When you have a garden, you know that you can’t plant a row of radish seeds one day, then harvest full-grown radishes the next day. It takes time, sun, water, fertilizer and weeding to coax them into their delicious crunchy fullness.
Now, kids are not radishes, but similar rules apply. Put them in the right circumstances, with all the help they need to become healthy and responsible adults, and they are on their way to being self-sufficient and productive members of society. As wonderful and amazing as they are as babies, toddlers, school-age kids, teens and young adults, the end-game is to grow adults.
Back in the dinosaurish ’50s when I came along, these are some of the many things my parents taught me:
- how to make a bed
- how to keep myself clean
- how to care for my teeth
- how to care for my hair
- how to fold and/or hang up my clothes
- how to wash and dry dishes
- how to wash woolens so that they did not shrink or stretch
- how to cook
- how to bake
- how to change a tire
- how to use a jacknife without cutting myself
- how to set a campfire and how to put it out
- how to vacuum
- how to keep my skin clean and moisturized
- how to apply makeup without overdoing it
- how to clean up my room
- how to ride a bike
- how to pick up after myself
- how to be a working part of the family
- how to stay out of trouble
That last one was the hardest for me. It seemed to me at the time that I was in trouble at least once every week. Our family had rules of behavior, with consequences for going over the line. One of the big rules was that I was never to leave the house without letting my mom or dad know where I was going and when I’d be back. One summer evening as my mom was running a bath for me, I decided to slip out of the house. I had a vague idea I would pay for this later on, but the freedom of walking around the neighborhood alone was just too intoxicating to pass up.
My dad came looking for me, found me, took me firmly by the hand, and walked me home. On the way he asked me if I had remembered the house rule; I did, but flouted it anyway. He asked me if I knew how worried he and Mom were when they found me missing; I hadn’t thought of their feelings at all. Filled with remorse, I realized the enormity of what I had done.
I don’t even remember the punishment for my brief walk that evening, but I do remember the comfort of boundaries. I knew, as I always did, that my parents loved and cared for me, and that I had terrified them that evening. Of course, there were many times when I flounced into my room, angry about not being able to do this or that….even then there was a small and grateful relief in knowing that I was loved and cared for; at those times I even understood why there were rules in the first place.
I have never been a parent; isn’t it something how people who have never raised a child have all these ideas on how to do it? All I know is that my parents strove to be teachers and mentors to me, not necessarily my best friends. (That came later on.) Being raised the way I was, I have a deep and abiding admiration of how my parents made sure that I was able to live on my own and be responsible for all aspects of my life.
I am very glad to have grown up to be a pretty good radish.