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In Praise of my Unenlightened Mother By: Tom Purcell
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 08, 2009


My mother would have brained us had we acted like the runts at the coffee shop.

My mother entered the world 72 years ago, the oldest of six. My mother and her three sisters not only shared one bedroom, they shared one bed – she learned lots about sharing and humility.

In the late 1950s, when she graduated from high school, there was no money for college or business school. My mother got a job in a bank. She became engaged to my father and awaited his return from the military.

They married when she was only 19. They had their first daughter, Kathleen, within the year -- they’d have five more children by 1972 -- and she was thrust head first into the adult world. She took on her child-rearing responsibilities with great passion and love.

In the late ‘50s and throughout the ‘60s, most mothers weren’t yet influenced by new-age parenting techniques -- ideas that had still been incubating on college campuses. They didn’t know they were supposed to place their child’s self-esteem and ego above all things.

And so they raised their kids with the same common-sense parenting techniques that had been used by moms for centuries.

In our home, my mother established a very clear order. She was the adult and she was in charge. Why? Because she said so, that’s why.

My parents were not our best friends. We were not there to make them feel good about themselves. They lived in the adult world and we lived in the children’s world and there was no blurring of the lines.

When we complained of being bored, my mother said, “You want something to do, I’ll give you something to do,” and we were soon mowing the lawn or dusting tables.

My mother knew, instinctively, that children want parents who set clear boundaries -- not parents who are their buddies.

She knew it was her duty to prepare us for life -- to teach us good values, to give us a good education, to make sure we were polite and respectful.

Unlike modern parents, she didn’t obsess over our self-esteem. She didn’t tell us repeatedly we were handsome or pretty or smart or talented. She didn’t boast about us in public. If she had any obsession, it was that we better not embarrass her in public.

Whenever we visited family or attended an event, she threatened us before we left the house and gave us “the eye” throughout the event. No matter how good we were, she was STILL embarrassed by something we said or did, and gave it to us in the car the whole way home.

Which brings us to the runts at the coffee shop.

I, like many people these days, spend a good bit of time at coffee shops pecking away on my laptop. I try to be quiet and polite and considerate toward my fellow laptop companions. Not many new-age parents share my concern.

One coffee house I frequent has a group of such mothers that meets up once a week. While the mothers talk and laugh, they let their little darlings shout and run and take over every inch of the coffee house.

These mothers watched two of their runts run under my table, rattling the table to and fro, causing my coffee to spill, yet said nothing. They weren’t embarrassed a whit.

Their children are God’s gift to the universe, after all -- God forbid a modern mother would say or do something to hinder her child’s creativity, self-expression or self-esteem.

And so it is that their runts will grow up into self-centered adults, hopelessly trapped in themselves -- hopelessly inept at being considerate, civil and gracious toward their fellow man.

Fortunately, the mothers of my era had not been infected by modern psychobabble. If we’d carried on like the runts in the coffee shop, we would have not survived.

We turned out to be considerate, civil and gracious as a result; our self esteem is just fine, too.

If the world needs anything this Mother’s Day it is this: more “unenlightened” moms like mine.

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Visit him at www.TomPurcell.com.


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