By the time I was twenty-eight years old, I already had five kids. I got married right after high school graduation. Nobody thought it would last - especially my parents. Like most parents, they didn't want me to get married so young and it almost seemed they didn't want it to work. But we fooled them and everyone else. I'm not telling my age, but this marriage has lasted a l - o - n - g time!
In those days, most women stayed home with their children and men made the living. That was fine with me. I loved being at home with my kids. After they started school, I loved summer vacations, Christmas and Easter holidays and just any time that the kids were at home with me instead of out there in the great big world. They loved it, too.
Times were certainly different then. During the summer months, we'd get up, get dressed, have breakfast and then the kids - the ones who were old enough - would go outside and play. They'd meet up with other kids in the neighborhood and entertain themselves until lunch time. During this time, I was able to do laundry, straighten the house, and accomplish other things that needed doing. Sometimes I'd do bills or talk to a friend on the phone. Other times, I'd bake a couple of pies or a cake for the family to enjoy later.
It was the best of times! Children obeyed and respected their parents; there was no back-talk, no tantrums if one didn't get his way and there was no such thing as a "time out." There was no need for it. That's just the way it was! Our parents raised us to be respectful and we passed it on to our children. As a result, they're now adults, and still respectful! I would never have heard one of my children speaking to me the way I hear some little ones talking to their mothers in the grocery store and other shopping places today. At least, I wouldn't have heard it more than once. Why? Because there were immediate consequences for bad behavior. Not so today. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, "You do that one more time and I'm gonna wallop you!" I always think, "Well, why give him one more time? Wallop him now and he's not likely to do it again."
Trouble is... the child knows he's not gonna get walloped. He just keeps doing what he's doing and finally the mother ignores him. He wins! And he knows it. The more of these battles he wins, the less respect he has for his mom's authority. Or Dad's or Grandma's... whoever is in charge.(?)
I recently had an experience with a fourth grade child - about nine, I'd guess. I remarked to his grandmother that he'd proudly pointed her out to me across the room. Before she could speak, he looked at me and asked belligerently, "Do you have a problem with that?" No doubt, some of you young people will find that amusing. Call me old-fashioned, but I was mortified! To make matters worse, the grandmother just smiled at the boy and patted him on the head as if he'd done something wonderful. I managed a weak smile and walked away.
One of my children, in the same scenario, would have been forced to apologize on the spot... and the subsequent lecture would have ensured that he'd never disrespect an adult again.
I learned about respect very young. Even before I started school, my mother was drilling these words into my head, "Always respect your elders!" My mother had quite a bag of tricks, too. One of them was: when we'd be out shopping together and meet up with someone she knew, she'd take one step closer to me and grab my hand. The other adult would invariably ask me a direct question... something like, "How old are you?" or "What grade are you in?" If there was so much as a hesitation before I spoke, my mother would squeeze my hand so tight that I knew if I wanted to keep the use of that hand, I'd better answer soon and the answer had better be to her liking! All the time she was doing this, she was smiling! You just had to love my mother's way of disciplining! It worked.
I wonder... would today's kids be better behaved if their mothers were like the one I had?