Saturday, November 12, 2022


I can't get over that parents threaten to hit their children for an infraction as minor as "sassing." (See post below.) But apparently they do, or at least did.

Not my mother. She grew up the daughter of two alcoholics and she and my uncle were abused physically by their father and verbally by their mother.* Consequently she strove to create a home where harmony ruled. I seldom heard her raise her voice in anger. And no one ever, EVER even mentioned spankings. I was often sent to my room, and my mother joked as recently as the 1990s that she thought I was probably still grounded "for something or another." But strike me? Dear Lord, no.

She used to tell us all the time -- my young friends as well as her own daughters -- that she wanted our home to be a place where "kids could be kids." We were welcome to express ourselves and play freely. She enjoyed us.

I learned from my mom that might does not make right. I was polite to my elders because if I wasn't, it would embarrass my mother or hurt her feelings. NOT because I was afraid she would hit me. My mother would never, ever hit me.

The results of her permissive approach? I graduated from high school a virgin because she asked me to be careful about sex. I never smoked a cigarette or tried drugs because she warned me not to. I trusted my mother's judgement, I never feared her.

She was not perfect. No mother is. To avoid arguments with my father she would be incredibly passive-aggressive, and theirs was not a relationship I wanted to emulate. She truly never understood why I didn't want a life like hers. She thought that because my dad didn't drink or hit her or us, ours was a happy home. That's setting the bar awfully low, isn't it? She believed my life and career choices were a rejection of her own and you know what? They were.

It was the example she set as a wife, and her acceptance of the role she relegated to, that I rejected. It had nothing to do with how she disciplined me or my sisters. In that regard, she was a wonderful role model.

I like to think that if I'd had a child, I would have instilled the same sense of fairness my mom gave me. You share your toys with your friends because it makes them feel welcome at your house. You have good manners at the table because it makes the meal more pleasant for everyone. Etc., etc. She always explained the "why." It made a lot more sense to me than, "Do that again and I'll hit you" ever could.

*My mother would always dismiss her own mother's sharp tongue with "she doesn't mean it" or "it's not so bad," but my grandmother hurt my uncle desperately.