Where did you go? Out.
What did you do? Nothing.
The 1957 bestseller of this title by Robert Paul Smith was a lighthearted attempt to deal with parents’ frustrations trying to oversee their kids’ behavior.
When your kids won’t tell you what they’ve been up to, consider this normal for adolescents and respect it. Your children are developing their own personalities. Excessive oversight can impede the process, possibly leading to anti-social outcomes.
How inadequate this advice is in our gun-saturated, social media culture. How often do we hear parents of a murderous young man say he just went off the deep end, that there was no warning of his horrific crime?
The murder of nine church members during Bible study by a 21-year-old continues to haunt me. This kind of act has become too common. Parents need a way to become better citizens in counseling their children.
When I was growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, parents had to contend with dangerous activities of their kids, including unsecured guns, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and attempts at suicide. Two of my schoolmates succeeded in killing themselves. Growing up wasn’t easy then, but it’s even more difficult now.
My brother and I were lucky ones. Even so, he was dispatched to a military school because he couldn’t keep his room picked up. I used my boundless curiosity to go far away, camping, before I might be sent to reform school. Eventually, we both found ourselves and became socially acceptable.
When my own children approached adolescence in the 1970s, parenting challenges deepened. Dangerous drugs appeared in elementary schools. Although my kids were led into service opportunities, into travel and camping experiences and to real work — like a daily paper route, scraping and painting neighbors’ porches and babysitting — I was nervous.
I decided to confront perceived dangers head on. One night at supper I said, “I want to have a conversation with you about drugs.”
Our kids knew instantly what I meant. “In our family, we don’t do drugs,” I continued. “If you find yourselves in trouble in any way, I want you to tell Mom or me about it, and we will try our best to help you out of it.”
The risk was worth taking. Mom and I learned a lot; drugs were all around. More important, and without realizing it, I had created a safe haven not only for our kids, but for the neighborhood. Without saying more, word spread among their friends’ siblings and peers.
Alongside our corner house was a stone wall. Neighborhood kids gathered there; the immediate area became a “node” where kids from other neighborhoods came to be with their friends.
I set rules: no alcohol, be helpful to the neighbors, keep the area picked up (trash can provided). The kids carved a totem pole from a dead tree trunk. Slowly, our neighborhood accepted them.
Fifteen years later, these kids gathered from across the country with their spouses and children to hold a reunion in that city, Fitchburg. Afterward, we went to “the wall” for a photo. Everyone had survived.
With the proliferation of guns, moral confusion and taunts in social media, challenges for kids today are immense. Take initiatives. Help the kids.
Bob Brodsky lives in Rowley.