A Coat of Arms
by Doug HOLLOWAY
One day while listening to a radio program, I paid real close attention to what the host was suggesting. He was telling the listeners that parents should modify their way of thinking if they wanted to be a part of their child’s life. There may be some merit in what he was saying in some extreme circumstances, but I thought this was a ridiculous thing to suggest. If you really think about it, no parent owes a child a life time of conforming to the child’s whims. The child should be the one to conform to the lifestyle of the parenting household. Parents shouldn’t have to say I’m sorry for the way their child’s life is turning or has turned out if the parent has done what they knew to be the legal, moral and plain old right thing to do.
True, there may be many mistakes, accidents, I’m sorries or whatevers walking around here. Mistakes whose parents had no dreams or aspirations for them when they were babies. How many parents raise their kids to wash windows on the street, pump gas for change, hang out at the stores and drive through windows asking for alms? Maybe these kids are the ones who give credence to the bad seed theory. On the other hand we like to tell ourselves “GOD didn’t make no garbage.” Are we as parents in this society being hypocritical about life or do the same rules apply to every child across the board? Prayer and paddling have been taken out of the school system and almost out of the household (911 child abuse). I think every parent sees a bright future for that new born baby and why not? Remember Kunta Kinte holding up his newborn in Roots, “Behold the only thing greater than thy self.”
Now ideally speaking there are three stages of child rearing:
First: LOVE…All the emotion in the world is heaped on that newborn baby because he is so beautiful. Could be the ugliest baby ever born but if he is yours he is the greatest thing since sliced bread, I mean, all that and a bag of chips! Surely this is the one who is going to be a doctor, lawyer or maybe even President of these United States, WHY NOT!!!!! So much potential. Kids cooperate to please their parents and for awhile they share in the dream too. Trying hard to be all the parents expect and being blindly obedient. Yeah, the first thing is to use LOVE and lots of it. That’s motivation enough. This is effective until about 4 or 5. This method is also bolstered by myths. At this stage the kid accepts what the parent says, for the most part, as gospel truth. He learns about the cuddly little things that help to keep him in line like the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, pixies, gnomes, birthday wishes, dreams and angels in general.
There is a transition period between 5 and 9 when the youngster is exposed to the bargaining myth, Santa Claus. You know the routine, “if you don’t be good, Santa aint gone brang you nothing.” About a week or so before Christmas the most hellacious child becomes an angelic. It is also during this period that kids have their first serious exposure to the evils of the boogie man, the devil, and other creatures from the dark side. On the other hand there is also the exposure to the joys and graciousness of an ever forgiving GOD whose existence must be accepted as fact because children of GOD must walk by faith and not by sight.
Second: FEAR…This is the great motivator. Fear of the parents anger, disappointment, or the paddle, switch, belt, extension cord, razor strap, or other material object that seems to get a child’s attention immediately. Ex: You can ASK a kid to stop jumping in the bed once maybe twice, then TELL a kid to stop jumping in the bed once maybe twice, but when you get angry, start yelling and threatening violence … the jumping in the bed ceases immediately. Why didn’t they stop when they were asked nicely and politely, hmmmmm????
Third: RESPECT…At about 16 or 17, we start to try to treat our kids with SOME degree of respect. Its not they have gotten so big by now that they dwarf us as parents (smile) but we try to give them credit for having some common sense and basic intelligence. After all they have been exposed to us for 16 or 17 years, surely they know what will and wont work by now. Certainly the smart kid knows how to get what he wants out of his parents by now. Hasn’t “HOME TRAINING” taught them whats right and wrong. So we try to give them credit for having the basic instincts of survival, inspite of what their smart, know it all friends have told them. I mean when you think about it, what can a normal teenager teach another normal teenager? They both have had pretty much the same experiences and have attained the same amount of knowledge right?, right! Perhaps it is the assertion of dominance or the pack mentality. Someone has to boldly step up and accept the role of pack leader in all societies. I assume everyone else is doomed to follow until they gain the confidence necessary to challenge for a role of dominance. This is a lot like our political system if you think about it.
In our democratic society everyone has a chance, supposedly, to attain their highest aspirations, a chance to make their dreams become realities and a chance to be all that they can be. This may be ideally speaking and this may be the idealistic dream that Martin referred to in his “Mountain Top” oration, the possibilities are endless. At a certain point, kids have a responsibility to themselves to be responsible for themselves. They must realize that as they go through life it is not just their lives that they carry. They carry the banner of generations of previous family members. Some societies call it a “COAT OF ARMS.” Perhaps that’s what it is, a “COAT OF ARMS.”
To be continued………