So I initially wrote this post up last night, and hit post right before heading to bed. I woke up this morning, to find that it hadn't been posted. Note to self, wait until you receive the confirmation before closing the computer.
I've mentioned before that my parents are generally pretty amazing people, but they're all occasionally infuriating. Then again, isn't that what parents are for? The reality is that if it weren't both for there positives and negatives, I wouldn't be who I am today. I'm going to try and stay positive in this post but also mention one or two of their negatives (that they're already well aware of) that have made a big impact on my personality.
Let me start with my dad. He was born and raised in Gladstone, just like I was. In fact, he grew up just few minute walk away from where I did. The problem with this is that he knew everybody in town. As a child, I can't describe how frustrating it is to be unable to go anyplace without being seen by somebody who knows your parents and won't hesitate to let them know if you get out of line.
My dad's a retired teacher. But to say that's all he did would be far from the truth. He taught History and Government in one of the smallest school districts in the Upper Peninsula. The average graduating class was about 12 students. Having a teacher parent has a major impact on kids. In our house, any grade less than an A- was considered bad, and anything less than a B got you grounded. This pressure to perform stays with me today. I refuse to accept just doing "ok" as being acceptable. From every failure, you can learn, and when you apply that knowledge to the process the next time around, you only come one step closer to success.
This continual drive to do my best and constantly improve isn't all that I picked up from my dad. My dad kind of fails at eating. I suppose that a nicer way to put it is that he's exceptionally picky. He'd tell you that he knows what he likes. Growing up, we never really strayed from a pretty set list of dishes for dinner, and a very set list of places that we occasionally ate out at. The result was that most of my culinary adventurism didn't develop until well after I left the house. Thankfully, my wife is still expanding my food borders and refuses to give up on me. I will, however, give my dad some credit in this department. In recent years, he's gotten much better about being picky and trying new things.
My mother was born and mostly raised in Southeast Michigan. Her family moved to Escanaba when she was in high school. For her, this was a big change, because not only was it her first time living in a more rural area, but it was also her first time in public school. See, she spent all of here elementary and middle school years attending Catholic schools. This led to one of the most interesting and trying events in my life.
Since she was raised Catholic, my mom felt that it was best for me to attend the classes and events necessary to be confirmed Catholic. However, she forgot that, being the son of a teacher, I was also taught to not accept things as the truth just because I'm told they are. The people who taught the classes would get rather frustrated when they would try to teach something about the religion and I would basically say "Why do I have any reason to believe this is true?" and their only response was "Because this is what the Bible teaches us is true." This very quickly devolved into the circular argument that is common amongst Christians of "I believe in God because the Bible says it's true and I believe in the Bible because God says it's true."
Before you could be confirmed in the church, you had to go through an interview process. I know that the priest from the church was there, and I seem to remember that the Bishop came down from Marquette for this as well. We were asked all kinds of questions. My mother attempted to convince me to just tell them what they wanted to hear. I was in my rebellious stage at this point, so that wasn't going to happen. It wasn't that I was rude or mean to the poor guys who had to interview me, I just told the truth. They asked my opinion on homosexuality. Really? I'm not sure how they didn't see this one coming. I politely responded that what two people do in their bedroom is none of anybody else's business and that the only things that matters in a relationship is that the people involved in it love and care for one another and that they treat each other with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Needless to say, they refused to confirm me.
I can't really say that I blame my mom for pushing me to be confirmed, though. Actually, it's one of the better things to happen to me. Dealing with a religion that allows Earthly beings to judge one another when their Big Book specifically states that only their God is allowed to do so forced me to look elsewhere and to learn what else is out there, unlike the hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone who follow a particular religion simply because they were brought up in it. This whole thing turned on my love of learning about what people believe, why, how it impacts their daily life, and how society as a whole can benefit from it.
In the end, I credit my Catholic mother for my apathetic/atheist beliefs and my discovering that, while the religions of the world all have good intentions, society as a whole would be far better off if we believed not in one particular religion, but took the positive tenants from each and left the negative by the side of the road. I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that I can get along with just about anybody that I meet. I may not believe in the specifics of anybody's religion, but I recognize and respect the good that they're trying to do.