In the Eye of the Beholder
My grandmother’s letters to her children (written almost one hundred years ago) are sprinkled with comments like: Be sure not to sit up late. With all the afternoon at your disposal you should always be in bed by 9:30 and Be careful of your health. You must not neglect Grippe and develop pneumonia.
It is those kind of remarks that give me a picture of day-to-day concerns and thoughts of the era in which my mother and her siblings grew up. Those gentle admonitions and bits of advice offer an intimate look at family relationships of the last century. It’s the kind of ‘history’ I most enjoy and why I based my Dear Medora book, on the correspondence between my grandmother and her oldest daughter.
I was, therefore, a bit taken aback a few years ago when an acquaintance who had just read the book asked me, “Did you know your grandmother?”
“Yes, very well,” I responded. “She didn’t die until I was in college.”
“Was she always so bossy?”
“Bossy?! Not at all. She was a gentle sort of person. I would never consider her bossy,” I said.
“Oh,” was the response, “she always seemed to be telling Medora what to do – not to forget her umbrella or to spend more time studying or…”
I’m afraid I became rather snappish at that point. “I guess I just call that good parenting,” I said.
Variations on that conversation have come up since, most recently after my “Author! Author!” presentation on Mother’s Day. A few of the audience members and I talked about the differences in how children are brought up today. One person referred to today’s parenting-style-of-choice as “The Discovery Method” as compared to “The Guidance Method” of past years.
Perhaps each has its merits. The discussion led, of course, to whether or not children need boundaries or just a safety net and how we perceive the role of adults in our fast-moving society. It was one of those never-ending sorts of discussions and I’m sure it will come up again. (And, I might add – Dear Medora may not be on any best seller lists, but I consider it a total success as long it continues to provoke such thoughts.)