SALT LAKE CITY — It was the spring of 1969 when they launched out across America, headed east. They'd been married two days. She brought a 1963 Ford Galaxie to the union, he a 1962 Porsche. They drove the Galaxie and towed the Porsche. America's Parents on their first road trip.
They thought they knew where they were going. They had no idea.
You could argue that others have done more, mused longer, talked with greater enthusiasm and written more extensively about raising children than Richard and Linda Eyre. Dr. Spock was a one-man child-care cottage industry in the 1950s. Pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton has been described as Spock's worthy successor. British psychologist Penelope Leach is a world-renowned leader in child-development. At its height, James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" radio show reached over 200 million people.
But you just might lose the argument.
The Eyres didn't set out to parent anyone. He was going to be a politician. She was going to teach music.
Then they started having kids, only to discover, like everyone else, that kids don't come with an owner's manual.
So they wrote one.
And not just one. Thirty at last count, with two on the way. In February, "Five Spiritual Solutions to Everyday Parenting Challenges" is scheduled to be released locally by Deseret Book. In the fall of 2011 "The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child" will be published internationally by Penguin Books.
All told, over the course of the past three decades, Richard and Linda Eyre, while operating out of their worldwide "headquarters" right here in Utah, have written well in excess of two million words about parenting and marriage, accounting for book sales in the millions. Plus, there's the pre-school they developed called Joy School that is used extensively around the world. Then there are the speeches and parenting seminars they've given to audiences in more than 50 countries. And that's all in addition to their No. 1 calling card, their biggest, most tangible claim to fame: the nine Eyre children and the 21 (and counting) grandchildren, all of whom, at last bed check, are fine, upstanding, squared-away citizens of the world.
Like all parents, but especially like all parents who also happen to be world-class parenting consultants, the Eyres speak of their children's finer points with a mixture of pride and fear. It's akin to speaking of a no-hitter when it's in progress — you don't want to jinx it by talking about it.
The very subject brings up one of their favorite stories. It's about a Sunday school class they attended while vacationing at Bear Lake one summer. The class was on child rearing and one out-of-town visitor had all the answers and was taking the opportunity to pontificate about how wonderful his children were — the valedictorian, the star quarterback, the perfect church attender.
Finally, a local farmer sitting in the back could take it no longer.
He stood up and said, "God must not think much of you as a parent — sending you all them easy kids to raise."
"We get it," says Richard. "We got lucky. All nine of our kids have at least one college degree, all served (LDS) missions, all are doing well. That is all true. But I get very uncomfortable when people say how in the world did you do that? The answer is I don't know, except we got really lucky."
Then Linda adds, "And God doesn't think much of us."
* * *
It was an aspiring presidential candidate named Romney who gave Richard the advice that motivated him to want to drive cross-country two days after he and Linda were married.
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