I finished this book a little while ago:
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:
This picture can’t do it justice:…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.