This is Your Life – wisdom from the classic David Altshuler

“This is the life I have with my kids. It might not be the life I envisioned, there might not be much champagne and less Greek in this life, but it’ll do.”
This is Your Life
Look, any relationship requires give and take, don’t you think? A parent has a relationship with a child, a married person has a relationship with a spouse, and a reader has a relationship with an author.

You and I have been connected by these newsletters for getting on six years now. As it happens, this is the 300th blog post. So I’m asking your indulgence as my ADD brain bounces around like a Ping-Pong ball in a snowstorm. It may be tough to trace the path of the Ping-Pong ball in real time, but come the Spring it will be easy to find. Admittedly, the analogy breaks down in that nobody needs a stupid Ping-Pong ball given how much work there is to do after the snow melts and why would you bother looking for the darn thing anyway when you could just go buy a package of Ping-Pong balls for a few bucks, but you get what I mean. Anyway, here is a sentence taken from an SAT administered in 1980. (Yes, I have a copy of every SAT administered for the past 35 years. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)


“… the question is not whether The Clouds should be read in Greek or in English: the question is whether it should be read in English or not read at all.”

Or deciphered from ETS-ese: it’s better for kids to read classics in translation than not read classics at all.
The other side of the coin is “Well, if the kids know they can just read the translations, why would they learn classical languages?” I am going to call this argument the “tough nuggies” approach to teaching and parenting. Yes, in a perfect world, all children would learn Latin and Greek. Should you find said perfect world, give me a call and I’ll meet you.

I have been accused of being too willing to lower my expectations. My running career may serve as a useful example. Ideally, I would like to run a mile in just under nine minutes then run another mile in just under nine minutes and so on until I had run 26 miles at just under nine minutes each. My total time of three hours and 55 minutes would allow me, at age 60, to qualify to run the Boston Marathon, a goal I have been attending to, on and off, for the past 36 years. Like Edison said before he actually did invent the light bulb, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Similarly, I know 18 ways NOT to run a Boston qualifying time.

In “tough nuggy” world, I wouldn’t keep running these disappointing marathons. Realizing that I am never going to frigging qualify, I would put down The Clouds or hang up my running shoes. Not being able to run properly, I would not run at all.
Which brings me–”finally” you might say–to my point about parenting for this week: I wish my kids would do the dishes, mow the lawn, clean their rooms. What’s more, I wish they would do these chores without my help. In a perfect world–there’s that phrase again–the kids would wake up early and make me breakfast.
I am not holding my breath.

Instead, I get up and the kids and I make breakfast together. Frequently, we bump into one another in our absurdly small kitchen as we hurry to find the eggs. How hard could it be to find the eggs? It’s a refrigerator for goodness sake, not a haystack. The eggs have got to be in there somewhere. Occasionally, harsh words are spoken as the children and I frenetically scramble to find backpacks, shoes, and car keys so there is some chance that we can get to school before the end of the Pleistocene and avoid the “death stare” from the woman who gives us the “late to class” note.


Remember that guy in “Chariots of Fire” who had his servant pour champagne into those glasses placed on the hurdles? Then, with the castle and the thousand acre estate in the background, Lord Lindsey leaps perfectly over each barrier so effortlessly that not a drop is spilled? I’m betting Lord Lindsey’s kids got to school on time. You gotta figure Lord Lindsey’s kids learned Latin and Greek and didn’t get away with reading the translations either.


I wish Lord Lindsey every success. But I’m going to live the life I’ve got not the life of a guy on an estate with champagne on the hurdles. I’m going to keep running even though I’m never going to run fast enough to qualify for Boston; I’m going to keep jostling and joking with my kids as we try to find the eggs. (There. By your hand. If it was a snake, you’d be dead.)

This is the life I have with my kids. It might not be the life I envisioned, there might not be much champagne and less Greek in this life, but it’ll do. May I take this opportunity to commend you on the life you are living and the way you are interacting with your beloved children? Whether or not your kids are learning Greek, whether or not you are spilling champagne as you bumble over the hurdles as best you can.
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