Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Four Minute Lecture

Growing up, we always went to my grandmother's for Thanksgiving. Grandma and Grandpa lived two miles away--on the same road. So by the time we could sing Over the River and Through the Woods, we were there.

But that didn't stop my father from delivering his annual four-minute lecture. I can still hear it... I don't care what your cousins do (there were nine of us) I don't want to hear any screaming or see any running. I expect you to behave the entire time. I don't care if your cousins are acting like animals. Do you understand me?

It's important to point out here that my cousins were far from animals. They were just kids who were excited to be with their cousins and celebrating a holiday. (You should have HEARD the lecture we got before we saw them at Christmas.) My siblings and I were also very well-behaved children who frequently received compliments from strangers on our public behavior.

So why the lecture? The only explanation I can think of is that that my father had incredibly high expectations for his children. The kind that applauded report cards full of As but demanded an explanation for the B. We lived in fear not of his punishments, which were pretty tough, but his disappointment.

My brother and I didn't really understand how unique our small town upbringing was until we were in college. My brother was in a class discussion about some ethical issue and they were asked to give reasons they would or would not do something ethically questionable. When he answered because I might embarrass my family, they all just stared at him.

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for loving but strict parenting, for possessing a sense of shame and the ability to take responsibility for my own actions, and for well-behaved children--even if they sometimes behave like animals.

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