Children rule the household

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One thing that has commanded my attention in recent months is the drastic difference which has evolved in parenting over the course of several generations.

From my childhood to yours, down through decades of society’s leanings, one undeniable difference is the once-held notion that children are to be seen and not heard.

This is perhaps the sea change of our youngest generations.

Children’s needs

I have always been so drawn to babies and children of all ages. I love children, enjoying their honesty in observations of life.

I know that in numerous ways this is a healthy change, but in some cases, the tipping point has led to letting children drive the show, making decisions and demands they are not yet prepared to make.

One point involves adults making major decisions based on what their children want.

“We need a bigger house,” I heard one man say recently, “because the kids need their own individual spaces.”

Those children were pre-schoolers, ‘needing’ individual bedrooms and bathrooms.

I couldn’t help but laugh, recalling battling over the only bathroom shared by seven of us when I was growing up.

Sharing

Sleeping four little girls to a bed helped keep us warm in a chilly upstairs farmhouse.

The only bathroom was on the downstairs floor, so we knew not to drink after suppertime.

In the dreadful heat of summer, we sometimes slept outside on a tar-paper-covered porch, thinking we were among the luckiest people in the world to have that spot.

We had one phone.

We not only shared it with each other, we shared it with numerous neighbors on our “party line” and knew if we picked up the phone and heard someone talking, we must politely hang up as quietly as possible and wait.

And wait. And wait.

Kid’s meals

If a meal was not our favorite, we ate it anyway. We didn’t get to order from the menu of our little heart’s desire.

If it happened to be our favorite and we wanted a second helping, that had to wait until no doubt remained there was enough to go around for everyone.

I can tell you if there had been such a thing as “kid’s meals” we wouldn’t have been getting them.

On the very rare times we ate anywhere but home, it involved my dad pulling into a tiny hamburger joint, The Red Barn.

The children waiting in the car while our parents went in and ordered hamburgers, all made the very same way, for each of us.

We ate in the back seat, usually sharing one drink. The thought of saying, “I don’t like pickles” or “add an onion to mine” never once crossed our little minds.

The closest we ever came to a “kid’s meal” toy was a shared box of Cracker Jack with one tiny toy inside which we took turns laying claim to until it broke or went missing.

We didn’t get the spotlight among the adults unless you count the painful horror of a piano recital inside a church in the daytime (always on a perfectly good day to play outside) and we were to be polite about it all.

No demands

We didn’t get to make demands or ask for a new house with a better privacy set-up for our 7-year-old self.

Imagine, for just a minute, if one of us had asked to stay home from school because someone was picking on us, or we happened to not like our teacher. Homeschooling? No thank you.

Going to school, riding a crowded school bus to get there, was all part of life, whether we liked it or not.

And, perhaps because of that, we liked it.

Words we didn’t like but knew to never question, came at us when necessary.

Get used to it. Toughen up. Don’t whine. I don’t want to hear it. I will not listen to that kind of talk.

Go to your room. Go to the barn. Do your chores. No one is going to do it for you. I don’t care how much time it takes. Get to it.

You’re tired? Go to bed earlier. And the best one of all: you will do it (or not do it) because I said so.

Parents most definitely ran the show. Clearly. There was not one tiny hair of doubt on that one.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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