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GAIL WHITE Parenting expert maintains child's point of view



Published: Wed, February 27, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



I had just begun a phone interview with John Crudele, a professional speaker and author who will be addressing parents at St. Charles Church this Thursday evening on "Go Make Some Memories."

I dislike phone interviews. I would rather be sitting in front of my subject, looking into his eyes, taking note of the gestures and mannerisms.

Sometimes situations necessitate a phone interview. John, living in Minnesota, was such a situation.

I look forward to meeting John in person as he speaks at St. Charles. I know I will have no trouble recognizing him. He will be the one who looks like he has the energy of 10 people.

John is a ball of fire.

Can't keep up: As we began talking over the phone, I immediately wished I had a tape recorder. My fingers simply could not keep up.

"Everything we do creates a memory for our children," he began. "We remember what is present, and we remember what is not present."

I was desperately trying to write down every morsel of information when John said, "Just a minute ..." Thankful for the reprieve, I finished writing his latest thought.

"Had to put my headset on," he said when he returned. "I like to walk when I talk." I knew I was in trouble.

This man has a passion for his work that overwhelms him. He is a freight train that can't be stopped. And it is contagious. I found myself wanting to pace back and forth with him. "That's right!" I was yelling. "Absolutely!"

Materialism: "What are you creating for your children?" he asked. "Do you work long hours so you can buy more things?"

John questions this mentality so prevalent in our society. "The things that we define love by are often not the things they [children] love," he contended.

"Look at where you find your identity," he insisted. "You can pay bills, mow the lawn, cook dinner. These things don't really have meaning."

True, lasting meaning comes from a different source. "Not in work, but in relationships," John said, referring to both personal and spiritual relationships.

"Do you HAVE to go to work ... come home ... take your child to school?" he asked. "Or do you WANT to?"

The attitude will make all the difference.

In line with all he was saying, my energy beginning to match his, I felt compelled to unveil the driving force behind this ball of fire.

"How many children do you have?" I asked.

"None," he responded. I was surprised.

"Married?" I asked, already suspecting the answer. If this man were married, he would have children.

"No," he answered.

Generally, I find unmarried, childless "authorities" on families and relationships out of touch and, well, completely nonauthoritative.

John was different. I was curious to know why.

His expertise: "My dad suicided when I was 15," he shared. John was the oldest of four children. Mom struggled to maintain.

When he speaks about making memories, it is advice that he shares not from the expert angle of the parent, but from the experience of the child.

"My voice is what the need of the young person is," John said.

When he stands in front of a room full of adolescents, he is a "cool" role model.

In a room full of adults, he is a walking masterpiece of hope.

The pain of his past has become his gift for the present. "Pain and history have value," he added.

"The brokenness of our past becomes the gift -- to be given away."

John's brokenness has become his fire. Every time his feet touch the stage, John gives his gift, enrapturing audiences with his humor and wit; sharing his love and hope for all families.

gwhite@vindy.com

XJohn will be speaking at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Charles Church in Boardman. The event is free and open to the public. For more information about John, go to www.johncrudele.com.




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