By Jan Verhoeff
My oldest son is a soldier. He arrived in this life, the day before my 34th birthday, kicking and screaming like a banchee. And to be honest, he hasn’t stopped. He’ll take a good battle over the easy road any day of the week, but he gets things done.
As a toddler, his big plan for life was to grow up and be a cowboy. Cowboys kick dirt! He loved to walk around in his Daddy’s boots, and even though Daddy complained about it. Sean did it anyway. I remember telling him once that those were big boots to fill, and he said, “My feet are going to be bigger.”
At the time, I laughed it off, didn’t think much about it, and I spent a good amount of time helping him find ways to learn, grow, and become the independent young man that he is today.
He learned that choices have consequences.
When he was about seven we dug a pond in our front yard, and after it had been dug, he and his friends filled it full of rocks. The friends went home, and the next morning, his job was to take all the rocks out of the pond and stack them on the side so we could put the liner in the pond. Two days later, when his friends came back to visit, he shared his experience with them, and convinced them that since he had to clear out the pond by himself, they should help clean out the chicken coop. Choices have consequences.
Reading wasn’t his strong suit, but he found alternatives.
He loved to learn, but he hated to read. He would beg his sisters to read to him, and listened intently anytime anyone read a book. That boy could memorize details faster than anyone I’ve ever known, and his memory of historical facts is second to none. He loved History, so he would find documentaries about history, and listen or watch those, then he’d spend hours studying up on the details of the documentary. Studying, researching was more interesting than just reading about it, and he was able to answer a lot of his own questions. Education became a game of challenge, research, and learn more.
Working to learn, learning from work.
On the job training became part of his process of learning, and he loved travel. He would grab any opportunity to travel and learn more. Apprenticeships are difficult to come by, but he found three ways to get apprenticeships, and learn as he worked. Farm jobs were plentiful, and he loved working in the country. Political training, jobs, and working with political leaders became a strong second alternative way to learn history. He would spend hours pouring over historical journals and documents.
Cowboys kick dirt better.
When he came home after a long political journey one night, wearing a pair of leather cowboy boots, I knew he had found his niche.
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