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Woe was me as the middle child

Columnist Loren Else says he promised to make life easier for his kids, but looking at his grandkids, they have it both easier and harder in today's world.

Boomer Grandpa — Loren Else column sig
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Recently it was my dad's birthday. That date hadn't popped into my mind for a while. My dad died in 1999. He was a member of the Greatest Generation. He spent a few years in the Pacific fighting for the United States of America.

My dad was a taskmaster. I didn't grow up on a farm, but during my high school years, our family did own several acres that you could call a hobby farm. We had a barn, lean-to sheds, chickens, and a big horseshoe gravel driveway.

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We had an old Allis Chalmers tractor, and he always planted a very, very, very, big garden. When I was around, he had a hoe in my hand during the summer and a shovel in my hand in the winter. I didn't care much for his never-ending chores.

My older brother and sister had graduated and were gone, and my younger brother and sister were too young to help. Woe was me as the middle child.

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My dad had me on roofs, under vehicles, and pushing lawnmowers. I remember when my dad won a bid to tear down a piggery building and a barn. On his way to his regular job for a few weeks, he dropped me off to work on that demolition alone while he went to work. He would come to pick me up after his shift. I think I was 15. Gee, Dad – I got a little hungry out there.

It never mattered to my dad what the weather was. If it was 30 below zero, he might say, "Come on, let's get that driveway cleared out." I would look at my mom with a "Help me" expression.

I pledged to myself to not make my children constantly do chores. When I did get married, my wife agreed; we felt school, school activities, and growing up was enough. We had them do very little around the house. We didn't want to add stress to their life. We thought we were all-star parents.

As I reflect on growing up, those chores my dad made me do weren't so bad. That garden from "H-E-double hockey sticks" helped to feed my family. My dad had something there – he had difficult times early in his life – maybe, he wanted to make sure I had some toughness. Mission accomplished.

When I got into the adult world, I already had lessons on working hard and having a sense of responsibility.

Photo-Loren Else - on tractor with letter jacket.jpg
Loren Else, back in a year too long ago to pinpoint, riding his family tractor while wearing his letterman jacket.
Contributed / Loren Else

Each generation has life adjustments they make from the previous one. My wife and I now believe we were too easy on our kids. As the cycle of life continues, my daughter, in some ways, has tried to ensure her children had it easier than she did. Although my grandkids do know how to wash dishes, clean the bathroom and do their own laundry.

The world is sort of a mess. I believe my grandkid's generation, Generation Z, has a few things easier, but not much. My childhood was like Opie and Sheriff Taylor's Mayberry compared to what my grandkids have experienced and witnessed in their school years.

My granddaughter just received her driver's license, and I hope to teach her basics about vehicle operation and maintenance. However, she is busier than the busiest bee in school. I just have to wait for opportunities.

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I sense my granddaughter, a junior in high school, is getting more confident and a bit tougher. Although she's proud she was born in Wisconsin like her dad (unfortunately, her dad is a Packers fan), she is a Minnesota girl in my eyes. She loves being outside as the snow falls and the wind blows during the winter season.

Maybe it's not about what life skills we feel we must teach our children or grandchildren. That's not a bad thing, but I think my dad overdid it. It's more about support, encouragement, modeling kindness and providing them with a positive role model.

As we did, they will navigate life and learn as they go. I can say I've never dropped off my kids or grandkids to tear down a piggery building. That was rough.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com .

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