Tuesday, March 12, 2013

what I learned from “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

I finished this book a little while ago:

2013-03-08 choir concert 71014

And I can’t stop thinking about it and the lessons I found in it’s pages.

You can kinda tell I liked it by how many pages I folded over like this as I read:

2013-03-08 choir concert 71011

This picture can’t do it justice:2013-03-08 choir concert 71010…because I swear I turned over practically every other page in that thing.

I loved how Betty Smith wrote it.  I loved the character development and how she meanders lazily through the life of this amazingly resilient family named the Nolans who are poor as poor can be but who scrape by against all odds in the early 1900s.

I love how noble Francie (the main character) is.  And how loving and likeable her Dad is and how strict and wise her mother is.  I love that Francie learns so much from what she has to give up in life that she actually gains much more.  I love that it’s the very opposite of entitlement. 

I LOVE that Katy (the mom) wants so much for her children (she has no education) so she is strict as can be that her children must read one page from Shakespeare and one from the Bible before they go to bed every night.  And I love that she teaches them to save, even if it’s just pennies, and how they put those hard-earned pennies of theirs in a can nailed down in the corner of a closet.

This week, the part of the book I’m musing over is how much I loved the old-fashioned values.  I love that what that mother tells her children to do is the law.  And that they don’t complain and whine and talk back to her.  I love that they respect their parents and every other adult in the book so much.  Again, I love that no one ever feels entitled to anything.  They work their tails off for things and it builds character.

Oh so much character.

I think this keeps coming to mind this week because I’ve been on this kick about how much I want to teach my children to respect the adults around them.  Often times kids in our day aren’t like those ones Betty Smith portrays in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”  I like to blame it on the Disney Chanel (ha ha) where parents and adults are kind of the laughing stock of the shows (yes, I’m generalizing because I have to say I haven’t watched much of that channel, but every snipped I’ve caught I’ve been annoyed by).  But let’s be honest, we are raising a generation of kids who are kind of like those kids in some ways…kids who wave off things their “silly” parents tell them are important because they for sure know better than those old-fashioned parents of theirs.  We are raising a generation of kids hooked on technology who couldn’t care less about an elderly gentleman who may need their chair or a lady who may need a door opened for her.  I don’t think they miss these things because they’re mean-hearted.  I think they miss them because their eyes are glued on their phone.  Or they are thinking about what friend posted what on instagram.  Or maybe because their parents are running around so frantically trying to keep up with all their sports practices and extracurricular things that they forget to teach them these things.

Am I being unfair?  Kind of.  Am I generalizing?  For sure.  Am I saying my kids have these manners I want them to and that I make enough time to teach them?  Heck no.  I’m sure there are many great kids out there who’s parents sit them down and teach them all kinds of manners and they are good and kind and un-entitled just like these kids in my book.  But I just don’t think we do it as a whole society like we used to. 

And that makes me sad. 

A couple weeks ago my friend Sarah sent me the most interesting article I loved along these same lines over here. (thanks Sarah!) There is such a fine line between setting limits and having rules which I believe is key to raising a strong family (all intermixed in our family motto) and letting kids make their own decisions and even make mistakes that could cause heartbreak.  But we, their parents, need to give them guidelines!  I know that seems like common knowledge to some, but I was so taken back by so many of the comments for this technology contract here that it made me do a double-take.  Are we really “helicopter parents” if we set guidelines?  If we demand respect?  I sure don’t think so.

I also loved this blog post from maisymak.com about how parents (adults) have feelings too.  I love the articles she referenced, and especially this quote from an NBC news article about how we are raising a generation of “rude” kids:

“Many experts say today’s kids are ruder than ever. And it may have something to do with popular parenting movements focusing on self-esteem and the generation that’s embracing them: Generation X, or those born between 1965 and 1977.

