(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 12/6/2013)
Out on the westbound Pennsylvania Turnpike, there is a billboard announcing the upcoming New Stanton service area.
“Tantrum Averted,” it proclaims, the words above a picture of a young boy eating an ice cream cone and grinning. The lesson, for child and parent alike, is either the kids gets an ice cream cone or the parent gets to listen to screaming and pounding.
Clearly, though I’m sure the ad agency that developed the campaign would deny such nefarious purpose, youngsters are being encouraged by the state to scream, stamp their feet, and otherwise react in violent obnoxiousness if Mom does not stop at the rest area and buy the little varmints some ice cream.
On a Yoplait television commercial, a teenage girl replaces a candidate boyfriend her mom doesn’t like with one her mom likes even less – a ploy which wins her the one she wanted in the first place.
In another of the company’s commercials, a teenage boy notes, “We all have our tricks.”
His mom had said he was going out too much, and should stay home for a bit, so he calls in his crew to raise a ruckus in the living room, while mom tried to work at her desk.
“Guess who’s going out tomorrow,” the lad grins.
One has to wonder how such an ad campaign could be deemed acceptable by company ad buyers – unless none of them have had any children.
Mom, according to the commercials, is a weakling, easily put in her place by her children.
I promise that would not have been the view of my parents.
One of Mother’s favorite statements was, “Go play outside.” Snacks rarely were allowed: “You’ll spoil your supper,” Mother would say. But if there was a snack, it would be some fruit or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
And a child who did not get his way did not throw a tantrum. Tantrums were Dad’s domain, and he was good at them. On the other hand, I do not recall ever hearing mom offer to “wait until Dad got home.”
She would send a miscreant out to cut a suitable alder switch and, the implement being delivered, apply it to the nether end of the erring youngster.
“You want something to cry for?” mom would say. “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Not that she was unloving or unsympathetic to just causes, but in her day, when an adult said “No,” a child’s duty was to immediately contemplate other desires. I would like to say I was never in need of chastisement. Alas, I found many ways to incur Mom’s, and sometimes Dad’s, wrath – the majority of the time justified.
And when became a dad, I would like to declare I easily decided to eschew my parents disciplinary methods. Son and daughter would attest to the contrary, but they also would have to agree I mellowed some as they grew toward adulthood.
Children, I eventually determined, are simply junior people, inexperienced in such things as hot stoves and hotter cars. The job of adults is to teach them stuff.
An alder switch is not the way to apply the lessons – nor, I submit, is portraying mothers as weak, ineffectual, easily fooled women who eagerly reward their offspring with ice cream cones or allow misbehavior simply because “it could be worse.”
Most of us travel down the highway of life as fast as we can go, but mindful of the Shell station or bowling alley behind which the speed trap is set. And if we forget, the fine is quickly and politely applied.
We owe our children no less.