Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Something to Say

Dr. Cara Barker, a former nurse, now an author, lecturer, and shrink, recently interviewed a group of 40 children to find out what they think about their families and their world.

Dr. Barker said nobody ever asks kids what they think. She suspected they might have something to say.

Dr. Barker observed, “Beyond what Art Linkletter dubbed ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things,’ our kids also say the most beautiful things, the most relevant things, the most useful things.”

Here are some excerpts from her interviews. The children are answering the question, “What do you wish grown-ups knew?”


Annie, age 5: “They need to send my new baby brother back where he came from. He cries too much. Then they could play with me and we’d all be happy. It’s a lot of work to be a big sister. No one told me about that part.”

Alexi, age 5: “Little kids need grandpas. Mine comes back to see me sometimes, but I can’t tell anyone.” (To ‘Why is that?’) “I told them the first time he came after the ‘funeraling,’ but they told me not to make things up. He really did come to see me and winked. It made me feel better. Big people should believe you. Maybe grandpa would come see them, too, and then they’d feel better.”

Andy, age 8: “My dad shouldn’t worry so much. I’m scared he’ll get sick. I don’t want to move, but it’s okay with me if my dad doesn’t have to worry about his job. My head hurts when he worries.”

Marlee, age 10: “Moms should know when their kids are lonely and sad, like the boy in ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ Moms need to throw away their phones. Okay, that’s dumb. But they need to unplug it. Moms need to rest and not stress us out.”

Brad, age 14: “Dads should be more than tourists in our lives. They probably think we’re pushing them away. But we need to know they’re there when things get dicey. I wish they knew everything is moving too fast out there for us. I wish they knew they need to turn off the news. Like the Fort Hood massacre thing is terrible. Hearing it over and over is too much.”

Mary Jo, age 15: “I wish parents knew how hard we try to get good grades and make them happy. When I get a B, they don’t say anything, not like when I get As. I wish parents would just stop fighting. Or at least remember their kids are listening. There should be a ‘parent pill,’ where they could learn to chill. Oh, also, I think dads should be nicer to the mother, even if they are divorced. It makes us feel bad when they are mean to our moms.”

Jeremy, age 16: “I wish parents knew we worry about them. When they lose their job, we don’t need to go to the big-bucks places. It would be awesome to just sit and play board games, and have popcorn. That’s cheap if you make it yourself.”


Something to say, indeed.

Dr. Barker submitted this personal story with her report.

“23 years ago, our daughter demonstrated that we, as parents, had much to learn. As my husband walked through the front door, with a bit of an uncharacteristic growl in his tone, our three-year-old, with her arm in a newly-acquired sling, watched Dad harrumph around the kitchen.

“She told the two of us, ‘I was so stupid! I slipped on the ice and did this to my arm!’

“As her dad tried to make amends, she patiently listened. She quietly beckoned him over to her. She threw her arms around his neck and said, ‘Daddy, do you think you can forgive yourself?’

“The incident has become part of our family lexicon, not only about self-forgiveness, but about how attuned our children are. We would do well to pay attention.”


Marble sculpture in Frogner Park, Oslo, Norway, by Gustave Vigeland.

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The date: October 19, 2006.

The place: A small restaurant in Maysville, Georgia.

The players:

– Maddie Smith, age 2 years, 4 months
– Dustin Smith, her father
– A waitress

The scene: Maddie has just ordered her lunch: a peanut butter sandwich and potato chips.


Waitress: Is that it?

Maddie: Yep, thass it.

Dustin: Do you want some milk to drink?

Maddie (To waitress): I want milk — I want chocolate milk.

Waitress: We don’t have chocolate, but we have regular milk.

(Maddie slumps her shoulders in disappointment. Her chin drops to her chest.)

Dustin: How about regular milk.

(Maddie makes a sour face and doesn’t answer.)

Dustin: Would you rather have water?

Maddie (to waitress): I want water.

