by Dave Markwell

My daughter doesn’t like to write. She’s not super-fond of reading either. In fact, the entire scope of language arts is only grudgingly accepted as a necessary evil. As an avid reader and a lover of words for many years, this troubles me. I know the beauty and power of well-crafted words and I don’t want her to miss it.

Through the years, this has caused some conflict. My natural instinct is to educate (annoy) and encourage (harass) her exploration into the lovely world of literature. I’ve read to her since she was born and bought her books and ranted and raved about the joys of a good story. She doesn’t care. She’ll read when she has to or when she finds a book she REALLY likes, but she is, beyond that, grossly indifferent.

My girl has had a phone for a couple of years and, with this, the true impact of her ambivalence punches me in the face on a regular basis. Spelling errors, weird sentences, and a complete lack of care light up my text box every day. My typical response is “READ A BOOK!!!”

The other day, I sent my flower a message gilded with love and sarcasm. In my haste, I forgot a word. This was an important word and its absence completely screwed up the note. My precious sunshine responded with “Read a book.” I was shocked and shamed and proud. I don’t know why we, as parents, like it when we see ourselves in our kids. Perhaps it’s some validation that they do ACTUALLY listen to us and that we possess some nominal degree of influence, in spite of much evidence to the contrary.

This is both an inspiring and a frightening thought. I want my kids to better, much better than I am. However, since I am only armed with a rusty and busted set of parenting tools, I don’t know how to help them beyond just digging harder with my broken shovel. I think this is not an uncommon challenge. We know what we know and we carry our parents’ goodness and “other” with us, as they carried their parents’…and so on…and so on…

The waters of familial goofiness run deep and the legacies passed along are often ones that belong in a grave. But, life doesn’t work that way. We are stunted and flawed by long-dead relatives’ influence. We are also enlivened and blessed, for that which often seems to be a weakness is sometimes a strength. We get the good stuff, too.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

We cannot escape our past. Even the one we didn’t live. It lives with us. I’m not sure if this idea completely lets us off the hook for our failings, but it does soften the sometimes crushing and paralyzing flaws which can erode our self-esteem. It’s not ALL our fault and I say this not as a cop-out, just a fact. Plenty IS our fault, just not all. We can stop blaming ourselves for every single thing we DON’T possess and we can rejoice in the things we do. And while we are “haunted by waters”, we are also lucky. We got the good things, too. Now, we “haunt” our children with them…and so it goes…forever…and it’s pretty good…

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, Dave needs more friends – find him on Facebook here.

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