When I was a child, my mother told me that I was to be in the house when the streetlights came on. Yes, I pushed the limits; but neither my mother, friends, nor I doubted our parents' authority to make and enforce these rules.
Today, parents are calling upon legislators to impose curfews so that the police will ensure that their children are home.
We didn't come to school in ripped jeans with pant legs torn or with $60 to $100 sneakers. We wore what our parents felt was appropriate. A, "But Mike and Charlie's parents . . ." would be interrupted in mid-sentence with, "I am not Mike or Charlie's parent." Case closed. My mother never doubted her authority to make these decisions, nor did I question it.
Today parents, feeling powerless, call upon school districts to legislate dress codes to force their children to dress neatly, thereby relieving the pressure upon parents and children to keep up with expensive fads. Dress codes are also being called for in an attempt to improve student behavior. What a sad commentary it is, that parents feel the need for dress codes to make some children behave.
We understood that if we had children, we would be responsible for their support. Now, young and old have children with little thought to their responsibilities. Deadbeat fathers, and sometimes mothers, now abandon families and their responsibilities in such numbers that laws are being sought to create a national registry to provide a means of forcing parents to support their children. Welfare has had to be provided to ensure that the children are cared for.
A note home from the teacher? Heaven forbid. Today, parents come in to the school and the teacher is put on the defensive. "Did you see him do it?" Or, even worse, "That's your problem. I can't do a thing with her."
We went to school to learn. It was our responsibility to learn. If we received a bad report card, we did not blame it on the teacher. We were responsible for our grades.
There are, no doubt, many more examples of the same type of deeply troubling changes that are taking place. Most people assume responsibility for their actions. What we are seeing, however, is the renunciation of personal responsibility, parental responsibility and one's responsibility to the community.
People are asking for laws and school rules to control their children. The courts are being asked to ensure that parents assume responsibility for their children.
People have to say, "No. I have the power to control my own life and assume responsibilities as a parent and as a member of my community."
Unless we do, the mortar that holds us together as families and as a society will continue to weaken and we will become a nation whose only controls are laws, with families nothing more than a group of people coexisting under one roof.
Our strength as a country has always been our somewhat paradoxical acceptance of individual responsibility coupled with our acceptance of our responsibility to others. That has and must continue to be the mortar that holds us together and moves us forward as a community. If we are to reverse the tide, we must start by taking charge within ourselves and expect the same of others. Not just because we should; but because we must.
Parents, please don't be afraid to be a parent. Your children will thank you when they become adults.