Like the sunshine and rain, parents become the warmth and nourishment inspiring children to achieve worthy goals. Parents never know how far children will go, but as they progress from one level to the next, chests expand and smiles on faces beam with pride. During my career, I observed many exceptional parents who groomed children for success. A few years back, a local young man by the name of Phil Wisecup, received a nomination to the Naval Academy by Congressman William McCullough, his last. He had exceptional character and was an outstanding student. After graduation he made a 36 year career out of protecting our country.
His dad, Jim Wisecup, was the superintendent of schools and had been one of my high school baseball coaches. He later appointed me to a principal’s position. He was a firm disciplinarian and had high expectations for his son. He was a demanding administrator who frowned upon dancing around fuzzy issues. He was a no-nonsense guy who didn’t care which side of the tracks a person lived on. Anytime I messed up, he’d quickly call me into his office and straighten my spine. After patting me on the back and sending me on my way, he assured me I’d do better the next time. I worked hard to stay out of his office and came to appreciate his management style. The next year, I moved to the junior high which was a tougher assignment. Anytime I experienced difficulty or needed help, he and his trusted assistant, Mitch Pedroff, were there in a heartbeat to provide support. A few years later, Wisecup’s no-nonsense approach ruffled the feathers of a few community stalwarts and he was asked to leave on a three/two vote. The air was so thick that night at the board meeting; it could be cut with a knife. I lost a good friend and mentor that evening.
If asked to list five people having the greatest impact on my life, my former boss would be one of them. He influenced me personally and professionally. I have no doubt he had a monumental impact on the success of his son. Like most fathers, I’m sure he questioned himself about whether or not he had done enough. The drive and determination following Phil’s nomination to the Academy gave credibility to hisselection. After graduation, he was above all a seagoing officer and was deployed to Europe, Korea and many other areas of the world. He commanded destroyers, a destroyer squadron and the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. He was President of the Naval War College and Inspector General of the Navy, received his first FLAG/Admiral position in 2005, and served as Director to the White House Situation Room. He retired as a three-star Vice Admiral; and, now as a civilian, serves as Director of the Chief Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group. Now how proud would that make his father feel?
I had an opportunity to chat with Phil shortly after the death of his father. He came across a couple emails his dad and I had exchanged. “The admiration you had for my dad was mutual,” he shared. My throat thickened and a tear came to my eye. The impact parents have on children varies within each family. Some play a bigger role than others. What children do with what we share is internalized and gives them the wherewithal to sail the seas, walk on the moon or serve in the White House. The pride and pay-back is non-ending. We never know where the pitter-pattering of footsteps might lead or how high fingerprints will go up the stairway wall. Nonetheless, the nurturing they receive is the key to their final destination. The warmth and nourishment we provide is the sun and rain they need to grow.
Glenn H. Honeycutt has been a weekly newspaper parenting tips columnist for fourteen years since retiring from education. For more information visit www.oldeducator.com.