the “torture” that became valuable…
Growing up as the eldest of four children at times felt like pure torture in my childhood home with a splash of hot sauce to boot.. I tease my parents now, that they “experimented” on parenting with me and one of them must have been a doozy as a child because I was no walk- in- the- park to raise, let me tell you… I was born curious and not afraid to check something out to satisfy said curiosity. Not different from many children you say? True.. I however, would keep going back to whatever it was that held my curiosity, no matter how much I got in trouble, until it ( curiosity) was duly satisfied.. drove my mother nuts and earned my father’s silent admiration for tenacity unlike anything he had ever seen.
To give you an idea of just how tenacious I was, when I met one of my younger cousins a few years back who was a newbie at the University of Pennsylvania, I took my boys and sat in a restaurant so we could all get to know each other. She was so silent, I finally noticed and she blurted, ” I am sorry but the stories about you as a child are legendary!! I am looking at you in awe and wondering how you survived Auntie!” My boys perked right up and began asking for details of said stories and I shut them all down with ” Do not believe everything you hear as I am certain they were mostly fabricated!”
Suffice it to say, I thought my parents had way too many rules and that we were the only children on our beautiful block that had to be home before they ( parents) pulled into the driveway like clock-work at 5:30. We watched our cousins, green with envy that they had way more latitude than we ever could. While they were allowed to attend parties, we were allowed to attend one and had to be home by 10 p.m. I know… what was the point of going right? We knew better than to question our father, who became the strict one as we got older.
Here are some of the rules we had as children:
- Speak when spoken to with manners.. ( there was NO getting around this rule at all) to this day, I address an adult formally until given permission to do otherwise.
- Do not slouch when standing or sitting
- Eat with our mouth closed and chew carefully. Know the proper way to handle eating utensils.
- Ladies walked with their backs erect and with decorum. Planting your feet just anywhere was a sin worse than death.
- clothing must be “classy” not “trashy” and fit our body types. We learned early what types of clothing did not flatter us thereby avoiding them.
- Ladies were not to be caught raising their voices ever. This one was tough for me…
- Reading was a necessity like breathing.
- Teeth were to be brushed morning and evening with regularity
- If anyone caught us doing ANYTHING we had no business doing… well, we just had to pray for mercy. This was easy for my sisters to follow from watching my near brushes with ‘going to heaven’ after having to deal with my mother for one infraction or another.
As we looked back on what we considered unnecessary torture back then, it has been invaluable to us as adults and landed us in places and positions that would otherwise escape our grasp. When my parents realized that I was just going to be tenacious, they taught me how to use it to my advantage instead of peril. In retrospect, we had idyllic childhoods; while my sisters stayed home and did what they were told, I was climbing mountains with my friends, going to the beach, riding bicycles, hanging at my friends homes but being certain to get back with enough time to spare before that car came down the street. I got caught once or twice but it was worth it.
I did have enough sense to not do anything egregious that would bring shame to my family but like most teenagers, I found ways to buck the system they had in place. As a parent now of two children, I recognize they will try things but they too are left with this sage advice; ” You get yourself in trouble, tell the authorities it is easier for them to keep you than to call me because it will not be pretty” It has worked so far and each time they prove to be responsible, I gave them some more room to grow.
Now that my sons are 17 and 21 respectively, I can call my parents and thank them for not only raising my siblings and I responsibly, but giving us the tools to be responsible, loving parents ourselves.. I have done many things thus far in my life, yet none of it comes close to being a parent and when you feel like all is lost on the days when your children are trying every bone in your body, remind yourself that one day, they will have children and the roles will be reversed in your favour…
My siblings and I have a mandate from our father to email him and mommy each Saturday morning, our “weekly report” which includes our children and mates. At first we found it tedious and gave three sentences, but as the months flew by, we have found it a great way to slow down and really catch up with our lives since some of us live in different countries. The hilarity that flies back and forth has left us totally appreciating each other and reminds us once more that we are fortunate to have such a bond. Our parents quietly struck again….