a passage from my Memoirs ....if I , in fact, had Memoirs
As I get older I see the past more clearly. Throughout grade school and into my teen years I enjoyed a self centered life style. I listened to the music I chose, hung out with a hand picked group of friends, I watched the movies I selected and so on. Most of my young life I made the majority of my everyday decisions. Sure my parents decided what was for supper most days and the education system planned the majority of my weekdays. But still I controlled my social life and my free time.
In my house there was not set chores. My Mother kept an immaculate house. She collected primitive antiques that were strategically placed throughout our home. She was a work-from-home Mom and enjoyed decorating. I guess she enjoyed cleaning too. Aside from cleaning the small half bath that I used I cannot recall ever cleaning any other part of the house. Occasionally I would tidy my bedroom and I may have vacuumed my room annually, but seriously that was it. If the wood box was empty you would be asked to fill it. When the eggs needed to be collected you were told to collect them. I honestly cannot recall having any set chores or real responsibilities as a child and teen.
My biggest dilemma was deciding what to do with my time. I did not have any real hobbies or interest that consumed my free time. Exposure to hobbies and interest was minimal in the late seventies and early eighties. Basically I saw my Mother; work her flower garden, create craft gifts and decorations, bake and preserve food, play cards and endlessly rearrange all the furnishings in our home. My Mother’s list is now part of my adult life. Although as a young girl I did not find any of her hobbies remotely interesting. Instead I would play by myself or occasionally with my neighbor. As a pre-teen I spent countless hours listening to music and reading. Television viewing was limited to three channels, two of which were very fuzzy. Outdoor time was also kept to a minimum for no other reason than nobody in my family spent a lot of time outdoors.
While I found many play activities engaging I never experienced any real fun until I discovered boys. My first encounter was Michael Jackson- yes, the singer, songwriter, dancer Michael Jackson. I listened to his music and longed for the feelings he expressed in his music. I never missed an episode of The Dukes of Hazard and imagined Bo Duke was my boyfriend and I could almost feel the exhilaration of my imaginary relationship. As a 11-13 year-old my character was in a peak stage for formation and I was filling it with Michael Jackson and Bo Duke. My body was changing and I was aware that boys looked at me with interest.
Remember all the free time, well as a tween a majority of my free time is “alone” free time. I didn’t need a sitter which I very seldom ever had and I was now old enough to stay home alone. Can you see a problem brewing here?
If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times! Send your 0-10 year-olds to a sitter and live it up, or work and squirrel away the money, BUT once your child hits age 11 and through age 18 STAY HOME and STAY AWARE! This is when your child needs you the most.
My Mother was home and I was a really good quiet kid who had a lot of free time. So when I was old enough my parents gave me all kinds of freedom. The problem is that I had accidentally subliminally altered my character through music and TV. Not just Michael Jackson and Bo Duke my music collection expanded and my tape deck ran non-stop. TV shows that I watched included Dallas and Falcon Crest. What I was putting in my head mutated into something very unhealthy. I had no real responsibilities at home therefore I felt I could do whatever I wanted. I had nothing to lose. Why not? I always did what I wanted and nothing ever happened. So off I went to junior high and met up with a new group of friends and well, continued to do as I please. And if there was a boy involved that made it all the more exciting…no matter who the boy was. I had the power! Well my grades were bad, really bad. I failed seventh grade and went to summer school and guess what? I met another boy, older, nicer, even cute! Summer school wasn’t a punishment, it was an opportunity.
Through all this my parents didn’t have a clue what was going on. Lying was easy because I had been so good that they believed everything I said, they never checked my stories. I literally had no conscience. I couldn’t see how anything I was doing could possibly hurt anyone else. I was having fun, how could anything go wrong. I also had no morals, values or an iota of good character. I basically turned into an actress in order to do what I wanted to do.
Fast forward 25 years. I now understand clearly what happened to me. It wasn’t my parents fault and it wasn’t my fault. Times were changing quickly when I was growing up. The home computer was being introduced, information was being shared more efficiently than ever before and music and TV was beginning it’s search for shock value. Morals, values and respectable character were on their way out. Society was teetering on the edge of right and wrong, pushing all the limits like never before.
My parents didn’t have a chance, they couldn’t see it coming. The impending doom of a need it now, will do anything for it world. What we call in instant society today. I see it and I hope you do to. I have been a parent for 22 years now, with my first child born when I was a teen. As a parent of 11-18 year-olds we need to stay on top of everything. Music, for example, leaves a strong impression on children and teens. In our house we listen to mostly classical music, we always have so it doesn’t seem weird to the kids. Whether we are in the car or the house radio we keep it fairly consistent. The two youngest boys (6 and 10) both play the violin and the older son also plays piano. Occasionally we put on some Johnny Cash or similar artists and we discuss the stories that were put to song. We talk about what we like about the sounds and how they make us feel. We stress the importance of what sounds we put into our heads and how those sounds can change how we feel if we let them. We remind them that ultimately they are in control of their feelings and their actions. I was exposed to music on the school bus and by my school friends. We home-school so we have eliminated most of the outside factors of impressionable music. Our ten year-old has asked for an MP3 player and we have casually declined stating the ear buds are not good for his still developing ear drums. Fact or not it will buy us some time. When the time comes we will listen to the music before they buy it and brings it into our home. We have laid a firm foundation pertaining to music so they clearly know what is acceptable and what is not.
Television has been fairly easy for us as we choose not to have cable or a TV that gets any channels. We can watch movies which we enjoy doing every other month or so. We go to a neighbor to watch the Super Bowl and every year my husband and I are more shocked than the year before when we see the commercials. Go Daddy seems to at the top of the list for innuendo and promiscuity. The amount of ads that contain violence or pure lack of moral judgment and restraint are plentiful. This past year I cannot recall one decent ad. I secretly wish my neighbor would mute the TV during the commercials, or better yet turn the thing off! But then I would have nothing to offer during all the Super Bowl ad conversations that seem to linger on for weeks.
One hobby or interest we share as a family is reading. Our family reads, reads, reads. Books that my ten year-old reads I read and sometimes my mother-in-law will also read. We all have at least one book going at any given time. Books create easy discussions and lend themselves to healthy debates about morals and values as well as practicing restraint. However books also require some necessary preview before children of certain ages read them. I’ll admit I have never banned a book, but there have been some that made me uneasy. My daughter read romance novels in a day when she was 13. Adult romance novels……but we talked about them and I made it clear that the books were fiction, written for entertainment and not to be taken seriously. She still reads adult romance novels, sometimes a book a day, she is almost 23, been married for two years and is expecting her first baby this summer. In addition to reading our family hobbies include; snowmobiling, hiking, crafting, entertaining, drawing, skiing, bike riding, camping and farming. Most of which we do together as a family when our daily chores are done. Get some hobbies and get with your kids! You can be the major influence in your child's formation....not TV, not music, not society YOU!