Musings from Murgatroyd

By Linette Bernard

Murgatroyd is a family surname from England and has absolutely nothing to do with early childhood. The saying ‘heavens to Murgatroyd’ was one I remember my father saying, as well as ‘musings from Murgatroyd’ often were at the top of handwritten letters to me during and after college. August 18 would have been my father’s 73rd birthday and in the days leading up, I have been thinking much about the influence he and my mother have had on who I am today.

My father was a typical father of the late 60s and 70s… he was the fun parent. It wasn’t until I was in college and beyond that I drew strength from his wisdom. He felt strongly that computers and engineering were the right paths for his daughter to find success and be less hampered by gender stereotypes of the mid-1980s when I started college. The programming behind the computer was not for me and if engineering required story problems, well, I was best to steer clear. I tried. All he ever wanted for me was to be happy.

My mother once apologized for how I was raised… with terrarium filled with turtles, toads, salamander, and garter snakes. These herps (reptiles and amphibians) would live a season with us and enjoyed delicacies like ‘trout chow’ (my parents also raised tropical fish), meal worms, night crawlers, and small fishes. I thought it perfectly normal to coexist with a snake. As a family, we camped and went fishing often. I never really enjoyed fishing a great deal; I don’t have the patience. However, when bored or frustrated with ‘wetting a worm,’ I could be found wandering nearby my parents finding frogs, toads, walnuts, sticks, rocks, interestingly shaped leaves… you get the idea.

My mother also encouraged my desire to join Girl Scouts. It was the time when being out, picnicking out, and camping out were cool. My scout leaders were so supportive and encouraging. The first year I went to residential Girl Scout Camp (at a location where we had troop camped so I was a bit familiar with the lay of the land), my mother told me they had to come find me to say good-bye. I had gone off to explore.

What do my musings have to do with early childhood? Adults lead by example in everything we do whether directly or in the subtleties of daily life. The words we use, our likes, dislikes, fears, our attention to detail and “stick-to-itive-ness,” our curiosity, willingness to learn, and so much more can shape the same in those around us… both bigs and littles! I’m glad that I like snakes, enjoy watching things that fly (airplanes and raptors), am not afraid to go to new places, and so much more thanks to two incredible adults that are my parents.

Photo below is of me and my mother in 1971.