete d-bags. The following is a partial list of some of Paul and Shirley’s best exercises in anti-douchbaggery conditioning. Enjoy.

The Yellow Notebook.

At the age of 12, each of my father’s children was given a page in The Yellow Notebook. Need a loan? Car needs fixing? Your prom dress costs what?! No problem kid. We will loan you the money and create a new entry in The Yellow Notebook. My Dad kept a 4X6, yellow, side spiral bound, Mead notebook as a ledger of all six accounts at The Bank of My Father. He kept meticulous records, and payment terms were carefully negotiated. I am happy to say that all six children have paid off their Yellow Book loans. A number of lessons learned: live within your means–life is easier that way, some types of debt are worth it, others aren’t (it hurts more to pay back a loan for something later deemed “stupid” or “lame” or “should of thought about that before I willingly surrendered my next 5 paychecks”), and maybe the best lesson of all… appreciate the interest free loan program while you can.

The Consequences, Double Spaced.

If you screwed up in my house, your punishment came in three steps. Step One: My mother offered a verbal lashing worthy of an Olympic category. Step Two: You will wait. You will be stripped of all rights and privileges for several days while your consequences are determined. There is nothing in our family tree about right to a speedy trial. Step Three: Your consequences are presented to you, in Dad’s office. You will be handed a typed, double-spaced copy of your consequences to read along and keep for your reference, so there will be no confusion moving forward. If your behavior moving forward is contrary to the expectations outlined in the consequences, you will apply the said consequences to a period of time no less than one academic quarter. SOOOOO, what did we learn here, boys and girls?

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS. CONSEQUENCES ARE REAL, USUALLY IMMEDIATE, AND IF YOU CONTINUE TO BE A DOUCHEY KID, YOUR LIFE’S JUST GONNA STAY SHITTY LONGER.

Saturday Morning Chores – First Come, First Served.

Simple. Every Saturday morning the weekly chores (different from the daily chores) were posted on the kitchen board. First one up-and-at-em picks first, and so on down the line. Laziest kid gets crappiest chore. No one leaves the house on Saturday until your assigned chore is completed and approved by mom. Lesson learned: Responsibilities come before play time AND if you get your ass out of bed at a reasonable hour, you can vacuum the carpets instead of cleaning the toilets.

So, You’re Too Sick For School, Huh?

An absence during any school week means you clearly need to rest in the house for the weekend. If you are really sick, then obviously, it’s the best and healthiest decision for you. If you are a big fat faker and want to cut class, your weekend is hosed. What’s it worth to you?

This Is Not A Democracy.

I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Let Me Take You Down a Notch. (a little humility is good for you)

We teased a lot in my house, all in fun, never nasty or bullyish, always from a place of love. If any one of the eight of us started acting a little too big for our britches, the rest of our clan was there to make sure no one took it so far as to forget that humility, and open mind and heart are an important part of your character, and that being hot shit and thinking you’re hot shit are two different things. That being said, we were also incredibly supportive of each other’s true accomplishments. Bragging rights, when deserved, were respected.

Family Dinner

Crucial. Nothing in life is more important than our family. No matter how busy we get, we always have time to sit and eat a meal together. It is a regular thread that re-connects us every day. We will eat together, we will pray together, and that’s a tie that binds. Family dinner is a tradition in each of my siblings’ households today.

Does all that sound totally wacky and scary? It wasn’t. Here’s the secret. (Come closer.) In addition to the anti-douchebaggery conditioning, or collecting our paper route paychecks, my parents provided a loving, hilarious, generous, supportive and amazing family environment. All friends and neighbors were welcome in my parent’s home, and they loved coming back again and again. My parents sacrificed a lot to make sure that we had a remarkable childhood, and would grow into adults fully equipped with the tools we needed to achieve our goals — with a wicked sense of humor firmly in place.

My siblings are my best friends, I have my parents to thank for that, I think. My parents were strict, but I never, ever wondered if they loved me. My parents always believed in me. My parents sacrificed for me. My parents are a huge part of who I am today. I’m far from perfect. I’ve been known to dish out my share of jackassery. I’m trying not to screw up my own kids. I’m always afraid that I will. I’m lucky that I still have them around to help me raise their grandkids.

I love my mom and dad. I owe them everything. It is a debt I cannot pay. It’s not something that can fit in a yellow notebook.

Paul & Shirley Engagement Photo

Paul & Shirley Engagement Photo

Paul & Shirley Today

Paul & Shirley Today

7 comments

  1. Paul @prc2u

    Wow, this touched my heart. With only one parent alive and only one sister this made me appreciate them even more. We live within 10 miles and yet only get together on holidays. Mom and I just talked about debt and spending. I am 48 and sister is 38, and how we handle money is SO different. Thank you for reminding me what is important!

    Like

  2. Stacy Snook

    Great post, Sara.

    Your Dad sounds like mine. :) I was always frusterated when other kids were having things handed to them while we had to repay “loans” and work for the things we wanted.

    Saturday, same thing.. but we didn’t have a list… and I LOVE that idea. Gets the kids up and moving early if they don’t want the crappy chores. Brilliant!!!

    It makes me want to tighten up the way I do things at home.

    Being a good parent.. such an enormous responsibility. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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