‘Old-school’ parenting

‘Old-school’ parenting

By Kay Frances

“Young Mother Sewing,” by Mary Cassatt, oil, 1900

My parents had four children and they loved us. I’m just not sure they were “in love” with us. I know they felt a deep sense of responsibility in being sure they raised “good people” that would contribute to society, have a strong work ethic, be kind and respectful to others and, in general, just stay out of their hair.

My parents were not my friends. Clear lines of authority were drawn, and the household was strictly authoritarian. My sibs and I were merely 18-year guests there. This is why the most popular gift for high school graduation back in the day was luggage. The implication was clear. “Your job here is finished. GET OUT.”

The household was not a democracy. At times, they might ask our opinions, but it was just window dressing. It didn’t really count for anything because Mom and Dad could override any and all votes. We weren’t even presented with many choices. They didn’t say, “Do you want this to eat or that?” The choices were “Are you going to eat that or leave the table?” At times, there was a little wiggle room concerning food preferences. They weren’t monsters, after all. For example, I hated onions, and my mom put onions in everything. She did have the decency to put my food aside before slathering everything with the vile bulb. But that happened only after, at about the age of 8, I refused to eat and got down to around 6 pounds. (I may or may not be exaggerating.)

Backtalk, sass and acting up in public were serious violations punishable by all manner of sentences — grounding, revoking of privileges, being hung from the clothesline from our fingernails, that kind of thing. There was no “time out.” We just got time “outside” and it didn’t matter if there a blizzard, a hail storm or a tsunami going on, out we went.

Having good manners was at the top of their list. I sometimes think they could forgive anything as long as I was polite and knew how to act in public. I could just see them at my hearing for bank robbery.

“Yes, Your Honor, I realize she robbed three banks, but she said ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ You can plainly see she’s a good girl with proper upbringing.”

When my parents told me to stop doing something, it wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command and they meant stop it right now. I’ve noticed a trend with modern parents where they give their kids three counts to stop any offending behavior. It goes something like this:

“Jason, I’m going to give you THREE COUNTS to get out of that tiger’s cage. ONE … TWO … Jason, honey, he’s chewing on your face. Get out of there! TWO-AND-A-HALF … ”

Parenting is the hardest — and most important — job in the world. Perhaps kids should be raised with best of the old-school and modern ways. I think we can all agree that onions could be stricken from all kids’ diets with no lasting side effects.

Salt Magazine