When I was your age, timeouts were for football

Dear Chip and Bobo,

You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it.

When I was your age, we did not talk back.

Okay, so that’s a lie.  Occasionally we did.  But when that happened, we knew what was coming.  We’d find ourselves picking soap out of our teeth.

Yep.  Things were different when we grew up.  Sometimes, we got our mouths washed out with soap.  And, sometimes, we were spanked.  Not often but, frankly, when we deserved it.  Usually with a hand.  Sometimes, if we were acting really hellaciously, with a wooden spoon (Which my mom once broke over my brother’s butt.  Which we laughed about.  Which made her really mad.)

I also remember once or twice someone getting spanked or having their hand slapped at school.  Not me, of course, because I was a perfect child.  Other kids, though.  And your auntie recalls in elementary school how the principal actually had a butt paddle hanging in his office, that he did indeed use on occasion.

Oh, how times have changed.

When I talk with your grandparents about this, they explain that’s just what people did back then.  There was no education for parents on alternative ways of disciplining your kids.  Timeouts were a term they used in sports.  And things like positive discipline, reward charts, bribery (okay, maybe they used that once or twice), or redirection weren’t exactly on the forefront of parenting methods.

The thing is, though, I never once doubted our parent’s love for us.  And honestly?  Our butts may have stung for a minute, but the disappointment in their eyes sometimes hurt a lot more.

It was also effective.  We feared… not our parents themselves… but the repercussions of what would happen should we act up.  When one of them got that look in their eye, we knew what would come next.  And it probably wasn’t going to be fun.

And that is the key point.  I want you to know there will be consequences, both positive and negative, for your actions.  I want you to have a respect for your elders, and that, when they say something, it goes.  I want you to be wary… not of me, but of making sure you’re doing the right thing.

That is what I want for you.

But how to achieve those wants?  Ah, that’s where it gets tricky.

When you were born, I had a preconceived notion of how we would discipline you.  We were spanked… and we turned out okay.  I guess I figured it would be the same for you.

But five years later, I’ve found that it’s not that black and white.   So instead we’re trial-and-erring our way through different ways of discipline.  And am I constantly questioning myself.

Every time a timeout is given.

Every time a privilege, a toy or the iPad (Gah!  A sign of the times) is revoked.

Every time you scream “NO!” and glare back at me defiantly.  Or, worse yet, run away giggling.

Every time I encounter that pregnant pause, and silently ask myself:  “To spank, or not to spank?”

Every time a temper tantrum is thrown.

Every time I ponder which battles I will choose to fight that day.  Or which ones I will let slide.

Every time I wonder if we’re being to strict.  Or not strict enough.

Every time I raise my voice.

Every time I get so angry that I feel the need to keep myself in check.  Or when I realize I might be the one who needs a timeout.

Every time I have to break out the proverbial beat down on one of you, I question myself.  And I just hope that whatever we’re doing is the right thing to do.

What I don’t have are the answers.  Your father and I are figuring it out as we go along.

What I do know for sure is this:  no matter what decisions we make as parents, we both love you with all of our hearts.  So we’ll continue to plug along.  Even when you call us the meanest parents on the planet.

Love you to pieces,
Your Momma (Who thinks discipline is the suckiest part of being a parent)

(Also?  Thanks, mom and dad. I now understand what you meant when you said “It hurts us more than it hurts you.” And one of these days, we’ll buy you a new wooden spoon.)


Yep.  I’m reviving the “When I was your age” letters to my children.  If you missed the other posts in this series, you can check them out here.

When I was your age, internet wasn’t in the dictionary

Dear Chip and Bobo,

When I was your age, internet wasn’t in the dictionary.  It’s true.  Al Gore hadn’t even created it yet.

Computers were around, but they were approximately the size of our house.  Nowadays, I can do more things on my iPhone than they ever could.  Check my email, order pizza and surf the internet.

By the way, thank you, Bobo, for showing me that little trick about rotating pictures on my iPhone the other day.  Way to show an old dog new tricks, kiddo.

I’m amazed at the things you can find on the internet nowadays.  When I was your age, if we wanted to know something, we went to the library and looked it up.  In an encyclopedia.  No, not Wikipedia.  A large volume of books that contained information that was outdated as soon as it was published.  Next time we go to the library, I will see if they are still around.

We didn’t have things like Playhouse Disney.com, or iPhone apps that entertained you in the grocery store.  Or blogs.  Man, what did we ever do with our time?

The internet is a way of life for you; it’s all you’ve ever known.  The other day, when we were driving home from preschool, and you asked a question I didn’t know the answer to.  You appeared shocked that mom didn’t know everything (which I loved you for), and promptly responded back, “Momma, why don’t you just Google it?”

Sometimes, if I’m working on my computer in my office, you will bring in your keyboard (an old defective one from my IT guy), and “write code” along with me.  You think it’s pretty funny, but I know it’s not far from the truth.  You will probably be running technical circles around me by the time you’re eight.

Alas, I give Grandma and Poppa a hard time because technology is so foreign to them.  When I give them lessons again on how to save or print a document, I find myself losing my patience.  I sometimes forget that they grew up in the era of manual typewriters, sending letters by snail mail, and fumbling through the dictionary to look up a word.

They worked in paper and quills pencils back then.  Tangible stuff.  Not bits and bytes.

And in some ways, that isn’t an entirely bad thing.  Because Grandma?  Created a baby book for each of her three children.  I have it now, and we love looking through it together sometimes.

And you, my dear children?  Will get a disc with a copy of this blog.  How lucky you are, indeed.

Love you to pieces,
Your Momma (Who someday will get around to doing your real baby books)

When I was your age, we got around by horse and buggy

Dear Chip and Bobo,

You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it.  When I was your age, car rides were a whole different ballgame.