Waitress: Water? Okay.

(The waitress leaves. Maddie turns to Dustin.)

Maddie: Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma…

Dustin (With a concerned-parent expression): Shhhhhh!

Maddie (Shouting): MA-MA!!

Dustin: Maddie, you’ve got to be nice. Use your “inside voice.”

Maddie: I cain’t!

Dustin: Yes, you can.

Maddie: I cain’t!

Dustin: Do you need a timeout?

Maddie: No! (She looks at Dustin imploringly.) I don’t wanna go to timeout.

Dustin: Well, then, behave yourself, okay?

Maddie: Woops! Sorry, daddio!

Dustin (Leaning down to Maddie’s level): What is WRONG with you?

Maddie (Whining): I want chocolate milk!

Dustin: They don’t have chocolate milk, baby. We’ll get some when we get home.

(Maddie lowers her head in disappointment again. Dustin scoops her up and hugs her.)

Dustin (Muttering): You’re a stinker.

(Maddie giggles and hugs him back.)

Maddie: I a stinker!

Maddie ordering chocolate milk.

Maddie ordering chocolate milk.

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In 1954, educator and author Dorothy Law was on a short deadline for her family advice column in a California newspaper. She hurriedly wrote a primer about parenting.

The article immediately went viral, 1954 style. It spread around the world, mostly unattributed, and became a child-rearing anthem.

“I simply wrote it and put it out there, where it has apparently moved through the world on its own momentum,” Dorothy said later.

As time passed, the popularity of her work remained high. Finally, when she learned that an organization was using it in a promotion, she stepped forward and claimed authorship.

Dorothy later wrote a book that devoted a chapter to each line of the poem. She then wrote a similar book that focused on teenagers.

In 1999, a two-time widow, Dorothy Law Nolte retired and bought a house with profits from her books. She died in 2005, age 81.

Here’s the article.


Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism,
they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,
they learn to fight.

If children live with fear,
they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity,
they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule,
they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy,
they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame,
they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement,
they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,
they learn patience.

If children live with praise,
they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance,
they learn to love.

If children live with approval,
they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition,
they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing,
they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty,
they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness,
they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration,
they learn respect.

If children live with security,
they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness,
they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Dorothy Law Nolte.

Dorothy Law Nolte.

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A couple of weeks ago, my granddaughter Maddie, the four-year-old, wanted to try out her roller skates. This surprised her mom.

“You’ve only tried them once or twice since we gave them to you last Christmas,” Leslie remarked.

Maddie pointed out that actually, Santa Claus gave her those skates, not Mom and Dad.

“Oops, I stand corrected,” said Leslie.

That exchange reminded me of my own youthful Santa Claus drama. I remember precisely when and where I learned the truth.

It happened at Washington Heights, an American housing project in Tokyo, Japan, just before Christmas 1951. I was eight years old. That‘s the typical age when most kids figure it out. They usually ask an appropriate adult point blank — is Santa Claus real?

I didn’t quite make it to the point of asking. My appropriate adult coolly and calmly outed Santa and chastised me for buying the story in the first place. It was positively un-American.

In those days, all married American military officers were required to employ one maid and one “houseboy” to give jobs to the Japanese. The job required fluency in English, of course.

The maids were live-ins. Our family housing units had an extra bedroom and bathroom for that purpose. Maids were on the job Monday through Friday.

Our maid was Shizue, which means quiet. She wasn’t quiet. She was a vivacious, happy, friendly girl in her early 20s. We called her Suzie. She loved us, and we loved her.

The houseboys were dayworkers. They reported for duty in the morning and went home at night. Our houseboy was Arimichi, also in his early 20s.

Arimichi was the quiet one, dignified and very bright. He was a friendly guy, but wouldn’t give you a hug for the hell of it, like Susie would.

