ON MY MIND: Saving grace

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

Well, well, I got tons of comments about last week’s column. It seems like there are lots of parents who could identify with all my wrong doings.

Sometimes the comments you give me afterwards are the best part. Here’s a couple. A very upstanding lady in the community shared that some of her worst hangovers were while she was pregnant. She said one of her kids still blames some of his on-going problems on her “behavior” while she was pregnant. Kids can be so judgmental!

Another said she used to take her kids from Greenville to Lansing, all the way down I-96 — with the kids loose in the back of a pick up. Another friend added, “We were safety conscious, though. We told them they could only do that if they sat down!”

If you read the column last week, I referred to putting No. 5 sun tan lotion on our kids. However, it said 50. My editor is the age of my children. I am pretty sure he saw No. 5 and thought I had made a mistake — so he changed it. Apparently he had never heard of No. 5 sun tan protection. Char said she used to put stuff on them “to” get tan. Baby oil worked well.

We used to spray them with bug spray that probably could have killed a horse.

When they were born, we let them go bare headed in the hospital. Who knew they needed knit hats?

When the kids were not babies anymore and you took them “loose” in the car, they’d be all over the back seat fooling around. You had to keep one hand on the wheel while swinging the other arm through the back seat area, trying to smack whomever you could reach. Some parents excelled at this. My arms were always a bit too short to do much good.

Discipline was sometimes a swat or a spanking — nothing brutal, just a little something to get the point across and help them remember not to bash their sibling with a hammer. Usually time outs were something the parents craved for themselves.

Once, on the way home from church, my brother-in-law promised his kids a “surprise” when they got home. They had been naughty during mass and it was not going to be a happy surprise. The littlest begged to get it first so he gave it to her, but good.

A big form of explaining discipline was, “Because I said so.” That seemed to suffice. At least they bought it.

As they got in to school and into group sports, they suffered losing over and over and found out early that they weren’t always going to be the winner. No parents were helicoptering in to assure them they were number one. If they didn’t win, they didn’t get an award. We were just plain cruel.

Dinners were downers. No choices — that is if you don’t count the limited choice of “take it or leave it”. Mine always took it. We had no allergies or intolerances to deal with. We fed them peanut butter early and lotsa sugar. We tossed in whole milk.

They went to school without phones. OMG.

When it was time for mine to come home from running loose playing in the neighborhood, I would ring a cow bell and they would come running for dinner.

Even though we meant well, we were insensitive. We drove our kids all over the country without videos to watch. The other day I saw my friend at the coffee shop. His kids were out in the mini van watching a movie they’d seen 57 times already. We told our kids “sit and look out the window — and don’t bother your sister, either! I’ll be back in awhile.”

We thought we were the parents of the year when we drove them clear out to Colorado seeing all the sights along the way. Of course, we had no seat belts on them. We let the little one sit right between us in the front seat. She rode that way all the way out West and all the way back home. She never could see anything out of the window because she was too little. This never entered our minds until years later — poor little girl.

We let them ride their bikes and roller skates without helmets. We were just happy to have peace and quiet when they were outside. Breaking their heads open like melons really never entered our minds.

They were sad little creatures with no computer or video games to play and no organized play dates. Oh, they played with toys and they had friends come to play, but it was pretty loosey goosey, no real organization there. We mostly had coffees with friends. If they brought kids, all the better. We had more time to talk as the kids wouldn’t bug us so much.

My baby sitter was 9 years old. I thought she was smart enough to entrust my yahoos with her. She was 11 before she spoke to me on her own. Now I am wondering if the behavior of my kids just stunned her into silence. And you know who you are, Mary Ann.

Few kids had braces. Now my grandson is wearing prebraces braces. He had to pick out the different colors he wanted them to be. Say what?

Our poor kids had to get up and turn the TV channel manually. My teenage son used to call his little sister, who was two floors up, and ask her to come down and change the channel while he laid lazily on the sofa in front of the TV. Sadly, she would do it.

Well, it seems like I could go on forever. Wait, I already have. It is hard to find an end to our bad parenting. I am thinking, though, that we did one thing right. We gave them love … and lots of it. Maybe that is what they mean by the phrase “saving grace.”

 Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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