Every year at this time, I begin to recall holiday celebrations of my childhood. Christmas was never observed in my home, entirely because of religious preferences. In spite of that condition, I remember perennially asking my dad for a Christmas day, although the answer (that I’m sure I anticipated) was always no.
There was never any question as to who made the rules in our house. Knowing that, I realized that it would have been a waste of time to ask my mom for a second opinion. He was also the one who refused to let me have jeans, always wanted my hair to be cut very short and expected my grades to be consistently above average.
While it never occurred to me then, as I ponder all of those edicts now, I am grateful for the consistency and specific directions of my youth. Many of the discipline issues that I encounter as an educator are a result of blurry areas of reasonability and a lack of predictable standards.
We always had food on the table, a warm and comfortable home and clothes on our backs, even though they may not have been the clothing of our choice. In addition to those material advantages, we also clearly understood the differences between right and wrong.
You never talk back to a parent. You always clear the table after a meal. You do your homework prior to watching television, a reality made difficult by the fact that the family television room was where I slept. We didn’t have weekly or monthly allowances, we knew to come in when it got dark and it never would have occurred to me to disrespect a teacher or any other adult.
While my parents weren’t religious observant, I now appreciate the fact that we weren’t going to observe the religion of anyone else. Gifts were seldom presented, at holidays or otherwise, but I now realize that this was due to some tight financial conditions. Nonetheless, the gifts I received communicated that I was loved and cherished, a feeling that is not intrinsic to the modern-day cell phones or tablets.
No, I wouldn’t trade my youth for that of today. The clear understanding of right and wrong, good and bad and acceptable or otherwise were the definitions of my upbringing. If many of the kids I teach don’t display that type of clarity, I completely understand and work toward the development of their fundamental integrity. Shalom.