For one thing, we didn’t have air conditioning in the car.  Our air conditioner was the window, which you had to manually crank with a little handle.

Which was pretty miserable on cross country road trips, let me tell you.  Getting blasted by hot air zooming past your head, while trying to keep your mouth shut to avoid bugs flying down your gullet… not fun.  And if someone ripped one in the car?  You had to fumble with that little handle and turn it fast as you possibly could to get some fresh air.

Car seats?  They didn’t exist.  When Grandma and Poppa brought me home from Seattle, it was in an open cardboard box, that they set on the floor of the car.  Can you imagine?

Seat belts weren’t even required.  I remember one summer we drove cross country with my aunt and my two cousins.  Two moms, five rambunctious kids and four suitcases crammed into one little VW hatchback.  The two youngest kids (one of which was me) sat in the very back, crammed into a two square foot area.

The next time you whine about getting buckled into your 5 point harness, padded booster seat with a cup and snack holder, just remember that, my sweet ones.

We did not have CD players or iPod plugins in the car.  We had an 8 track (I’ll tell you about that one later), and one cassette.  I believe it was “Born Free,” which we listened to over and over again.

On road trips, we entertained ourselves by counting mileposts, and playing I-Spy and license plate alphabet games.  The latter was really not that much fun when driving through the Badlands, and only seeing another car every 20 minutes.

Can you imagine what it was like for your grandparents getting around, when cars navigation systems were not even invented?  What would your father have done?  He would have had to pull out the paper map or, worse yet, stop and ask for directions.

Times have changed.  Cars have changed.

And yet, they haven’t.  I would have thought that in 30 years, someone would have come up with really brilliant, yet simple ideas to make car rides more bearable.

Like a portable potty that would allow us to travel more than 30 minutes without hearing, “I have to go… again.”

Or a clear plastic divider down the middle of the car, so you could look at each other, but I wouldn’t have to hear, “Mom, Chip’s touching me!”  (This, even though your hand is clearly over the invisible middle line.)

Or, better, yet, a clear plastic divider between the front and back of the car so I wouldn’t have to hear, “Are we there… yet??”

I’m guessing the real reason things like that haven’t been invented yet?  Because somewhere along the line, someone has realized that that’s part of the fun that goes with car rides.  As annoying as it is to hear some of the whining and malarkey that emanates from the back of the car, it still makes me smile a little.

It brings back memories of long road trips taken in a simpler time, with simpler cars.  When part of the adventure was not where were were actually going, but getting there.

One day, I promise you, our family will take a cross-country road trip.  I’m actually looking forward to that.

And, at the same time, I’m not.

Love you to pieces,
Your Momma (who thinks her parents are pretty much heroes for attempting any sort of road trip with children)

This letter is the second in the “When I was your age” series of letters to my children.  Last week’s post was When I was your age, TV wasn’t even invented. Next up… “When I was your age, the word internet wasn’t in the dictionary.”

When I was your age, TV wasn’t even invented

“When I was your age…”

We heard this a lot growing up.  I remember rolling my eyes as my parents embarked on yet another dramatization of how good we had it, and how different things were back in the stone ages when they were young.

Now that I’m a parent, I have a lot more respect for my folks, and the insights they provided to us growing up.  And as I hear myself starting sentences to my kids with “When I was your age…”, I realize the undisputable fact:

I am turning into my mother.

Which is a lot less scary than in once sounded.  It’s actually a good thing, because if I become half the parent my own were, I’ll consider it a job well done.

And with that, I’m kicking off the first in a little series of letters I’ve written to Chip and Bobo.  Call it a salute to the generations of my parents, my kids and the one in between.

When I was your age, TV wasn’t even invented

Dear Chip and Bobo,

You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it.

When I was your age, we had one TV with 6 channels on it.  No, make that 6.5.  There was one additional channel that came in reasonably well, as long as someone stood behind the television and held the antenna at just the right angle.

Somehow, I always got suckered into being the designated antenna holder.  (Sorry to tell you, Chip, but as the youngest child, you will get the short end of the stick like this.)

But while I was there, I also got to change the channel.  And that sure beat having to get up and walk across the room.  Remotes weren’t even heard of back then; everything was controlled by a dial.  This made channel surfing pretty hard.

Not that this mattered much, because there wasn’t a lot on for young kids.  We had Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Mister Rogers.  The latter of which I hated, because King Friday really scared me.  Plus, even at the age of four, I thought the cardigan/tie combo Fred sported was a little nerdy.

It’s not like today, where you can flip on the TV and choose between Dora, Imagination Movers and Yo Gabba Gabba.  Or if you don’t like it, switching over to On Demand to see a zillion other choices.  And if you still don’t like those options, popping in a DVD from the vast collection of Disney and Pixar movies.

We had none of that stuff growing up.

And we certainly didn’t have him:

I’m pretty sure he is supposed to be modern day equivalent of Mr. Rogers.  Minus the cardigan.  Which is likely why, at the age of 30-something, he scares me a little.

Can you imagine what it was like for your grandparents growing up when fire television wasn’t even invented?  They had to find other things to entertain themselves with, like playing kick the can (whatever that is) … or reading a book.

It’s no wonder they used to flip off the TV right in the middle of a program, and demand we went outside and got some fresh air.  The nerve!  O, how we whined.

I got a similar reaction the other night when I dared turn off the Backyardigans so we could eat dinner in peace.  The audacity!  The whining!  Maybe things haven’t changed that much in 30 years, after all.

And, yet, somehow you survived.  We finished dinner, then went outside to play and have ice cream.

Then we scooted inside promptly at 7:00.  Because Dora was starting.

Love you to pieces,
Your Momma (Who watches so much TV, she actually sings Barney songs to herself in the shower)