My folks (especially my mom) had some very definite ideas about child rearing. When my brother and I were young, there was a certain formality to the way things were done; how we were supposed to act; when we woke/ate/went to bed; and even how we were dressed – that was typical of the times. Not surprisingly…our dad worked long hours in important jobs (of course), and mom ruled the home (and was the primary disciplinarian).
The “strict” nature of it all came in the form of discipline and manners. My mom was a no nonsense woman when it came to her children behaving properly. We were NEVER allowed to talk back, or (God Forbid) utter the word “No” to our parents…EVER.
Of course I tried it…once, and ended up with a mouth full of soapy water. YUK.
From that point on, the threat of “don’t you say that – or use that tone – to me or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water” (lips pierced and wagging her finger at me) took on a true and ominous tone to which I would quickly back down (no matter what).
There were a few “spankings” along the way (until I got too big to fit across my mom’s lap and we both realized how silly the whole thing was) and more than a few banishings to my room. But nothing much more in terms of actual “punishments.”
The worst was when my mom would get so mad at us that she would send us to our rooms and go to the kitchen and begin emptying the dishes (or pots) from the cabinets and begin washing them all by hand, while yelling at the top of her lungs (to nobody in particular) about how wrong/stupid/rotten we were on that particular occasion.
When the ranting began…we knew we had crossed the line.
As we got older, rules began to be placed on our comings and goings, and I started to feel the strict boundaries that my folks would place around me until I left for college. You know…the regular things like curfews, restrictions on sleepovers, and the differences in “school day” activities vs. “weekend” activities.
The hardest was the curfew. I HATED having to be home by 11:00 p.m. (on weekends!) all through high school, but I think I hated the “rationale” for the curfew more than the actual time I had to be home.
“Mom…why can’t I just stay out to midnight like everyone else!?!”
“Because I want to go to sleep at 11:00 and I can’t go to bed unless you’re home.”
“Sure you can…I don’t care if you’re up when I get home.”
“I CARE” “So you’ll be home at 11:00.” “PERIOD.”
REALLY???? Can parents really get away with that?
You bet. I did. (More on that later)
I too was a stickler for discipline and manners (I am my mother’s daughter) as I wanted my kids to be polite and well behaved…mostly so that we could all go anywhere or do anything together without me having to worry whether or not the kids would act out (and because that’s how I was raised).
Oh they had their moments of bickering and snitty tones and slacking off around the house.
But I swear…they were amazingly good kids.
And sometimes I think it might have been despite my parenting.
I yelled a lot, especially when they were young.
I took the whole ranting thing I grew up with and raised it to an art form. And I regret having yelled at them so much.
Because I think I scared them.
But as my kids aged…I think I figured out how to parent with a modicum of strictness (and yelling) mixed in with a healthy dose of humor and love.
But I still think I was pretty strict (mean).
They had curfews ‘til 11:00 on weekends too. OK…Ally had it all through high school but I’m pretty sure we relaxed the rules when AJ got there (and I’m sure that inconsistency and lack of fairness will come back to bite me again and again…)
But I don’t think it ruined them.
They’re really wonderful people.
I’ve never been grounded. (Really.) But I don’t think that’s because my parents were especially lenient on anything – it was because I never did anything worthy of strict punishment.
I just chose to spend an incredible amount of time in my room. I didn’t go out. I didn’t run around after hours. I didn’t lie.
And this didn’t happen because my parents were incredibly strict, either.
I was just a really, really good kid.
(I have sources to back me up on this.)
The truth is, I never had the desire to push their buttons or take advantage.
(Well, I didn’t really have a desire to actively push their buttons. Like, I never took the car without asking or climbed out of the window in the middle of the night. I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of them with the tantrums or typical teenage talking-back and bitching about things…)
I think that I would describe my parents as “laid back”.
They were our friends, but also clearly Mom and Dad.
They yelled sometimes, but I don’t look back on any of my childhood and think, damn, there was a lot of yelling. I think yelling is just a part of every family. And compared to other families I knew/know? Our yelling was extremely tame.
They were never afraid to say “no”, but they chose to say “yes” a lot of the time. And I think that’s the important part: saying “no” isn’t a bad thing. Saying “no” is necessary, especially when a kid is young. I see kids who have zero respect for their folks, and I can’t help but think that it has something to do with how much their parents let them get away with, especially when they’re young.
(I’m not saying to go all Tiger Mom on kids, either, but I think that there’s a balance.)
(My parents were pros at finding that balance.)
I had the normal rules that all kids have. No making a mess in public, no talking back (I actually did break that rule a lot), manners, curfews…
If I ever had royally screwed up or pushed some boundaries or broken a single rule, then I assume my parents would have punished me in a traditional way (no TV, extra chores…). Nothing too severe, but I doubt they would have let me off the hook.
When it came down to it, I just never, ever wanted to disappoint them. I don’t know if that’s something that’s just a part of me – as a person – or if they ingrained that in me from the beginning.
(Maybe they hypnotized me as an infant or something…)
Either way, I’m very happy with how my parents raised me.
(I’m not just saying that.)
If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to raise my own kids in a similar manner.
I want to be friends with my kids, but I also don’t want to let them walk all over me. I know it’s not easy to pull off, but – lucky me – I’ve got some great teachers.
(Seriously, I’m not just saying that.)
(Or, you know, maybe I just got so traumatized that I’ve blocked a bunch of horrible things out… I guess that’s always a possibility.)