On paper, it doesn’t add up. After all, by many accounts Generation X may be the most devoted parents in American history. They are champions of "attachment parenting," the school of child-rearing that calls for a high level of closeness between parents and children, Many Gen-X parents co-sleep with their children, hold them back from entering kindergarten if they feel their children’s emotional maturity is at stake and volunteer at their kids' schools at record rates. …

Yet, their kids are, well, rude. It may be that today’s parents are so fixated on their children's emotional well-being that they’re teaching them that the well-being of others is comparatively unimportant, says Dr. Philippa Gordon, a long-time pediatrician in Park Slope, Brooklyn, an urban New York neighborhood famous for its dense Gen-X parent population.

Bottom line, all these partially fragmented ideas have made me contemplate how I can’t change those trends these articles talk about.  But Dave and I can step it up to help our kids not only respect our own family rules a little more, but respect the all those adults in the world around them a little more as well.

I’m going to try to make a little bit of Katy Nolan come out in me.

36 comments:

  1. Shawni, it is 6:30am the kids are now at seminary and the house is quiet. I read today's post. What an impact it had on me. I ditto your statement as a generation X mother. I feel it is our job to teach them these fundamental principals so they can help change this world into a better place. I gave all my kids (our family version) of your technology letter. I worked on it for hours to make it fit for my family. At first they laughed at me. ( I was hurt), so I sat them all down again and we talked about it. By the end of the night each child came to my room and basically said..."ok mom". My daughter even took a walk today. (that didn't turn out alrigt- that is another story).
    It is so important this next generation learn and grow and stop to look around them, like you said keep your head and your eyes up sometimes and see the world around you. Maybe I need to sing to them more often the song..."My Heavenly Father Loves Me"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8FdW0diox4

    ReplyDelete
  2. This book sounds very close to one I just read called The Rent Collector. Bought it at Deseret Book and it was SO SO SO good.
    Have you read it?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is such a valid reminder. I feel like I want my kids to learn both- respect for others and confidence for self. And they don't have to be exclusive endeavors- they actually go hand in hand. Almost back to the golden rule- treat others the way you want to be treated and they'll get respect and you'll feel respected. Thanks for provoking thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm not a mom (yet) and still young (29) but I worry all the time how my husband and I will raise a child who is respectful of adults. I only back talked to my mom once, and that was enough to know I wouldn't do that again.

    My Gen X cousin, who is a high school teacher, posted a picture last week of a sign with the letters PENNIES rearranged by her students to spell out another word. My Baby Boomer dad commented how that's not something you would have seen in his high school in the 1960s, and how that would not have been tolerated, let alone photographed and publicized.

    That might just be an example of teens being teens and not really about respecting adults but it all falls under a larger umbrella.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I loved that book! Just read it a couple of months ago. Also, I have just finished researching a paper on generations, and the older generation is never going to approve of the younger generation. No matter what we do, the younger generation will always be a product of their environment - not of the older generation's environment - no matter how much the older one tries to combat that. Yes, you can pass along values, but you cannot change the generation, so really we just need to embrace the beautiful things about each one. I love that my husband's Italian family makes kids greet everyone and say good bye to everyone at any gathering. So when my nieces come over I have them kiss both of us, and when they leave I have them kiss both of us goodbye. I hope they will learn to value each individual, especially their elders. Anyway. I could write a book and maybe someday I will. If you want to read a fascinating book about generations, read Strauss and Howe's Generations (1991). or email me and I'll send you my paper. ha ha. te pup!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post, Shawni! I love this book and felt exactly the same way after reading it.

    I was recently the parent monitor at a cello rehearsal with twelve cellists. The majority of these kids were in high school or younger. Their coach was a member of the North Carolina Symphony.

    These are good kids, serious kids, who have learned to play an instrument beautifully. I assumed this sort of learning would give them a measure of respect and maturity many of the peers don't have, but at least half of those kids were incredibly rude to this professional cellist volunteering his time to help them. They interrupted him, played while he was talking, paid no attention to his tips and advice.

