Regarding Children: No Time Off, Parents

By  Audrey Ward  February, 2023

A reception in the home of a local election winner provided a delightful opportunity to review the winner’s parenting habits. You just never know how your capacity to parent will be put on display, but in your own habitat, I promise you there’s no escape.


The winner’s three sons between the ages of 14 and 22 snapped easily into action when the first guests appeared through the door. The youngest offered libations and the other two made sure their older guests were settled comfortably and had their preferred drink as well as a plate of nibbles close at hand.


Then, much to the pleasure of the guests they had just settled, the boys sat down and talked with them.


Shocking behavior, really, not only to care for their elders but then show genuine interest in what they had to say. A girlfriend of the one of the boys did the same, chatting merrily about the places she’s lived, the books she’s especially appreciating in her studies; asking questions of the guest at hand.


None of the above, I assure you, happens by accident. This is attention-given that’s born of careful, lifelong training by parents that not only tell but show their offspring how to tend the needs of others seamlessly with a built-in notion of being comfortable in one’s self while doing it.


That “notion” reports that this is normal. The care we are giving and taking is a privilege and it’s enjoyable, too. This, is how one lives well.


We’ve all seen the opposite of such behavior. Slouching teens with a surly “do I have to…” and slamming doors. Doing a chore or two for their parents when guests are around, but doing it with attitude. Arguing with and without words.


So many of us take it with a shrug, as if it’s perfectly acceptable to have our children act like this. After all, it’s just a developmental stage, see, and there’s little that can be done. 


True, by the time young ones have reached puberty, parents may have lost the opportunity to bend the twig toward manners. Convince them it’s to their advantage.


But it is. To their advantage. 


I overheard a teacher tell a junior in high school that while he may be struggling to find his vocation, not to worry. “You’ll always have a job because people like to have you around.”


And yet I do realize that our collective socialization has taken a hit during pandemic. Teachers from kindergarten through college outline the ways their students have slid backward in social skills; the ability to get along amicably with others.


While I was in New York recently, a friend described how his eighth grade son who attends a charter school was subject to fights breaking out in the hallway, something that had never happened before the shutdown. He concluded that the school officials were blindsided by the wild side of pandemic. 


A literal dehumanizing took place during that period that is hard to reckon with as we struggle to make sense of where we are. This is especially so for parents of young ones.


Home health does help, though. You see that, don’t you? No matter what stage of development your young ones may be in, when in their home they naturally practice the values their mother and father trust, all will be well.


On superbowl Sunday I watched the game with the grandmother of the three boys I described above. In the middle of the action, she called one of her college-aged grandsons to ask about the team for which he was rooting. He picked up and merrily carried on a brief conversation throwing in details of his day. 


Interrupting a game by taking a call from your Grandma? Impressive. I told you their mother’s a winner. She’s a winner when it comes to parenting, too, and so is their father.