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Parenting: History Prepares Children for the Future

“All children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” –Anne Frank

It was an era so foreign to me now it seems like a different life.  My early child hood years in the 1970’s were spent on an estate with a beautiful home, barns, cottages for the help and seemly endless acres of forests, lush fields, and rolling hills. We had horses, a kennel of English Springer Spaniel show dogs, a chicken coop, cows and sheep. It was my paradise, and from the time I could walk I explored every nook and cranny of the land.


I loved our animals, and was given responsibility for helping to take care of them. I loved waking up each morning and getting eggs from the chicken coop, feeding the dogs in the kennel and cleaning their dog runs but the horses were my passion.  I loved exploring the old barns, full of ancient treasure boxes covered in dust and filled with things like diaries and love letters of a man (unrelated) killed in the first world war and his final treasured possessions that were sent home, to sit hidden away for some 55+ years in our old barn. There were old side saddles, when ladies rode horse’s side saddle and dressed in long dark gowns and galloped across the glorious fields in fox hunts. These were relics of an age gone by, of endless possibilities to my childhood imagination.

Dancer 1


Outside of the house, the farm was my home and like a wild child I galloped horses across the fields with the wind blowing in my long blonde hair. I can still smell the air, the speed and strength of the horse galloping at full speed, riding alone at 6 years old. I loved every second of it with unbridled passion and still do.

At my house, we did not watch children’s programs or shows and rarely saw movies.  We did not take trips to Disney, it never occurred to us. I was baffled by Star Wars and the girls in my class who wore trendy brightly colored clothes, wore lip gloss, and spoke back to their parents.  As the old Victorian saying goes, “Children were seen but not heard” and respect for elders was absolute, the older the relative, the more you showed unquestionable respect (“Age before youth” before we proceeded into or out of any door).   Stories of ancestors were told over and over across informal dinners (formal dinners did not include children under the age of 16). The women in my family from generations back were fascinating, headstrong and dared to break the rules, had lived fantastic lives of independence, education, and endured triumph and tragedy.  I felt a deep sense of OBLIGATION to live up to those who had come before me. It became engrained in me that it was a duty and obligation to pass down those stories to future generations, the possessions and memories to keep their stories alive. Like those before me, I knew I ultimately had to create a life that would make my ancestors proud.

JHA circa 1915 (2)

My 4 year old son see’s the old framed photos of my grandparents, great grandparents and even great great great relatives. I love to cuddle with him, put away the iPad and Star Wars movie, and tell him the stories of his ancestors. I speak of The Abernathy Boys who in 1910 rode horses ALONE at ages 6 and 10 rode from Oklahoma to Washington to meet President Taft and then on to New York City and met former President Teddy Roosevelt. They returned home driving a car (alone) when there was just 110 miles of paved roads in the entire United States.  I speak of great great Aunt Nez who was an art student of the famous and then elderly Renoir. She ran away from home at 17, jumped a steam ship bound for France in the late 1800’s and lived an adventurous, wonderful life. With cuddles and kisses and few of the formalities of my childhood, I tell him t he stories so that he may continue the family tradition of following his own dream while imprinting on his mind the importance responsibility, working, self reliance, contributing, preserving and passing it down to future generations.


May ALL our children may know about history, the sacrifices that were made by those who came before us. It gives them a sense of belonging, a sense of responsibility, work ethic, manners, and some of the old fashioned values that seemed to have slipped away in today’s modern world. May our children dream big dreams and work hard to make them happen. May they have boundless passion, and the tenacity to keep pushing forward towards a brighter future for their children’s children.

Some things never go out of style.

Kelsey MacLean