The other day I was listening to a group of millennials (birth years ranging from 1980s to the early 2000’s) being interviewed by a person who does such things and, with the exception of one person, almost every ideal they discussed was different than the ideals we were brought up on.
One common theme of the conversation was that their parents were more like their best friends, rather than the authority figures we had in our parents.
Of course, I understand that this is not true for all millennials — some of the children I know born in the 1980s through 2000 are a lot smarter and wiser than we were at their age. But the one thing I really differ on with them is thinking of my parents as my best buds.
In fact, in my family and all the ones I grew up with, there was usually one disciplinarian in the house — usually the father. However, in my house it was my mother. Her rules were never to be broken, and if you did you paid the price.
My mother did not believe in the ‘spare the rod’ theory; if you broke one of her rules or neglected to follow one of her commands it didn’t make a difference what time during the day that the infraction occurred, you were going to get that punishment she promised at her first opportunity.
I learned early that my mother never forgot her promises.
I attended parochial school and sometimes the nuns got even a little more creative with their punishments than my mother. I learned by third grade that if by chance you had a mark on your little body left by a nun, you never told your mom, because sure enough she might leave you another little mark on your body.
My mom was also my teacher at home on the morals of life. She gave me a lecture on smoking when I was 13 that scared me so much I have never smoked. I often joke that if she had given me the same lecture about drinking or sex, I might be a priest or archbishop today instead of a newspaper publisher.
My mom did try to make an attempt to teach me about sex though. When I was 16 I saw her reading a book on how to teach your teenager about sex. She read the book for a couple of days, and when she finished she put the book down and called me into the living room.
Upon hearing that call, I bolted for the bathroom and locked the door. I stayed in the locked bathroom for four hours; winning the only battle I can ever remember winning. I never did have that dreaded talk.
My mother always made sure I was dressed in the latest fashions, even though things were tight.
She couldn’t sew and my pants were often rolled up but I didn’t care. I remember, I was the first person in school to wear white bucks thanks to Pat Boone (his foot wear of choice seemed to be the white lace-up shoes) and of course I had a mohair sweater.
She made surprise lunches out of anything that was on sale at the A&P store. I never was sure what was in some of those sandwiches.
I certainly, like many others of my age, rebelled at the parental authority I received. But I did my rebellion in more passive ways, which I am sure infuriated my mother more than if I was direct about it.
In spite of that, even today, I respect authority; I say ma’am and sir to all men and women young and old. I pay my bills and I still work hard.
I will always be grateful for the fact that my mom was not my friend but my parent.
Today she is 87 and has dementia, it’s taken me a long time to understand that this parent is the reason I have achieved any success in my life, because she never stopped pushing me to be the best I could be.
Thanks Mom for not giving up, I am sorry now I didn’t appreciate your kind of love sooner.
I will always be grateful for the fact that my mom was never my friend but my parent, who knew me better than any friend.
Love you Mom.
T. Pat Cavanaugh is the publisher of The News. You can reach him at 770-787-6397 or firstname.lastname@example.org