With Respect

As a kid, if I opened my mouth to an adult, I’d get a smack in the spot the words came out of. If that were to happen in today’s world, I’d be visiting the person who did it- even a parent- as they sat behind prison bars. Nowadays, when a kid says something adult-like, the parent smiles and says how cute and smart they are. Recently, while visiting at a friend’s house, his three year old daughter said to me, “you’re fat.” (ed. note: I’m not and I’m not rail thin. Like everyone else, I’m somewhere in the middle) Her father looked at her and said, “is that nice?” She replied, “I’m just kidding!” This from a three year old!

About a year ago or so, I was visiting at a friends’ house who has two little children. At the time, the girl was two years old, the boy four. The boy was being very annoying and trying to disrupt his mother every time she was talking to me. Finally, the boy hit his mother, so she retaliated and he started bawling like crazy. She felt bad about it, apologized but said he had it coming. I had not seen this type of action take place in years. On the one hand,I was glad, but on the other hand, I was sad- not because the kid was crying but because he refused to back off and that it had to come to a resolution. I realized that we were dealing with a four year old but sometimes the rule of law needs to be applied. I can also assure you that the boy harbors no ill will toward his mother and has probably forgotten the incident.

More recently, I was visiting the same family and had spent a significant time playing with the now four year old girl. When it was time to leave, the girl followed me to the outer hallway and was telling me not to go. I finally told her that I was tired and had to go. She then said, “but you can sleep on the couch here.” I reminded her that I really had to go and then she said to me, “I was just kidding. You know- make believe.” I guess I’m gullible when it comes to little kids.

We baby boomers were raised by parents who read books by Dr. Spock on how to handle kids. We, were the beneficiaries of spoiled treatment. The excuse given by psychologists was that we were the children of those who had suffered from a lack of things during the Great Depression. Those born in the 1920’s and 30’s didn’t want their kids to be denied what they didn’t get a chance to have. Dr. Spock came along at the right time as he made parents feel good about their over indulgence.

Years later, by 1970, Dr. Spock was accused by staunchly loyal Americans for fomenting the permissive counter-culture lifestyle taken on by the youth. They felt he had encouraged parents to be too free with their kids. I know my mother read Spock but I can assure you she and Dad did not spoil the four oldest kids because they were not in a financial position to do so. Any creature comforts we had was for the family as a whole when the budget could accommodate it.

Dr. Spock shot back at his critics and said not to blame the messenger. His intention was merely to help educate parents into not treating all kids the same but to recognize that everyone had their own personality. He never meant to advise parents that it was okay for their children to run roughshod over them.

I have to agree with Dr. Spock. I saw kids in my high school class who were spoiled rotten with fancy clothes, a car when they got their drivers license at sixteen and made sure that they would be able to go to whatever college they decided on. The rest of us made do with our lot and didn’t complain. We still went home to air-conditioned homes and phones in several rooms in the house. We went to college, even if it was not a fancy overnight campus. We made side money and bought our own clothes.

I don’t care if little kids make fun of me- at least they are talking to me.

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