How to raise a successful person
When we learned that Mom was publishing a book, we decided that it was for us, her children, to write a preface about how it feels when your mother is “Madame WOJ”. WOJ is just an affectionate nickname coined by our mom’s students decades ago; but it has entrenched both in her and in her methodology, based on self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, cooperation and cordiality – universal values that this book will tell you about.
Our life is full of surprises, from a career on Google, YouTube, 23andMe and the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco to a very non-trivial task – to raise our own children, and we have nine of them for three. In every fate there are black and white stripes, ups and downs, and a person’s ability to adapt and flourish in any situation largely depends on his parents.
When my mother told us about the book, we went through our diaries from elementary school to graduation. Mom – a journalist to the marrow of bones – found it useful to keep notes on all trips, especially after moving to France in 1980. Although the diaries are full of stupid stories about fights and bad behavior, the most important topics are also revealed there: independence, financial responsibility, willingness to act, openness, fearlessness, the ability to value life.
One of the greatest joys is the realization of independence. Parents taught us to believe in ourselves, in our ability to make decisions. They trusted us and placed great responsibility on us from early childhood. We went to school on foot unaccompanied by adults, rode great all over the district, hanging out with friends and girlfriends. We grew up in self-confidence – and our parents only strengthened this confidence by listening to our views and thoughts. Neither mother nor father dismissed our arguments simply because we were children. No matter how old we are, parents always listened carefully to us; we studied with them, and they with us. As a result, we were able to defend our point of view, but at the same time listen and realize our own wrong.
In the tenth grade, Anne spoke in our temple with one of the adults about the relationship between parents and children – and her interlocutor was at least surprised, because he stated that the children should listen, not talk. Anne explained: in our family, although we argued at times, parents always respected our opinion; they didn’t dismiss us with phrases like “No, because I’m your mother.” Anne later writes in her diary how grateful she was to her parents for not crushing authority. Conflicts in the family were rare. Quarrels happened, but it never came to the assault. And therefore, we are incredibly grateful to our parents for the fact that already in early childhood we felt independence.
But what is independence without financial freedom? And we are not talking about big money, rather about careful handling of funds, about carefully weighing all the pros and cons when buying this or that thing. When it came to saving and spending, parents showed iron will. Both grew up in immigrant families and constantly talked about how easily people spend money on things they don’t need, and then they can’t buy what they need. How important it is to be able to use money, life taught them – and us – every day. We sometimes dined in restaurants and cafes, but did not order drinks or snacks. Going to grocery stores, we cut out coupons and fleeced local newspapers for discounts. Once, my mother brought home an unopened package of food from the plane, left over from the last business trip, and set the table. Oh, an unforgettable dinner for Ann and her little friends!
Already in elementary school, mom showed us a table for calculating compound interest on profits, and we decided to save at least a couple of thousand dollars a year. We got credit cards and checkbooks before we even learned how to drive a car, because our mother instilled in us this habit of serious discipline — pay by credit card monthly and balance checkbooks. As children, we, at the suggestion of our parents, started something like a small business: a neighbor grew a very fruitful lemon tree, and we traded in lemons; over the years we have sold so many citrus fruits that the neighbors began to call us “lemongrass”. Susan was selling spicy ropes; so she called the braid into which various spices were woven – they hung her in the kitchen; already in the sixth grade, Susan earned hundreds of dollars. It was her idea, but her mother bought all the necessary ingredients and helped Susan sell it. We went home and traded in huge quantities of cookies baked by girls from scout squads. And when it got really boring, we packed old toys and tried to sell them to our neighbors. Sometimes even succeeded!
In our family, tourism and education were the priority items of expenditure; minimum was allocated for everything else. Let’s say more: my father wore one pair of sandals for sixty years.