My father-in-law, Robinson B. Gourley Sr., if he was still alive, would have laughed about what I considered one of his best lifetime accomplishments. He was a World War II veteran, an award-winning cellist, a career engineer for GE and a loving grandfather. In my opinion, his parenting skills, what he called “benign neglect”, actually help shaped his son (my husband, Rob Jr.) into becoming a resourceful inventor and mechanic.
All parents recognize some genius in each of their children. They have the challenge to not snuff their creativity which must be a difficult task within our less-than-secure World. Parents today are more inclined to shelter and protect their children through activity scheduling and monitoring. I am certainly not recommending Rob Sr.’s parenting techniques which are not condoned by many childhood authorities including Dr. Spock in our time. I just admire the outcome.
Rob Sr. believed the rough-n-tumble outdoors was the best playground for his son. He flung open the front door for his young son, not even in school yet, to explore with his buddies all of downtown Baldwinsville, N.Y. including one of the major locks on the Erie Canal. If Rob Jr. survived and made it back in time for dinner, it was a good day.
Rob Jr. flourished with his growing confidence in overcoming challenges that he decided to tackle (or for survival such as finding fishermen to save his cousin, Jane, from the rapidly rising tide in Upper Maine). Before Rob Jr. was fourteen years old, he drove tractors, motorized boats, fixed and drove cars, and even gave a car to his father. Rob Jr.’s only childhood regret, besides losing his mother, Neeler, at a young age, was on the rare occasion when his father put his foot down and declined both Rob Jr. and his friend in buying a used Sherman tank.
Another Gourley parenting technique was to allow the child to question the sources of knowledge used by teachers in both schools and churches. Rob Jr. excelled in making his opinions known which got him a full-time desk in the principal’s office and invitations not to return to Sunday school.
I recall an evening when the three of us laughed about Rob Jr.’s many childhood, overall fun-loving antics including sneaking out at night to race cars. I asked Rob Sr. a leading question … weren’t you concerned about your son? He looked at me and proudly said “It was my Boy!”. I subsequently heard about some of Rob Sr.’s own stories like timing the arrival of the train into his father’s lumber yard in Highland Park, IL. and sledding over the tracks between the moving train wheels. Or, his incredible balance when standing on top of a hood of a moving car to pull out watermelons from the back of a moving truck.
A Eccentric Life
We lost Rob Sr. over ten years ago. The church in small-town Borodino, N.Y. was packed with relatives and friends for Rob Sr.’s memorial. A cellist sweetly played the classical music selected by his daughters. The most memorable, however, were the iconic stories of Rob Sr.’s life and many involved his sidekick, Rob Jr., that caused lots of laughter. One of the stories made me think “benign neglect” parenting was indeed contagious. The moms allowed their children to climb on top of the plywood board that Rob Sr. affixed to the top of his station wagon to transport them down Yelping Hill to the lake for a swim. Rob Jr. said it was great fun … no one worried about the lack of helmets, seat belts or handles.
People were asking for days following the memorial is it too late for them to become eccentric!
Overall, both Robs are good examples from the Gourley-brand of parenting of living along the edge and questioning the supposed knowledge of authorities. Please do not try at home unless you want enable a Inventified Child!
For more about Rob Gourley Jr.’s Inventified Family, please visit this link.
Sharing AHA! Discoveries
Rob Jr. dearly loved his father. Rob Sr., however, was not what someone would call an attentive “helicopter” parent. But maybe part of his son’s admiration is that his father gave him great freedom when he was a child, to make his own mistakes and find his own adventures … developing learning experiences that later inspired Rob Jr. in going beyond traditional mental boundaries to visualize and create practical inventions.
Do you have an Ahh-mazing “AHA!” Discovery to share?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. This can be any idea or endeavor that may help others in their own revelation or better quality of life. Alternatively, want to nominate someone with special skills of creativity and innovation? Let us know!
Photo above of Rob Jr. (age 10 years old) running a motorized boat on Skaneateles Lake, N.Y.
Photo below of Rob Sr. and his sister, Toni, Sarasota, FL.