Parenting sure ain’t what it used to be
By Randa Wagner –
A couple of weeks ago I noticed a disturbing trend that might seem insignifcant to younger folks but signals a big change in family values to we ‘oldsters.’
I was leaving the office at the end of the day through the back door and started walking toward the rear parking lot. I saw a woman get out of her vehicle with her purse and a child got out of the passenger’s door. She locked the car and walked across the alley toward a building adjacent to the newspaper office. The child, who looked to be about four or five years old, had a frozen treat in his hand and was trotting to try to catch up to his mother. The mother was fussing with her purse and cellphone and never once looked back after she got out of the car. She didn’t check alley traffic, she didn’t check on the child; it was as if she were alone. The kid was, obviously, on his own. It was up to him to get across the alley safely and hopefully get inside the building’s door before his mother let the door close on him.
The week before that I saw a young father with three children in tow walking east on the sidewalk on the square in Mt. Gilead. He was pushing the youngest child in a stroller and the other two children, both under age 5 or 6, were trailing along behind at their own pace. He did not look back to check on them, he just kept walking ahead.
More and more often now, I have noticed a lack of concern on the part of parents for the well-being of their children. I sure wasn’t a model mom, but I didn’t put myself on the inside lane of the sidewalk while my kids were left to walk inches away from moving traffic. I didn’t walk ahead of them and not look back to check on them. I didn’t let them walk in the street when there was a sidewalk available, and I made them stay right with me in a crosswalk.
I didn’t swear at them in the store when they acted up and, if they got on a crying jag and wouldn’t stop, we left the store (and I paddled their behinds). We didn’t stay in the store and continue shopping, hoping the child would stop screaming if I ignored the tantrum. I’ve seen mothers walk away with their carts, calling back, “Ok, I guess you’re just not going to get your surprise since you can’t behave,” while the child reacts by screaming louder and pitching themselves to the floor in front of me. Once, no matter how I tried to get around a small boy crying hysterically and writhing on the tile floor, he always rolled in the direction I was trying to go. The mother continued on down the aisle as if nothing were happening, so the child would get up long enough to throw himself a little farther along toward her, working his way down the aisle. It was ridiculous! I ended up backing up and going clear around another direction to get back to almost the same spot.
Store managers should be permitted to ask these people to leave the store. They won’t, of course. It isn’t ‘politically correct’ and the offender just might be ‘offended’ by having even more attention drawn to them. Heaven forbid some lazy, irresponsible parent might have to supervise their own offspring.
There’s a fine line between corporal punishment and child abuse. The minute we got out of line in public, we got one warning from my dad. If we were foolish enough to ignore it, we got grabbed firmly by the arm and made to walk next to him or we got the back of his hand and a stern, “I told you to knock it off!” That almost always ended it, because repercussions at home were harsher. Guess what? Corporal punshiment didn’t kill us or turn us into child or wife beaters. Sure it was embarassing, but not enough to make us want to murder our parents in their sleep, for heaven’s sake.
I don’t think people think about how harsh their words come across to kids, either. I’ve heard parents swear a blue streak at their kids, then smack the kid for swearing at their sibling. Years ago I heard a grandmother in a store in Pennsylvania snarling at two little girls trying to eat their Happy Meals while she wailed about “having to take care of you two little brats on my day off. My God, I don’t believe I have to do this! Your mother is worthless! I hope you choke on those Happy Meals I had to pay for! Hurry up! I don’t want to be here all day! Can’t you hurry up?” She was carrying on like she had a spear through her side and was in incredible agony. I felt so sorry for the two little girls, who were trying to eat but were so shaken up they were having a hard time. All this, in front of a large crowd eating around them. The older girl hummed nervously and looked at her box, pretending to read it, and it made the old woman even angrier. I wanted to say something to the grandmother but knew I was the one who would probably end up in jail for inducing a riot.
I realize most of us who exist on the earth today were not ‘planned’ by our parents. We were born as a result of an intimate act, plain and simple. Years ago it happened more often because birth control was not as sophisticated or available as it is now. If you got married before 1970, chances were pretty darn good you were gonna have kids — and lots of them. Marriage was a calculated risk in that respect: you knew if you had sex, you were going to have babies, and you had to take care of them. Even when you were out of work, even when you were tired, even when you were depressed. They were your responsibility to raise, teach right from wrong, and guide in the right direction.
My folks had it pretty tough sometimes and I’m sure they wished, more than once, they didn’t have so many kids. My mother was eternally tired and my dad felt overwhelmed sometimes. We were disciplined when we needed it and, even when they were very angry with us, we were never called vulgar names, sworn at, told we were worthless or ‘wish you’d never been born.’ We were pretty darn poor sometimes but had hot meals, clean clothes, and structure in our lives. Kids need that to feel secure.
Good parenting is hard work. You have to turn off the TV and get up off the couch once in awhile. You need to help them with their schoolwork, make sure they’re bathed, fed, and not let them run loose in a pack in the neighborhood. Know who their friends are, set rules and enforce them.
One of our secretaries believes a key to raising good kids is to raise them ‘in church’ so they have a sense of respect for elders and other people; so the goodness instilled in them early in their life stays with them (to a large degree) all their lives. That’s something they sure aren’t going to get out there in the world today, left to their own devices as so many are. It’s not up to preschool or daycare or public school to raise our kids. Children aren’t pets you can let run loose or give away when they get to be too much trouble. Like it or not, children are for life. They don’t ask to be born any more than we did.
I heard a speaker say once when his children were trying to make a serious decision and asked him for advice, he would tell them, “Think about the worst possible outcome of what you’re thinking of doing. If you can live with that outcome, then it’s probably a safe choice.” Later, as adults, they told him when they followed that advice, it never let them down.
Just think of how different a place the world would be if we all used that line of reasoning.