    I did notice, however, that the children who acted out the most seemed to have the lowest levels of self-confidence. An interesting paradigm. We teach our kids to value themselves so much, to focus on feeling good and having great self-esteem, they aren't taught to value others. They don't treat others with dignity and respect, which actually hurts their own dignity and self-respect in the end.

    I think when we teach our children to be courteous and respectful to others, we are helping them gain true self-esteem.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am a huge fan of yours - and your parents. I rarely comment though. But this one I can't leave alone. I agree so wholeheartedly, but at the same time, I feel heart sick that I seem to be 'failing' in some fundamental way - especially after clicking on the link and reading the article about forcing one's children to go to mass... I am the mother of 4. They range from 16 to 23 in age, and at this point in time, 2 attend church weekly. One comes every now and then, and one has chosen not to come at all. With the two oldest, the rules were clear. 'As long as you live in our home and are a part of our family, you attend church with us. It's what we do as family. You will soon enough be grown and at liberty to spend your time as you wish.' It worked for a long time. The oldest stayed active long enough to develop her own testimony. Nr. 2 slipped through our fingers in spite of our best efforts (and a lot of 'forcing') nr. 3 is still hanging in there, but nr. 4 has figured out that pulling the atheist/free agency card is quite effective... So. Should I still be forcing him? I remember asking the wife of a visiting seventy once 'When do I stop pushing?' - (when I was concerned about nr. 2) Her answer seemed so right, so inspired: 'You don't push - you pull.' But in the end, it was just retoric. Striking the balance between staying close to them, being good examples of righteous living, showing them that we truly love the Gospel, teaching and talking and tirelessly trying to help them 'see the light' and want the light - and on the other hand letting them make choices, be independent, figure things out for themselves, respect their agency - has by far been the hardest challenge of my motherhood/parenting life. Don't get me wrong. Thay are all 'good' kids. By the world's standards they are exceptional. They are polite and considerate and kind, do decent in school and have excellent social skills. But one of them doesn't believe what we believe. And I can't force him to. And I won't. At this point in time I am fiercely working on following Marjorie Hinckley's advice: 'Just save the relationship'. Hope really does spring eternal when you have teens and young adults. My hope never dies, that one day he will again choose the path of faith. And at the same time, I am scared to death - because I know that these years of decision making have such eternal implications! Just staying home from church might not seem like such a big deal - but not attending seminary? Not completing the duty to God program? not Serving a mission? As I sit here writing, I feel physical pain. It takes all I have to just remind myself that I have done my best - and that that must be enough - (although it clearly hasn't been good enough!)
    So, thou wise and wonderful holy grail of motherhood - (No, I'm not being sarcastic!) should I be pulling more? Pushing more? And if I should - how? (Apart from the praying, and begging , and coaxing, and encouraging, and guilt tripping (;-)), and inviting and never, ever giving up that I already do)
    I take some comfort in knowing that he is Heavenly Father's beloved child first - and mine second - and infinitely loved by Him. That I am entitled to inspiration in guiding and leading and teaching, because He wants his beloved child to succeed just as much as me. But it still hurts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. LOVE this book. I too love the lessons learned, but we need to remember that it is a book and of course the children behave and are respectful! Lets give ourselves a break because I have a feeling Shawni your kids are some if the nicest kids around!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have had so many of the same thoughts, and I am so glad you have courage to share. I feel very old-fashioned sometimes when I look around at other parents. But thanks for the reminder that having boundries, setting consequences, and teaching respect to our children is worth it.
    And I'm also glad I'm not the only one who is totally annoyed by the disney channel! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Just this past week at church, somebody said the phrase "Get out of yourself" while talking about being humble and serving and it struck a chord with me. I absolutely love it. It's so much better than "Get over yourself" because it doesn't say there's anything wrong with you, but that you need to step away from only thinking about yourself and consider those around you. I so hope I'm able to teach my children to get out of themselves and see how their actions and words can affect others (for both good and bad).

