I have had so many people talk to me about their childhood and how different things are today that I really began to think about it. And I have to tell you that I also believe that things are different today and I am still not quite sure if the “good ole days” were really that good!
I know that back when I was growing up, children were definitely not considered the “stars” of their families. All of us knew that there were certain rules that could never be broken. You were always told to be polite and when you first met an adult, you had to be polite and never ever try to take over the conversation, whatever it might be. As I think back to those days, I think that the rule “children should be seen and not heard” was still considered appropriate. Actually, when I was grown up, had a baby and was living in Waitsfield, I was introduced to a young girl who actually curtsied when she was introduced to me. Now, even I thought that was not only not necessary but embarrassing! And if you were either sent home or to the principal’s office while in school, your parents never, ever blamed the teacher. And if you got in trouble in school, it was nothing compared to what would happen when you got home! Respect was given to the teacher, regardless of how bad you thought she or he was. It seems today that this is considered so old-fashioned that it isn’t even thought about. How could a child be wrong?
As I try to remember my childhood, probably the biggest rule that I remember that doesn’t appear to hold true today is that we had to eat everything on our plates. In our house, this was a rule that couldn’t be broken. If it was served to you, you ate it! No complaining and no discussion. And at my grandmother’s, she also went with the “eat everything on your plate” rule, but she made sure that what she put on your plate was something you would eat!
One of my favorite memories about this eating thing was when I was about 12 and I was invited to stay and have dinner at a friend’s house. Of course, back then, you would have never said that you didn’t like something. There I was sitting at their dining room table and when I received my plate, there was a big serving of lima beans. I hated lima beans then and I still do. And I can remember trying to figure out how to eat them. I also had a big portion of mashed potatoes, so I took those beans, one at a time and covered it with the potatoes and finally was able to finish them. I was very proud to have cleaned my plate without fainting!
During the years that I brought my children up, Malcolm used to tell them that they didn’t have to clean their plates but that they had to try everything, and I think that worked pretty well. As the mother, I also knew who liked what, so I would make sure that the item that someone didn’t like was a very small portion. But I also remember various friends of theirs who would come and eat and let me know what they liked and what they wouldn’t eat. Boy, that would never have happened in my growing up time.
Now that I have grandchildren and many friends of grandchildren, I am amazed at what they will and won’t eat. Instead of cooking and giving them what you prepared, they are offered many suggestions on what they would like. And they are allowed to get up from the table and walk around and do whatever they want while dinner is being served. And as long they will eat something, they can carry it around and eat on the fly. Sometimes when I see them away from the table and eating whatever they decided they wanted (after three or four suggestions), I am sure that I can hear my grandmother twirling in her grave!
It is truly amazing to me that in only one generation we have gone from “children should be seen and not heard” to children taking over their world. And I for one don’t think that either way of raising children is correct. I always think that moderation and common sense should be the watch word. I firmly believe that an adult has earned the right to be the head of the family. And grandparents should be loved fiercely but also with respect because they also have earned to be treated that way. I can remember telling my child whenever he or she complained about our rules that they just had to wait and when they were the parents, they could make the rules. And I really think that they understood.
I think that if you make rules that make sense, common sense, even if the child doesn’t like them, you have to remember that you are the adult and parent and you have earned the right to rule! And again, I firmly believe that your child will not only understand where the rule is coming from, but they will respect you as the parent.