By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist
We all know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But what happens when the village doesn’t want to raise the child?
What happened to the old days when children were taught to listen to adults and other figures of authority? And what happened to the days when people looked out for each other’s children?
Some adults today don’t want to get involved, saying it’s other people’s affairs. But living in the same village, it eventually becomes everyone’s affair, particularly if their children decide to go on a shooting rampage, as we’ve seen time and time again in the news.
Some parents come running to their children’s rescue when someone else tries to discipline their children, which in effect, is teaching these children that they don’t have to obey figures of authority.
As children growing up in the 1970s, my sisters and I would never have dreamed of talking back to Mrs. Maldonado, my grandma Emma’s next door neighbor of many years. When we got into mischief, just as kids will, she would issue a stern warning. We never thought of retorting back, “You’re not my mother!” despite the fact that she was a frail, aging lady.
We knew that if we did, Grandma Emma or Aunt Patsy would be waiting for us at the front door with the infamous pink sandal.
As parents, it is our natural tendency to want to rescue our children. As the mother of a teenager, I know. During my daughter Laura’s middle school years, when we lived in Abilene, Texas, I started getting calls from teachers and even the principal about her problematic behavior and lack of respect. My first instinct was to want to argue because I knew my Laura would not do that. Surely, something had to be wrong. But instead of trying to find fault with them, I decided to listen. I did not come running to my daughter’s rescue as she expected. Instead I gave her one of those you-better-tell-me-the-truth-right-now looks and she eventually broke down, telling me that in fact she had been sassing off.
Although it was out of character for Laura, she had been showing a pattern of troubling behavior and was guilty as charged, so she suffered the consequences. She got an old-fashioned spanking and was given more chores with the lesson being: “You respect all adults, be they parents, teachers, police officers, grandmas, aunts, crossing guards, neighbors, store clerks, etc.”
Of course there was another lesson to be learned here, too, and that fell on me. I had become so absorbed in my own world, in my job as a newspaper reporter, that I was not recognizing the cries for help in Laura until her grades took a turn for the worse and the calls started coming in. My solution was to quit my newspaper job and move back here to New Mexico to return to college. In doing so, I was able to hit two birds with one stone. I’m about to complete the master’s degree I’ve wanted to earn for years and over the past few years, I’ve been able to schedule my classes, for the most part, to where I’m done by the time Laura gets off of school.
As parents, we too have to be set straight so that we can be the examples for our children, and this means showing respect for other adults ourselves, and then of course, being there for our children. It’s so easy to become wrapped up in work, trying to get that promotion or bonus, that we place our children second without meaning to. Perhaps that’s why so many of us parents today become sensitive when others try to discipline our children, perhaps because we may share part of the blame.
Instead of playing the blame game though, we need to accept the village’s help in raising our children.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: