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Sunday, July 25, 2010

They Have to be Civilized


A friend of mine used to say, when our kids were small, they are just like animals,
they have to be civilized. Well, to at least some extent, that’s true. I’ve worked with children most of my life, starting in high school, helping to teach music and voice to younger students. I majored in Education and have a minor in Child Psychology. I also raised two children.

 I taught school until I had children of my own. I used to tell my husband that we were so lucky to have great children --- but he said luck had nothing to do with it. We decided early on that we would just have to get by on less income so that I could be home with our children instead of going away from home to work. We never regretted that plan.

Kids have to be taught your values or they will pick up heaven knows what, even fairly simple things. One couple I knew were not too pleased that their children called them by their first names. When I asked about it, they said they guessed the kids just picked it up from hearing other adults refer to them by their first names. Well, duh! How hard is it to say, my name is mother, mom, whatever. You have to teach the children what to call you.  Kids are just like sponges, they absorb everything they hear and they will spout it back at the worst possible time.

My grands know, just as my children were taught, that they can’t use bad language even when they hear adults use it. Not long ago, I used a tacky slang word in front of my granddaughter’s boyfriend.  By way of apology, I said, when you are over 75, you can use that word. He did not smile but said his grandmother was 85 and he’d never heard her utter a slang word. Oh Dear, all I could think was, I’ll bet she is constipated and wears a girdle under her swim suit too! More importantly, she should have spent a little more time talking to him about being polite to his elders! I am glad Alesia is not dating him any more.

Before I had teens, I dreaded having to deal with them but I was so wrong. When my kids got to those ages, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed them and their friends. They are perhaps the most vulnerable of the age groups. They are easily hurt because they are the least protected, constantly exposed to danger or attack. They are often alone, unable to express their fears, trying to become adults. I am just now understanding that I had fewer worries with my daughter during those years because her older brother was in the background. I’d give anything if my granddaughter had a big brother hovering in full sight.

Of course the big brother thing can be over done. At various times while I was growing up, I had anywhere from one or two big brothers plus assorted cousins lurking around. My oldest brother married when I had just turned 15. His was the first wedding I sang in. I often ran into him and his wife when we were all out and about ,in Atlanta. I could always tell when he was in the same theatre by his laugh. My other brother is closer in age so we did lots of running around together, growing up. Most often, we were in a group or double dating. I sang in his wedding too but I was in college by then.
We were always taught to look out for each other from the time when we were small, and we did. Being the youngest and smallest, there was not a lot I could do to help. For a time, when all three of us were on the same school campus, it was nice to know where to run for help. Back then, everyone had recess at the same time. My sweet, mild mannered  brother Don used to routinely  get into rolling on the ground ,vicious fights. When I heard the words, fight, fight, I knew exactly who was in a fight. I was in the first or second grade. So I would take off running to find the next big brother to come help, and he did. Later, I was told, “You will NOT mention this at home.” I never did and doubt my parents knew about those fights though I doubt it would have bothered them much.

Although I believe children are little animals and MUST be civilized by parents, there are times when a fight is unavoidable.

There really are good reasons to fight, on occasion, and there are all kinds of ways of fighting. Children should be taught this too. The history of this country is built on patriots willing to fight for their beliefs of freedom. My parents talked about our country’s history and Tony and I talked to our children. Now, we talk to Dee’s children because we want then to understand that “freedom is not free” as the saying goes. If you want your children to know certain facts, teach them yourself. Don’t wait for the school to do what you can do in a relaxed setting with maybe a trip or two thrown in.

We talk to the children about elections, current events, our views on issues – all sorts of things. They may grow up to have different opinions, but they need to know how we feel.

When I was teaching, P.T.A. meetings were required of all the teachers. At one meeting, a local preacher stood up and announced that his children had terrible table manners. Obviously their teachers were not doing their job and he wanted to complain. I managed, barely, to keep my mouth shut until one of the older teachers set him straight.

It is not the school’s job to give children manners, or values. It’s a parent’s job. Children are like animals, they have to be civilized.