The amount of work assigned varied with the family. In the Smith household, Susie helped Mom with housekeeping chores, and Arimichi pitched in for the heavy lifting. Otherwise, he kept track of my brother Lee and me and took us places around the base. To us, it was a sweet deal.

Amazingly, even though the Americans were there as an army of occupation — an army that had dropped two atomic bombs on them — none of the maids or houseboys exhibited the slightest resentment of us.

Dad said all of the Japanese he met around Tokyo were that way. The Japanese, he told me, were a proud and honorable people, and they probably reckoned they had lost the war fair and square. Thus, nothing to do but look forward and start rebuilding. Which they did.

Sometime in early December, when Santa Claus fever was escalating, I made an interesting discovery in the back of my parents’ closet: a stash of unwrapped toys.

It wasn’t my habit to snoop in their closet. I didn‘t give a damn what was in their closet. But this time, curious evidence piqued my interest — a lumpy, bulging blanket that wasn’t there before.

So I investigated, and I found the stash. Clearly, the goodies were intended for me and Lee.

I wondered if the gifts might be there for safekeeping, to be accessed by Santa when he arrived. I also wondered if the Santa story might be an elaborate hoax perpetrated by my parents.

But I quickly stopped thinking about it. If I analyzed it too much, I might reach an unwanted conclusion.

A few days later, Arimichi and I were was out and about, and we stopped at one of our favorite spots on the base: a large marble monument near the Officer’s Club.

The monument was wedge-shaped, like a giant cheese slice on its side. The face, about 10’ wide and 12’ long, sloped up at a 30-degree angle. It was about six feet tall at the back. Carved into the polished marble was an emblem of some kind, probably a symbol of the 5th Air Force. I vaguely recall a majestic eagle.

Arimichi and I often scaled the slope of the monument and sat at the top to talk. On that particular day, I told him about the stash in Mom and dad’s closet.

He looked at me meaningfully and said, “Rocky-san, you are too old to believe in fairy tales.”

At first, I protested and tried to defend my already-weakening beliefs. But he was determined.

“Rocky-san, you should already figure this out by now,” he said. “Santa Claus is not real. American parents tell their kids this to make them happy.”

I shut up and got quiet. He was right. We moved on to other subjects.

Naturally, I related that conversation to Mom when we got home. She sat both of us down for a formal talk. Arimichi probably thought it was his last day on the job.

She told me I was in on the secret now, and thus I had a responsibility: to keep Lee from finding out. Part of the magic, she said, is watching the little ones who still believe. While addressing me, I’m sure she cast a telling glance or two at Arimichi.

But Mom wasn’t angry. She knew Arimichi was right. It was time I stopped believing in fairy tales.

That was a long time ago. I’ve been keeping the secret and watching a succession of little believers over many years.

Mom was right about the magic.

Arimichi, Suzie, me, and Mom on my seventh birthday.

Arimichi, Suzie, me, and Mom on my seventh birthday.

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Thoughts about the demands of parenting from “The Territorial Imperative,” a 1966 book by screenwriter/anthropologist Robert Ardrey.


Among the wonders of the natural world is determination, shared equally by animals and, at their best, by men.

When young robins hatch, one begins to understand why pair bonds are necessary. For a few days, the female will spend most of her time on the nest, and he will bring all the food, passing it to her to be stuffed into the four, five or six gaping mouths. By the end of the week, she will spend no time at all on the nest, since the collective appetite it shelters will have developed by then to proportions which two parents can scarcely keep up with.

On a day in early May, [English ornithologist David] Lack kept count on a nest containing five young. The parents paid it 29 visits per hour, each bringing two or three caterpillars. He reckoned that in the course of a full working day, the pair harvested about 1,000 caterpillars.

After two weeks, the fledglings leave the nest, but they will pick up no food for themselves for another eight or 10 days. The parents are relieved of the necessity of returning to the nest, since the young follow them about, but that is all they are relieved of. For through this time, the young are growing bigger and bigger, their gullets more and more cavernous. Finally, three weeks after leaving the nest, the young will be on their own.

