When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed and pray that the weatherman was right, that tomorrow would be a snow day. I wouldn’t just hope for snow, I was looking for an all out assault where Mother Nature unleashed all her fury, transferring Pleasant Hills into a winter wonderland. Because when I was a kid, unless the roads were impassable, WE WENT TO SCHOOL. My kids just had school canceled for TOMORROW, before a single flake has fallen!
When I was a kid, we walked to school. (Well, I did take the bus in elementary school despite living on the same street as the school) But in Jr. High, we walked the 2 miles every day, rain or snow. “Mom, it’s pouring out, can you drive us?” “No, here’s an umbrella.” Today, I watch 100 cars pack into a 25 car lot lest Little Johnny gets some exercise.
When I was a kid we got homework, lots of it, and we didn’t have wheels on our backpacks, and despite our cries that all those books were giving us scoliosis, they really weren’t. Did I mention we walked 2 miles back and forth with all those books? These days, the kids that don’t get picked up at school have wheels on their backpacks, WHEELS, but not too much homework, because kids are very busy these days.
When I was a kid, WE KEPT SCORE, because in real life, everyone doesn’t win. Competition was encouraged, not frowned upon, because it built character and taught us lessons. I have a scar between my lip and nose from a game of mat ball (indoor kickball) because I overshot third base and dove headfirst into the stage, splitting my upper lip straight through and causing an instant contusion on my head the size of a grapefruit. I didn’t cry, I got up and got back in line to wait for my next turn until the gym teacher, who was now white as a ghost, told me that we should probably go see the nurse. My parent’s didn’t sue the school because there should have been pads on the stage, they understood that accidents happen. My kids’ organized sports are “for fun”. Everyone wins, despite ALL the kids knowing exactly what the score is. And their gym class? Where do I begin? Last week William touched a piece of fabric in the basement and said, “Hey dad, this feels just like the scarves we juggle in gym class.” “What, you juggle silk scarves in gym? What else do you do?” “We stack cups!” So apparently these days, juggling scarves and speed stacking cups passes for physical education.
When I was a kid, there were consequences to our actions. I knew that if I acted up in church, I’d get taken out to the car. I found out the hard way that if I put wads of masking tape in my sisters hair, I was going to loose some hair myself. When we were in the car, all my dad had to do was adjust the rearview mirror in my direction so he could shoot me the look and I knew I was getting close, it still scares me! We also had to sit in the corner and face the wall. The modern version is the Time Out. That doesn’t even seem remotely like punishment, more like a quick break to collect yourself. Worse yet is the empty threat. Kids are smart, if you’re going to make a threat, be prepared to follow through because the first time you don’t, they own you. The empty threat is usually coupled with the “talk”. Come here buddy, we need to talk. Talk about what? I never had a talk, I got the “the look” and the “the car”. Needless to say, the look usually worked and trips to the car were few and far between.
When I was a kid, my parents tried to be my parents and not my buddy. I never questioned that they were the authority figure. Sure I thought I knew better than them, or thought that they were irrational, but I always respected them because they were my parents. They weren’t worried about sparing my feelings because we were “buddies”, or that I might hate them some day, they were trying their best to ensure I would be a productive member of society someday. Today kids can do know wrong even in the face of indisputable evidence. It’s somebody else’s fault, or, “That’s just how kids are.”
When I was a kid I had great parents! I’m thankful that they made me walk to school in the pouring rain with 40 pounds of book, that they held me accountable when I did something stupid, that they didn’t baby me, or make excuses for me. I’m thankful now that I have kids of my own who think they know better than their irrational dad that I have a blueprint to follow to create four good men out of four little boys.