It’s funny, when you are growing up, you tend to think your parents are just trying to torment you with silly rules. Now that I am a parent, I have found that “You’ll understand when you’re older,” is actually a legitimate explanation.
NOTE: Before you read this, please know that I am not trying to tell anyone how to parent their children. Some of these things may seem insignificant to you. That’s cool. I don’t mind. This is me talking about my parent’s influence on me and how their rules and values shaped me.
1. They would make popcorn after I went to bed.
I am going to start with by far the meanest thing I can remember. My head would barely be touching the pillow and I would hear them putting something in the microwave. Next comes the popping sounds followed by that glorious smell of butter and salt making friends with the popcorn. You better believe I got up every single time and asked for some. Now, if my parents were truly mean, they would have just said no. But my parents were awesome and always let me have a couple bites of popcorn before sending me back to bed. Just a fun memory that we still joke about today.
2. They made me say Sir & Ma’am.
My parents and grandparents were on me about this one. Maybe it’s southern thing, but respect for others and one’s elders is expected. I don’t think I ever got away with just a simple “uh-huh, yeah, what?”, or “nope” as response. There was always someone there to correct me.
I don’t know that saying Sir and Ma’am has any bearing as to wether or not you’re a polite and respectful person, but it definitely gives people the impression that you are.
3. I had to tuck in my shirt & wear a belt.
Whenever I left the house, it didn’t matter if it we were going to school, church, McDonalds, or a baseball game, I had to tuck in my shirt and wear a belt. Now, this was more my dad’s thing than my mom, but she enforced it all the same. Even if it was just a T-shirt, I had to tuck it in. I still think this was a tad crazy, but here I am, tucking in my shirt and wearing a belt. (Only like 60% of the time, but that still counts.)
I think all my dad wanted was for me to take a little more pride in my appearance and not look so sloppy.
It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I fully realized this, but appearance really does matter. When you dress sloppy, everything else tends to follow. I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think it matters more than some people realize.
4. I had to take off my hat indoors.
This is the one that pissed me off the MOST!! I mean, I really hated having to take my hat off in a building. I hated taking my hat off because my hair always looked stupid. My hat was part of my look. That didn’t matter to my Dad, though. If I was at a friends house? Hat off. McDonalds? Hat off. Library? Take it off. At the mall??? If there was a roof, my hat was off.
To be honest, I think this is a sign of respect and being a gentleman that has been lost over the years. Does it really matter that much? Probably not. But when I see a man walk into a restaurant or church and take his hat off, I automatically assume that that guy has good manners, loves his momma, and probably adheres to all other forms of “good etiquette.”
5. They sent me to a private Christian school.
Looking back, this is the best thing they ever did for me. I wasn’t happy about leaving my friends at the public school and having to start over at the private school. I was painfully shy, so the idea of making new friends about gave me a stroke. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. It was an adjustment, but I look back at my time at Brazosport Christian School as 4 of the most influential years of my life. If I hadn’t had that Christian based education, I might not be where I am today. Also, thanks to social media, I am still friends with some of the people I met at that school. It’s good to have Christian friends that know you from way back when.
6. They held me accountable.
It didn’t matter who I got in trouble with or who was in charge of the mischief I got into. I was individually responsible for whatever happened. If I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that was my bad. Honestly, I am glad they did that. Taking responsibility for your actions tends to prevent you from making the same mistake twice.
Kids today have no clue how to accept responsibility when they get in trouble. I wish people weren’t so scared to take responsibility and accept the consequences of their actions. You can always walk away from trouble.
7. They wouldn’t let me quit.
I was in Boy Scouts for about 8 years when I was a kid, but I eventually got to a point where I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. I thought it was too much of a time commitment, all the other scouts were at least 2-3 years younger than me, and none of my close friends were involved anymore. I wanted to participate in school sports and do more with my close friends. Well, I wasn’t allowed to just stop participating in Boy Scouts. I had to sit face to face with the Scout Master and tell him that I wanted to quit. It wasn’t comfortable for me as a 14 year old boy to explain why I didn’t want to be there anymore. I did it, and I have never forgotten what that moment taught me.
Them making me face this head on forced me to think about the decision I was making. Was I being lazy? Are school sports as beneficial as Scouts? Am I making a habit of quitting? What am I leaving behind? Either way, I don’t know that I have quit too many other things in my life. Jobs, sports, whatever. I have stayed at most of my jobs long term, and when it is time to move on to something else, I always give a face to face notice.
8. They made me get a job on my own.
If my folks hadn’t made me go out and find a job on my own, I would probably be a shy 37 year old living at home. The best thing my dad ever did for me was force me to get out and learn how to find work on my own. Honestly, I learned more about life , social skills, and responsibility by having to find and keep a job than I did in school or church.
Going back to the social anxiety thing, the best advice I would give to others with the same issue is to get a job. and look for a customer service job. You can make money while you practice being social. Trial by fire worked pretty well for me. It was hard, but it helped me a ton.
Why did I write this?
When I was teaching high school kids, I saw first hand how much all these things mattered. So many young people today do not know the importance of showing respect for others, appearance, personal responsibility, the value of hard work, discipline, and so many other values that would make it easier to succeed in life. Growing up, I thought my parents were just trying to make my life harder. The truth is, they were trying to teach me something. They were trying to pass their values on to me. There really was a reason for everything they did and everything they put me through. I may not have understood it while it was happening, but becoming an adult and starting your own family can really open your eyes. One day, my kids are going to complain about the things I make them do. They aren’t going to understand why certain things matter, but that’s ok. They’ll understand when they are older. So with that, I’ll say thanks to my mom and dad for constantly being “mean.” I am a better man, husband, father, and friend because of it.
I love everything that’s old, – old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.