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By LeRoy Chatfield

Mario Obledo* did not stride, he took a rapid series of baby steps to reach his destination. I always liked Mario  – soft-spoken, unassuming,  a wry smile with a twinkle in his eye and always forthright;  but make no mistake: he was a passionate and fierce advocate for the poor.

I forget the circumstances of our meeting, but I will never forget the personal comments Mario shared with me about his experience of being the father of an adult daughter. He had recently been traveling across the country attending one meeting or another, and one day while changing planes in a major airport he happened upon his adult daughter who was also traveling in the course of her work. 

LeRoy, I was amazed! Here in this major airport was my daughter all by herself, grown up,  making her own decisions, traveling by herself throughout the country on business. How did this come about?   We raised our children, we worried over them, we tried to explain things but even growing up they seemed  vulnerable and dependent upon us. Yet years later, in an airport concourse I see my daughter – knowledgeable, independent and flying around the country.  I was so proud of her! It was an amazing experience!

This conversation took place more than thirty years ago – the eldest of my five daughters would have just started high school.

Like Mario, I have been amazed, but many times over! My daughters are  now adults: all are college graduates, all with careers, all have owned their own homes, four are married with children, and the youngest recently so,  and all on their own without their parents hovering about.

 How amazing is this!

I dare not offer any advice to others about raising children because I don’t know what we did right or even if it was right. I don’t remember giving much thought to how we should raise our children. More or less, I suppose, we raised them as we remembered being raised.

Certainly, as any parents would, we loved and cared for our children,  and wanted the best for them but beyond that we had standards, we had expectations, we imposed a daily regimen, and we pushed them from an early age. I believe it is accurate to say that our parenting could be described as strict. And even on those occasions when we were not strict, we wanted to be!  Setting aside any desire to be judgmental or cast aspersions, we did not consider our children to be the center of the universe – they were children living in a world of adults and as such, they were to be held accountable for their behavior at home, at school, at play, visiting others, shopping  and eventually, at their first jobs.

Perhaps this description makes it sound like their young lives were grim or  they lived in a juvenile detention home – if so,  I do not remember it being so. On the other hand, I was the adult, not the child, but I will let the results speak for themselves.

Do you think our daughters would raise their own children – our 10 grandchildren –  the way they were raised? Of course not – No!  There are some similarities but for the most part they have taken a completely different approach – understandably so because a radically altered society calls for different strategies.  The results?  A work in progress but the prospects are promising.   Our oldest granddaughter graduates from a major nursing school this Spring, four others are enrolled in universities around the country, the others are planning to attend college. You could not hope to meet a nicer bunch of kids – courteous, respectful, articulate, good students, funny and talking up a storm!

Life can be an amazing grace, but there is no guarantee!

* Mario Obledo (1932-2010) was Secretary of Health & Welfare for the State of California from 1975-1982.




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