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm a young adult and I love my parents. I always feel so uncomfortable when I go to a friend's house and my friends and their parents are arguing or my friend calls their parents stupid or they are yelling at each other. Somehow I got really blessed to be in a family where we don't do that. I chalk it up to the fact that my parents don't accept it when we have tried to back talk or tell them "no". They let us know who's boss, so we don't really try it anymore. And as I've gotten older I've realized that I'm glad that they are the boss and not me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just started reading that book!! I only skimmed this post, but can't wait to go back to it once I'm done the book!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I just want to repost your whole post on my blog, fb, everywhere. I love it. Looks like I have a new book to get. I am not a generation X parent (born in 81) but I am a Mother of 6 and want respectful hard working loving kids. My oldest is 10 and already acts too much like a teenager. I need to work harder on stopping attitudes before they are habits. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amen Shawni.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the llnks.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love this post. Such great food for thought! So many kids who think they can say whatever they want without consequences!

    ReplyDelete
  16. i just started reading this book last week on vacation and absolutely love it. not only is betty smith's style of writing so descriptive and captivating, she also throws valuable lessons and ideas in with the narrative.
    i'm glad i'm not the only one going ga-ga over this book right now. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you for posting such inspiring words and thoughts.
    I have been thinking a lot about the young people of today and how they often feel entitled. I have seen the lack of respect and it is sad to me. I just had our TV cut off this week, as I am more and more appalled at the horrible (basically pornographic) advertisements and commercials that come on unexpectedly. I noticed the extreme disrespect on the Disney chanel and other shows directed towards young people.

    To Jojo- When my heart breaks for my children and the different struggles they go through- I always try to remind myself that this life is a test for them also. We can teach, we can love, but it is up to each individual how they will act and what they will choose. Sometimes agency is SOOOO tough. But it is good you remember that Heavenly Father loves your child even more than you can imagine and He will give him the best opportunities to succeed because He wants him to return home too. Some lessons take longer to learn than others. Keep the faith.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I just wrote my blog about the morning I had with my teen and questioning the consequences it bestowed on her. Reading this makes me thing I did do the right thing!

    I absolutely agree with you. I am frantically trying to make sure I am instilling the right values with my children. It is so difficult right now especially in Orange County, California!!! LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have yet to read this book but it is now on my "to read" list. I'm a young adult with no children (yet) but I completely agree with how respect is lacking in the world today. I hope more people start to realize this and learn to respect others. Thanks for such a beautiful blog:)

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I too LOVED that book--one of my very favorites. And I like that it isn't a "new" book--it's been around for a while. I actually read it many years ago and then just re-read it. One of the few I have ever re-read. Love your take on the characters and what you learned from them. Thx for your insight--as always!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I would second everything you said!!! I have been thinking a lot about this too. The one thing that I would add is that we need to treat our children with the respect that we hope to get from them. I grew up in South Africa and we were ALWAYS expected to treat adults with absolute respect but do you know what? They treated us respectfully too and those teachers who were so strict were also fair and kind and we loved them for it. I am often appalled at parents who are willing to publicly humiliate their children and then are appalled when the children respond with embarrassing them. I see so much sarcasm in today's relationships and I think that it is confusing to children. It is degrading. I believe if we teach our children to love and serve others and treat them respectfully, they too will learn these truths.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Such a fantastic book! I've read it several times now and after reading your review today I'm tempted to pull it back out and dive in again.

    I've got three teenage girls (17, 15 and 12) and my job as a mom to them is one of the best and most difficult things I have ever done. I often feel like an old fuddy-duddy with the expectations of behavior and hard work we hold them to. Often they do well with it, but there are always those moments when it seems like I'm not getting through at all. This is especially true with how our family approaches technology and media stuff.

    It is just so nice to know that I'm not alone in this and other awesome moms, like you, are doing the best they can as well.