One would think that the pair, after all this, would take a holiday at some robin resort. But they will not. She will get busy building another nest, and they will have another brood.


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Last weekend, all of my kids and grandkids were in town at the same time. On Sunday, both sons and a daughter-in-law ran in the ING Marathon in Atlanta. We all stayed downtown at the Omni for the occasion.

Having them all together is a once-a-year event, if that. Watching the marathon was great fun, but the family thing — that was a treasure.

Kids are marvelous, fascinating creatures. But, as I watched my four granddaughters frolic and play, I was reminded that not all kids are smart, beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved, as these four emphatically are.

Some kids are robust, some have health problems. Some are painfully cute, some are homely. Some are razor sharp, some are not.

For every child who grows up easy, another one grows up hard. That’s especially true in the teen years, the minefield years, for kid and parent alike.

My four girls have a long way to go, and I know there will be bumps in the road. But heredity and luck have given them a heck of a start. Seeing them right now in their glory is a wondrous thing.

Parenting is life’s toughest and most important job. And I, having already served that duty, have some special advice for all who follow and take up the mantle.

Call it Rocky’s Three Laws of Parenting.

The First Law: when parents fret about the future well-being of their children, that’s an indication the kids will turn out okay; when the parents don’t fret, that bodes ill for any child.

The Second Law: by the time the fretting begins, it’s probably too late anyway. The real work — the lessons and examples that children absorb from the adults around them — that happens early on.

The Third Law: you can’t fool a kid. No matter what you try to hide, or how hard you try to hide it, your children will see through you and know the truth.

One important corollary to the Third Law is that if you try to fool a child, the effort will not only fail, but also backfire and have negative consequences. It’s preordained.

If they see you cheat, or take unfair advantage, or tell a lie however small, they will remember it, and you will be diminished in their eyes. You won’t soon recover from the loss.

In their natural state, kids are highly ethical. Their radar for honesty is finely-tuned. Their sense of fairness is acute.

On Saturday, I withdrew a few plastic “gold coins” from my pocket and told the girls it was pirate treasure that I, always a very lucky guy, discovered on the street.

I said it melodramatically. They knew it was a joke.

But the three oldest girls wanted to know where I really got the coins. I insisted it was pirate treasure.

They admonished me in unison, “Now, Rocky, tell the truth!”

They said it melodramatically. But it wasn’t a joke.

Taking a break for cookies and hot chocolate.


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My son Dustin was born at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on May 21, 1971. He weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces.

After we brought him home from the hospital, I started writing down his “firsts” and other notable happenings. I didn’t intend to make a habit of it, but somehow, the list just kept on going. Maybe I couldn’t find a stopping point.

One interesting thing about the list: being fresh out of the Air Force, I used the military style of recording the date.

Here are some selected entries.


26 May 71 — Home from the hospital.
27 May 71 — 1st solid food. Navel fell off.
30 May 71 — 1st tub bath.
06 Jun 71 — Rolled from stomach to back. Went to lunch at Aunt Fannie’s Cabin.
03 Jul 71 — Smiled for Grandy Kate.

06 Jul 71 — Sucked on a piece of pineapple. Ate minced banana.
12 Jul 71 — Grabbed a finger held up in front of him.
27 Jul 71 — Weighs 12 lbs., 11 oz.
06 Aug 71 — Floated in the pool in a swim seat.
14 Aug 71 — Went to see Ryan’s Daughter at the drive-in.

29 Aug 71 — Taught by my sister Betty to bubble and spit.
30 Aug 71 — Sits up with little support. Prefers sitting to lying down.
01 Sep 71 — Weighs 14 lbs., 4 oz.
05 Sep 71 — Taught by my brother Danny to puff up cheeks and blow.
22 Sep 71 — 1st time crawling. Lurches forward on his stomach.

