How Things Have Changed

I’ll admit it; I am a Baby Boomer. My parents are of the Greatest Generation, and I was raised with their values, which I accepted not just as my own, but those of all others I knew.

Things change all the time, of course, and many changes are for the better. But there are some things I’m sad to see go by the wayside, with apparently no one to keep them going. These are things I took for granted growing up:

  • No one would ever think to drive down the street after dark, blaring their music out the open windows. People living on those streets demanded to know who you thought you were to bother others. No one put up with that kind of selfishness.
  • You didn’t see children being openly insolent to adults or teachers; they were taught to respect anyone older than themselves simply by virtue of the fact that those folks had lived much longer and knew more.
  • You never had to tell people to sit down in their seats during a ball game; everyone did it so that everyone could see.
  • You never heard of people removing their shirts or socks and shoes traveling on an airplane or train; it was just plain rude.
  • You never saw people yawning widely, displaying all their unlovely dental work to the world at large because no one ever told them to cover their mouth with their hand. This comes under the title of Basic Manners (and by the way, what has happened to them?).
  • No one who was “raised right” chewed their food with their mouths open.
  • Everyone knew the magic words, “Please” and “Thank you.”
  • If you received a gift and did not send a hand-written and appreciative thank you note, you didn’t deserve another gift from that person–ever again.
  • Everyone knew  the Pledge of Allegiance by heart, and everyone stood, removed their hats and placed right hands over hearts for the National Anthem. This was (and still is) a mark of respect.
  • The Golden Rule (basically, ‘do to others what you want done to you.’)
  • As a child, you did as you were told. Period. If you asked why politely, you might get the answer. Ask rudely, your answer was “Because I’m the parent, that’s why.”
  • Time-out meant sitting in the corner for an appropriate amount of time to think about whatever crime you committed.
  • You ate what was put in front of you, and everyone ate the same thing. (As my mom used to say, “This ain’t no bar and grill!”)
  • No reading at the table allowed. Taking your plate into the living room to watch TV was not allowed. Mealtime was family time when everyone caught up on each others’ day.
  • You were not allowed to help yourself to food in the refrigerator or pantry without first asking permission. And “no” meant no.
  • Parents did not try to be their children’s best friends. Parents did the hard work and raised adults, not babies. In my house, there were strictly-kept consequences for stepping out of line. If you did thus-and-so, the consequence was that-and-so; period, the end. The rule never changed.
  • Kids had chores. As part of the family, you were expected to pull your own weight. If you didn’t do your chores as well as expected, you did them again (and again) until you did it right.
  • No talking back, sassing your parents, slamming doors or whining when you didn’t get your own way.
  • Swearing was not allowed. If you did and your parents heard you, your mouth was washed out with soap or there was another appropriate punishment.
  • If you got in trouble at school, you also got in trouble at home. You were expected to behave the same way, no matter where you were.
  • You were expected to take care of your things. In fact, if you wanted something above and beyond what your parents gave you, you found ways to earn the money to get it. Once you put in your own sweat into obtaining it, you took good care of it.
  • It was your parents who taught you life skills such as correct manners, how to treat other people and how to work. It was unheard of for the school or any organization to attempt this instead of the parents. Likewise with sex education.

I’m not saying that all the above was always right, but it sure gave everyone the same playing field. There are some great improvements in child-rearing and development today, which I thoroughly support. However, being raised the “Boomer” way did have its good points, one of which was that everyone was on the same page. We knew what to expect, we understood the consequences of our actions, and for the most part, we toed the line. It may have been harsh, but it was effective.

When we were ready to leave our parents’ house for good, we had the basic skills we needed to live on our own. When I had my first little apartment, I knew how to handle my checkbook, how to clean, cook, sew and wash my own clothes. I knew how to interview for a job, and work on a job. I didn’t expect my parents to come argue with my boss over not giving me a raise; I either pushed for one myself, or I left for another job. Since I had learned at home that life wasn’t fair, I didn’t expect it to be out in the world.

Don’t get me wrong; I made plenty of costly mistakes on my own. I had the basic tools and skills I needed; heck, my dad taught me in one week when I was nine years old how to change a tire, start an effective campfire and put it out, and use a knife without cutting myself.  I was raised at a time when everyone seemed to understand the basics of life; we didn’t have all the political correctness and big-brother-ishness we have now.

My, my, how things have changed.


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