    ReplyDelete
  24. One of my favorite books! Your words are so true and something I think of often.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Shawni,
    I just love both you and Sarah. I came upon your blogs separately--but doesn't surprise me you are blog friends. As a young mom of 3 girls I love the motherly wisdom I receive from both of you! I want to fight against the "norm" and be an "old fashion" parent. My oldest is almost 6 so it hasn't been too hard yet, but as the outside influences start to enter our home more and more I so appreciate having reminders like the ones you have written about. Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Make sure to read Betty Smith's "Maggie-Now". Another wonderful book!
    Both are among my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Reminds me of the quote: "You must be the change you want to see in the world." That's all we can do! Thank you for your wonderful thoughts!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. This is actually one of my favorite books. I have a whole word document filled with my favorite quotes from it. It's a book to grow up with. Each time I read it I learn something new and gain greater perspective. I love it! (I also really like her other book "Joy in the Morning". It's not as much depth or life changing, but it's still really good).

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm not a parent yet and I'm a generation Y with Baby Boomer parents. This post blew me away! First off, I LOVE this book - it is one of my absolute favourites. So much wisdom; and I say this with much consideration for those living in the depths of poverty - "less is more" in so many ways. Real character is built from lack not excess. A lot of parents today are unknowingly causing more harm than good, by failing to allow a conscience and character to develop in their children. Even as a kid in the 90's (when a lot of parents were slowly becoming what they are today and spending less time in the home) - we thankfully, due to many TV shows and commercials were taught good values and were more involved with and connected to our surroundings. What a lovely post to share!

    ReplyDelete
  30. This book was my favorite book growing up - I remember checking it out of the library and the smell of the book and how vividly it painted a picture of life "back then". It enveloped me entirely. Thank you for the blog post on this - I know what I'll be reading on vacation this summer :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Our oldest just turned 2 in December. We had some friends over for dinner recently and when she wanted to get down from the table after a solid 35 minutes of sitting there, eating, and contributing to the conversation I coached her to say, "Mommy, May I please be excused?" and wait for me to say yes. She took her dishes to the sink like she does every night. Then she came back to the table and I reminded her to say, "Mommy, thank you for making dinner." Our guests were shocked that I was telling her to thank me. Like how dare I ask her to say thank you to me. But seriously, how else is she going to learn?! She wasn't born knowing to say thank you to the person who prepared the meal. It's never too early to start, and they need to learn manners from parents! Heaven knows no one else is going to teach them.

    ReplyDelete
  32. LOVE your book recommendations!! Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I love that book as well. I loved even more that it was required reading for my daughter her freshman year.

    I also agree that this generation feels entitled. My other gripe to add to your list is the schools or sports that give everyone an award. They have no idea that in real life you have to actually work hard to be rewarded.

    That being said, I do love having teenagers. They have developed their personalities and can have meaningful conversations. I wouldn't trade it for the world!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I don't think you are generalizing about how adults are played in tv shows and then how they relate to teenagers. A commercial came on yesterday and the dad was acting "pretend" cool read: stupid, to try and get in the good graces of his tween son and the son's friends who were acting way to "cool" for their own good. It bugged me like I have not been bugged about something ever! Holy cow, I wanted to reach thru that tv screen and just tell that kid what for. Filial respect and honor is something that I think is mostly lost today, which is sad. I think also, in the book, Katie has to be how she is for shear survival. She knows that she is the only thing/person between her family and starvation. I wonder if parents took their parenting that seriously today how kids would be. I don't think we're starving but there are so many things out there that can cause "death" in other ways -- death to our spirits, our light of Christ and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I recently read the book ” Generation Me”, not the kind of book I'd normally pick up; but my younger sister recommended it. It helped me understand why our culture is the way it is and pointed out simple parenting mistakes I could work on. I loved your insight. We recently moved to The South, from California and here everyone seems to be focused on manners. It was a culture shock, but we love it.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails