Cell phones, laptops, the Internet, play dates, prescription drugs, gangs, high-stakes texting, Facebook.
I often wonder if raising a child today is easier or more difficult than when I was growing up in small towns in the 1960s.
For instance, back then, if mom or dad told you to do something, you did it “or else.”
You cleaned up your room, “or else.” You piped down “or else.” You stopped teasing the cat “or else.”
Discipline was meted out quickly; lawyers never got involved. The rules were simple and clear:
“Speak when you are spoken to.”
“Never put anything smaller than a football in your ear.”
“Don’t throw rocks at anybody.”
There was no need for curfews. Not much crime in Superior, Wis., at least by today’s standards.
Instructions to the neighborhood kids were simple: “You must come in when the streetlights go on.”
That rule wore thin, but my brother and I obeyed it. However, I took some liberties with the rule about rocks. I tried hurling them at streetlights but never seemed to be able to hit any.
We had the run of the neighborhood, keeping a safe distance from the dilapidated house where the old witch lived, exploring the nearby college campus, and yelling like Tarzan for hours.
Mom also issued stern warnings – or propaganda:
“Don’t go outside without your mittens; you’ll catch pneumonia.”
“Don’t tease your brother; you’ll catch pneumonia.”
“Don’t touch the radiator; you’ll catch pneumonia.”
These days, I don’t think warning about pneumonia would be considered standard parental practice to modify a child’s behavior, but it seemed to work on the Germond boys. I never caught pneumonia – just the German measles, mumps, chicken pox and cooties.
I suspect that parents have greater challenges in the electronics age, such as making sure their children aren’t umbilically tied to their cell phones, especially when they are supposed to be studying.
“Turn that phone off; you’ll flunk the FCAT.”
“Get off the Internet; you’ll flunk the FCAT.”
“Don’t stay out late; you’ll flunk the FCAT.”
“Don’t drink coffee; you’ll flunk the FCAT.”
“Don’t get a tattoo; you’ll flunk the FCAT.”
I didn’t have modern accessories, such as cell phones, Kindles, backpacks and laptops, to take to school when I was a kid. That was probably good because I excelled at losing things that I had to carry, such as my report cards. However, I was adept at hanging on to valuable trinkets that lived in my pockets. One of those was a rabbit’s foot, which was supposed to ward off spells and illnesses, such as pneumonia. I guess it did the trick.
I lost interest in rabbits’ feet about the time the Beatles came along. Dad, in particular, didn’t have much use for the Fab Four.
“Turn down that #$% music, or else!”
I did, but I did not go quietly into my teenage years despite my parents’ best attempts to persuade me to accept their advice.
“You need a haircut.”
“George, Paul, John and Ringo have long hair, and look how much money they’re making.”
Dad tried his hand at child psychology.
“What about your hero, Johnny Unitas? He has a crewcut, and he’s famous.”
Dad had a point, but Johnny U. was getting old and teenage girls preferred the Beatles. The rites of puberty took charge of my thought process. We compromised: No crewcut, but hair could grow over my ears.
Despite my rebellious tendencies, I made it through college on the seven-year plan. Not sure how I would perform under today’s changing and rigorous requirements to enter college. Texting wasn’t my forte.
I’d hate to take the FCAT, especially without a rabbit’s foot.