Flickr / Mik Hartwell Flickr / Mik Hartwell
Fatherly Forum

We Didn’t Have Much Money, But My Father Helped Us Succeed With One Simple Value

The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

What’s the one thing that your parents did for you that sets them apart from others parents?

We grew up poor. My father was a carpenter and for most of our childhood my mother was a homemaker, or sold Avon. Later she worked for the Boston Globe as an ad taker. We never wanted as children because of the sacrifices our parents made. I didn’t learn until after he died that my father never once took a vacation while we grew up. He took the extra pay instead so we could get shoes or food or whatever. He worked a back-breaking job as a carpenter 52 weeks a year, non-stop and with overtime when possible. He was a trained cabinet maker, but he chose to be a carpenter because it made more money than cabinet making, which was his true love.

My father was a very, very hard and cold man, more honest than anyone I have ever met, loved and revered by his family and respected by everyone who met him for his keen intellect, his logic and his integrity. But the one thing our parents always did for us, though we were poor, was make us feel special from other people.

My father often said, “Remember: you’re the son of a king’s son. Act accordingly.” If you think you are special you act special. He gave us dignity and self-respect that other kids in our neighborhood didn’t have. The cops never came to our door.

We never took to drinking or drugs or even smoking (though my sister took it up later, to her regret). We didn’t do those things just because we were scared of our parents finding out — and we were very scared of that — but because we were special. We respected ourselves. We stood above peer pressure, and there was plenty of that. I still rarely drink to this day. I smoked a great deal of dope in college and don’t regret it, but that was an adult choice I made for myself. I got tired of it once I was graduated.

We took the narrow road because we saw ourselves in the same class as the children of Kings and Presidents. We saw ourselves not as better than anyone else, or more deserving, but special. It’s not the constant false-self-esteem of telling your kid he’s the greatest all the time, or the false belief that “my kid can do no wrong.” But it was the honest acceptance that no matter what we did we had to live up to their expectations that we were special and that we had to excel the best that we could with what we had.

Jay Bazzinotti is a writer. Read more from Quora below: