Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Small Stuff

I consider Jessie to be a close friend of mine and someone with whom I share a kindred spirit. Jessie and I went through the Police Academy together, we endured Field Training together and we now have the fortune of patrolling neighboring zones within our city. Between the shooting, rape and numerous fights-in-progress calls that we backed each other up on last night, we had the opportunity to discuss some really important issues in our society. Jessie, while he is still very much a young man, has an unusual amount of maturity and an uncanny sense of level-headedness that far surpasses those within his age group. Last night, while he and I were parked "window-to-window" we pondered our society's undoing. I shared with him what I believe to be a major contributing factor. I told Jessie that a fundamental truth that my eight years as a husband, and six years as a father have taught me is that as a husband, don't even think about sweating the small stuff (actual incidents...(A) "Yea, I hit her. She wore my shoes the wrong way, so I punched her." (B) "I said no lettuce. What did I get? Lettuce. She doesn't want to listen to me, so I helped her listen.). As a father however, there is no such thing as small stuff. Every word and every action of my children are crucial to their development. He and I see it almost everyday and it sickens me.

He and I have both been on calls for service where parents are completely and totally at wits end as a result of the actions of their children. It's truly sad because I know, and what I have tried to show Jessie, is that there is a certain point where these kids are gone; the opportunity and privilege of forming and training their precious personalities and lives is lost. Their parents have travelled so far down the slope of parental remission, laziness and selfishness that the only person who can change these children now is the children themselves. In the beginning it was a tantrum at bedtime in defiance that was catered to. "No" was heard by the child as "keep on asking". Later as their poor souls regressed and as the battle continued, these young children stood their ground as seasoned generals while their Dads and Moms retreated; their patience, wits and bodies wracked by the wounds of the workday. Lessons of respect for authority and for adults have been abandoned. "Ma'am" and "Sir" have become archaic jargon lost somewhere-post baby boom.

Let me tell ya' folks, when I was coming up, my sisters and I feared my Dad. Granted, Mom was bad, but only because when you wronged her, you wronged Dad too. My school teacher's pen was the devil's instrument...not because she wielded it, but rather because my Father would eventually read it's damning words. Get in trouble in school or at a friend's house meant you were guaranteed double jeopardy when you got home. I remember whispering in my buddies' ear as they answered my Father's questions; "Say yes sir", because I had been taught from toddlerhood that was the only proper way to answered my Dad. At the time, did I understand the bigger picture that he was teaching me concerning respect for authority? Not hardly. Do my daughter's understand it now? Not hardly. But you know what, just as I understand it now, one day they will too. There is no such thing as small stuff when it comes to my girls. I love them unconditionally, and I make it a point to ensure that they know this. But I also love them enough to teach them right and wrong. As Gov. Mitt Romney stated, ”...there's no work more important than what goes on within the four walls of the American home." My home is no exception.

1 comment:

Barb said...

I was also raised with 'toe the line' kinds of guidance from my parents. I knew, for instance, that I would in fact be killed if I was disrespectful to my parents in private, much less in public! And it was Mom who ruled the daily activities, and she never said "Wait till your father gets home." ... she just paddled us when we needed it. We respected Dad, too ... but Mom was the punisher, because she was with us more. She was good at training dogs, too :-)

It's all about learning respect - for your parents, your family, your community, and ultimately for yourself. I don't envy you the task of raising youngsters in the 'me me me' surroundings of today. Then again, I'm pretty sure you are well up to the task!