Today’s topic makes me say just one word: Wow. The concept of disrespecting parents is one hundred percent completely foreign to me. I can’t conceive of such a thing, and that was done purposefully, by the way. I can’t think about it because my parents did not tolerate it, not that some of us, who shall remain nameless, didn’t push and prod and try desperately to disrespect them. Perhaps I can’t even think of it because I watched on as my older brothers railed against that authority with almost as much success as Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill. Eventually, I knew at least, that rock was going to hit them smack dab in the face, and they’d be right back where they started.
I’m, however, one of the youngest of the generation of baby boomers. Granted, I’m twenty or sometimes thirty years younger than that named age-group, I still, technically, fall into that category. My father was one of the youngest WWII veterans around, having gone in before he was eighteen, a boy fresh off the farm who came back to Iowa, a man in every sense. He’d seen the world and didn’t like it. He’d seen things we could never comprehend and certainly didn’t want to ponder. He had taken a long, long time before he decided to have a family and when he did, the very last thing on his list to do was to have children disrespect or even think of disobeying him.
He was harsh on his sons, much harsher than he was on me, and our mother stood by and let that happen out of deference to him. He was cruel and demanding and sometimes abusive, but he did it out of love. He wanted his children to respect, first and foremost, authority and he was that person of position in our lives. He never let you forget it. I escaped the harshest of his tirades and I know it. I do think he crossed “the line” at times, but there’s no going back now, is there? Times were different then, and people were left alone to raise their children as they saw fit. The same wouldn’t happen today. I think he’d get arrested today.
From time to time my husband and I (who do not have children) will note, in a public place, children misbehaving and obviously disrespecting their parents. For us, who grew up in very similar families, it always causes us to raise an eyebrow. In my case, it was well understood that if you misbehaved in a restaurant or any public place, we would be very quietly and calmly told, in no uncertain terms, that if our behavior didn’t improve immediately, we would be removed to the car where we would sit there by ourselves and would go hungry until we apologized. It only took one instance of one of us screaming our way out to the car to know that they meant it. We were good little soldiers and we respected them, out of fear, if nothing else.
I don’t know whether their methods were right or wrong. Corporal punishment seems to be a thing of the past. Perhaps it made me bitter, repugnant with a tendency towards anger and violence, but I don’t see the world now as such a great and vast improvement over those times and children any better behaved now. It seems, that, if anything, things have gotten worse. Maybe there was a method to their madness.