There’s a funny thing that seems to have happened to me since becoming a parent. Admittedly, I am no longer concerned nor bothered with the status of popularity.
In my younger years social acceptance was the ‘be all, end all’ of my existence. This carried over into my young adult years, as I navigated my way through my career.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” was a mantra repeated often in my previous career. Hungry for success, I made sure to ‘know’ the right people and stay in their good graces. From a career standpoint, it paid off.
Now as the mother of a seven- and four-year-old, I have come to realize I no longer care if my opinion or discipline is the ‘popular’ choice. More often times than not, my children think I’m mean or not fair — I’m good with that. After all, I once had the exact same view/opinion of not only my mother, but several additional family members who shared a hand in my upbringing.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” was the philosophy our family embraced and I am happy to say I embrace the same said philosophy with my children.
Perhaps a few of you are familiar with a few of the ‘old school’ basics I now enjoy torturing my children with: respecting your elders, giving your seat to an adult, setting the dinner table, asking permission to be excused from the table, using the words please and thank you.
Yes, I know, I’m a drill sergeant with a lot of rules. I’m also not their (my children’s) friend.
Not one to reinvent a wheel, which has already been mastered, I freely admit to using no ‘original ideas’ in my parenting practices. This would hold true for the non-friend stance, as well.
Years ago, in my Pre-K (prior kids) years a friend shared the non-friend philosophy with me. At the time he was disciplining his then five-year-old. Not happy with the discipline he received the son left the room sulking. My friend quickly then turned to me and said, “My job is to be his parent, not his friend. In 20 years, if our relationship grows to friendship … that’s great. But for today my job is to be his dad.”
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, as the Hammond family eats breakfast before getting ready for school. I asked my son a question and he responded in a somewhat sassy tone. I will admit, this is out of character for my son so I was taken a bit aback. However, I recognize he is seven and a kid. If there is one thing I remember, it’s that when you’re a kid you ‘test.’
As he completed his sentence, with his head slightly tilted I quickly replied, “Please lose the attitude buddy. You’re speaking to your mom, not a friend.”
My son, in turn accepted my request and conversation continued in a ‘respectful’ manner. The word ‘but’ did not follow; there was no debate or question as to what I had requested. In that moment, in that tone, he knew — oops … can’t cross that line again.
I know for some this may seem a bit ‘harsh’ and I’ve heard the arguments before. “They are people with opinions, just like adults.” “They do not have to respect someone just because they are adults.” “He was just expressing his opinion in ‘his’ own way.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Well, I can honestly say … not on my watch. They are children, in need of guidance, nurturing and educating. Now, when I use the word ‘educating’ I do not just mean in the classroom. It is our (the village’s) responsibility to be modeling the behavior we expect from ‘respectful’ children. So, yes, we should also say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me’ and be respectful of others (regardless of age).
There is nothing new here. It is all really pretty basic, yet as I write these words I cannot help but wonder how many are reading it with a furrowed brow. Reading as if this is barbaric or even worse, the parents who read and think ‘my child would never.’ Want to bet?
Not only have they, but they will- again, again and again.
It’s not always easy being the ‘grown-up’ or even worse — ‘the parent.’ But … it is extremely rewarding when a friend or stranger compliments me on how well behaved my children are.
They are performers after all, my kids. They want to be invited back and they know how to behave to make that happen. When we are alone in our own four walls or in our car, well, all bets are off.
Another dear friend once said, “If it’s in the privacy of the family, that they work out their frustrations and bad behavior — that’s fine.”
Or in the words of yet another knowledgeable friend, “friends are for the playground … friends can’t tell them to pick up their room or say “please” and “thank you.”
And so sadly for my two ‘bundles of joy’ for now they will reside, not with a roommate but with a parent. Hope they like the food and accommodations.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.