Most parents do it. Take your kid to a ball game and teach them to keep score. Walk them down to the river and show them how to tie a fishing fly. It's self-preservation, really. Believe me I've thrown a million backyard pop-ups and introduced everything from paint-ball and vinyl records to snowshoeing and the accordion. All in an attempt to make them interesting and well-rounded enough to keep me entertained on my deathbed.
"There are three faithful friends, an old wife, an old dog, and ready money." -Poor Richard's Almanac
One of my greatest cons was the game: "Socrates" where I would offer up a funny questions for discourse on long drives and ask them questions they could only answer with another question until we were so far off topic but yet so narrowly focused on some completely random idea, we'd have to pull the car over for ice cream just to cool off. Imagine a car full of toddlers doing Socratic Method on long drives? Imagine further when I finally introduced them to Greek Philosophy last year and they just tackled me, "Dad! You never said Socrates was a real man?" They just thought Socrates was a Parker Brothers game like MONOPOLY or RISK.
"Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor." -Poor Richard's Almanac
But without a doubt, my greatest long con with my kids was Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjamin Franklin. You know the little pocket book of wise saws and sayings from 1732 to 1758:
"Fish and Visitors both stink after three days."
"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
"God helps them that help themselves."
"No gains without pains."
There are so many of them. Even famous sayings Franklin may or may not have ever said like, "A penny saved is a penny earned," and "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" or my absolute favorite, "A place for everything and everything in its place." Since the moment of their birth, I have been whispering these saying in their ears to make them do everything from picking up their socks to washing their dishes to never touching their piggy banks to cleaning between their toes.
"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." -Poor Richard's Almanac
Perhaps then, you can imagine my complete and ultimate joy this week, when we finally started studying Ben Franklin, his work, his autobiography, his early publications... and we arrived at his magnificent little book: Poor Richard's Almanac, at the onset of the Revolutionary War. All the sayings they they have fluttering in their head, "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see," "Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools talk because they have to say something." Thirteen years in the making. Thirteen years. When my oldest daughter looked at me astonished and asked, "Did you plan that? Did you plan all that since I was a baby?" I said nothing, only nodded. Ben Franklin taught me well.