09 Oct 71 — Rolled from back to stomach.
11 Oct 71 — Drank tea from a glass.
02 Nov 71 — Had blender chicken & dumplings.
05 Nov 71 — Cut 1st tooth, lower front.
06 Nov 71 — Weighs 17 lbs., 6 oz.

08 Nov 71 — Cut 2nd tooth.
11 Nov 71 — Sat in the highchair to eat. Terrible mess.
29 Nov 71 — 1st time crawling on hands & knees.
07 Dec 71 — Sat up without support.
13 Dec 71 — Crawls everywhere. Babbles constantly.

With Mama, December 1971.

15 Dec 71 — Weighs 18 lbs., 4 oz.
25 Dec 71 — Got Raggedy Andy and a pounding bench from Santa.
29 Dec 71 — Tries to climb onto the couch. Falls and bangs his head often.
06 Jan 72 — Likes to dig in ashtrays. Now saying Dada and Mama.
07 Jan 72 — Squeezed syrup from Mom’s toaster waffle.

11 Jan 72 — Moved him into Britt’s room, at Britt’s request.
23 Jan 72 — Said Pop-pop for Papa Smitty.
29 Jan 72 — Lurched from a chair to his crib, unassisted.
03 Feb 72 — Waved to Aunt Betty. Likes to play peek-a-boo.
19 Feb 72 — 5th tooth came in.

24 Feb 72 — Loves vanilla wafers. Calls them “k-k-k.”
17 Mar 72 — Stood unsupported for 15-20 seconds. Got applause.
22 Mar 72 — 8th tooth. Learned to smack his lips like kissing.
05 Apr 72 — Walked several steps in the living room.
17 Apr 72 — Throws things down and says “Uh-oh.”

First steps, April 1972.

21 Apr 72 — Weighs 21 lbs., 6 oz.
29 Apr 72 — Screamed entire drive to Ft. Lauderdale. Upset for a week.
05 May 72 — Jumped into Roy’s pool repeatedly. Loves the water.
21 May 72 — Ripped into birthday gifts with gusto. Loves ice cream.
28 May 72 — Likes corn on the cob.

09 Jun 72 — Learned to climb onto couch and chairs.
10 Jun 72 — learned to flush toilets.
19 Jun 72 — 1st haircut.
17 Jul 72 — Climbed onto kitchen chair, then onto table.
25 Jul 72 — Has good sea legs. Walks around Roy’s boat while underway.

Relaxing at home, June 1972.

10 Aug 72 — Getting a temper. Understands everything, but doesn’t talk much.
18 Aug 72 — Has been to the beach 2 or 3 times. Eats sand.
05 Sep 72 — Can outrun everybody. Talks in one-word sentences.
18 Sep 72 — Says “ba-ba” for bottle.
06 Oct 72 — Moved into new house in Sunrise. He likes the back yard.

17 Oct 72 — Says “Ow” for out and “dow” for down.
24 Oct 72 — Says “go-go” for Coke, “baby” for teddy bear or himself.
05 Nov 72 — Says “no” for nose, “mou” for mouth, “sin“ for chin.
10 Nov 72 — Says “eeyoo” for ear, “ayoo” for hair.
17 Nov 72 — Got a trundle bed, but doesn’t like it.

24 Nov 72 — Says “no” a lot, but won’t say yes.
12 Dec 72 — Says “yight” for Christmas lights, “key” for kings (wise men).
20 Dec 72 — Pottied on the potty seat. Got applause.
25 Dec 72 — From Santa: stuffed kangaroo, rocking horse, plastic blocks.
03 Jan 73 — Says “bumba” for banana.


That was the final entry. Dustin was 20 months old.

That’s about the same age as his daughter Sarah, who on 20 Mar 09 bounced a golf ball off his forehead.

Dustin on 21 May 74, his 3rd birthday.

On his third birthday, 21 May 74.

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