Vai's View: Vai's View: The power of parenting

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 12:21 p.m. MST

Retired Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton (left) surrounded by his wife Nada and 6 children, pulls a string to unveil his retired jersey in the Delta Center Monday November 22, 2004 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News archives

Six months.

That's how much time my wife and I have before we're empty nesters. Our youngest child, Lana, will graduate from high school in June. Sometime in August we expect to send her off to college. My wife often says, "Once they leave for college, they're just visitors in our home." It was certainly true for us. After high school, I came home and worked the summer after my freshman year at BYU and that was the last time I ever lived at home. We married following my mission and after my wife's freshman year, so she never returned home after high school.

It's hard to know if we've taught Lana everything she needs to know before she leaves. In the grand scheme of things, 18 years isn't that much time to teach and inoculate your child with everything she'll need to know once she's on her own. As parents, we're far from perfect but we've done our best.

Three stories this week illustrate how impactful good parenting is to a child's physical and emotional well being. It's hard to imagine the dysfunction Steve Powell created because of the alleged child pornography and voyeurism charges for which he sits in a Washington state jail awaiting trial. Divorced, his children estranged from him and each other, with a son, Josh, who murdered his own children in a horrific way and possibly killed his own wife, Steve Powell was an utter failure as a father. Father and son were reputed to be controlling, manipulative and harbored extremely sexist views of women.

Contrast that with Rick Morrissey's story in the Chicago Sun Times last week about high school basketball phenom Jabari Parker. Parker is the product of an African-American non-LDS father, Sonny, who played in the NBA, and a Tongan, LDS mother named Lola. The youngest of seven children, Jabari attends early-morning seminary and according to the piece, is so humble that he fetches water and towels for the underclassmen during freshman games.

Morrissey quotes Lola, "As parents, we've always instilled certain things," she said. "But there's a time for them to practice it. That's totally up to them. When Jabari leaves to go out of town and I or Sonny can't travel, I look at him and say, 'This is the time to practice all that you have been taught. Don't bring shame to your father's name.' He really understands that."

How refreshing is that? Then on Tuesday, I stumbled upon Wendell Maxey's story in the Deseret News about Westminster alum Michael Stockton, son of former Jazz great John, who is playing basketball in Germany. "Usually after every game, I find a way to get a hold of them (family) and talk. It's good to see them and hear their voice thanks to Skype and Facebook," explains Stockton, who also stays up for 2 a.m. starts to watch brother David play for Gonzaga and even some Utah Jazz games.

"I guess you could say I've been homesick because I miss my family," he says. "I miss my brothers and sisters, but I also feel I adjust very well."

Sounds like a close-knit family with well-adjusted kids. I've never met John Stockton, but I had an encounter with him years ago that left a memorable impression of the Jazz great. It was October of 1998. Conference weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles were playing in Denver on Sunday and since I had to go cover the game, I decided I'd fly into Salt Lake on Friday, attend conference all day Saturday, then fly out Sunday morning to Denver for the game.

When leaving Salt Lake for Denver I boarded a small commuter Delta plane — the kind with just two seats on each side of the aisle. I was surprised to see Stockton sitting with two little boys a few rows ahead of me (probably Michael and David) and thought, "Wow, what a treat for us to sit with John Stockton because these little planes don't have a first-class cabin."

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