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Parenting On A Wing And A Prayer

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Parenting On A Wing And A Prayer

I didn’t go through teenage rebellious years until I was 42 years old, when I ran away from home and did most of what my friends had done in high school.

I was a damn-near-perfect child with an intense desire to please my parents, and a profound fear of disappointing them. If my father ordered me to be home by 9:00; I was home by 8:59. If my mother asked me to wash dishes; I asked if the floor needed cleaning, also. 

I have never figured out how my parents did it. None of the tactics they used to make me an ideal child worked for me with my children.           

As a teenager my mother described how easy it was to become pregnant. According to her a man and a woman could be in different states, but his sperm had the ability to travel highways, jump fences, and leap tall buildings toward a goal of, magnetically, reaching that woman. I believed my mother, and that belief kept me scared and virginal. 

Years later I praised her for telling me that preposterous story to keep me on the straight and narrow. 

“I didn’t make that up,” she glowered. “It’s the truth.” 

I tried that yarn on my kids and they laughed in my face. They had what I hadn’t had: Sex Education. 

My parents were loving, demonstrative and consistent in their expectations and promises. They ruled with iron hands and velvet gloves. I don’t remember my mother ever raising her voice or losing patience. It wasn’t necessary. 

As a parent I, on the other hand, was not like my mother. 

When reasoning, begging, bribing, negotiating and shouting didn’t get my daughter to clean her room, she returned from school to find everything she owned on the front lawn where I had tossed it out her second floor bedroom window; a humiliation she still admonishes me for. 

My father told us daily, “Children are to be seen and not heard.”  So, when I had children I determined that they would have minds of their own. I let them know that their thoughts, opinions and ideas mattered.

And then I lived to regret it. 

My daughter was in kindergarten when she asked which dress she should wear; the pink or the yellow one. 

“They’re both nice,” I answered. 

“No. You tell me,” she insisted. 

“You’re old enough to decide for yourself,” I prevailed. 

“I can’t,” she whined. “You tell me. You tell me.”  

Thinking that perhaps she wasn’t yet mature enough to make such a decision I yielded to her whimpering. “I like the pink one,” I said. 

She promptly selected the yellow one. 

It got worse from there. 

As the years passed my children’s decision-making abilities developed as I’d hoped they would, but I was challenged every step of the way. Rarely did their conclusions match mine, and often their decisions brought dire consequences, but in the end they were better prepared for life than I was. 

The price I paid for being unconditionally obedient was exorbitant. I was in my late thirties before I realized I had the right to my own thoughts, and it took several additional years before I found the courage to express them. 

Unlike me as a child, my children were not perfect. They were normal children, reaching, growing, challenging and testing. That is, after all, their role. 

They are parents themselves, now, and my only prayer is that the words I spoke to them so often during their formative years, have remained with them:  “I hope to God I live long enough to watch you go through the same hell with your children, that I went through with you.” 

It warms my heart to know they are.
Editor’s Note: Laverne H. Bardy is a syndicated humor columnist. Visit her at She’s the author of “How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old?”  Her articles appear regularly on She blogs for the and is also a columnist for,, and Copyright, Laverne H. Bardy, published with permission.

Laverne H. Bardy’s humor column, Laverne’s View, has been syndicated with Senior News Wire Services since 2004, and is read in newspapers throughout the United States, Canada and India. She wrote for 50 Plus Monthly, a regional New Jersey newspaper, where loyal readers laughed at her humor from 1999 to 2009. Currently she blogs for Huffington Post’s “Fifty” section, and writes for us here at, as well as and

Laverne began her writing career in the mid 1970’s, when she was asked to write and edit Hotline, the Parent/Teacher newsletter at the school her children attended, in Livingston, New Jersey. During that same period she wrote one play, collaborated in writing another, and worked with the Livingston school system’s psychologist to write a series of Behavioral Modification skits that were presented to parents and teachers of the student body.

Laverne wrote human interest stories for West Essex Tribune and The Newark Star Ledger for a stretch then went on to join the staff of Northern Horizon’s newspaper.

Some publications Laverne’s work has appeared in are Reader’s Digest, Mature Living, Montage Magazine, Northern Horizons,Woman’s Hockey, Big Apple Parents’ Paper, The Daily Record newspaper and New Jersey Jewish News. Anthologies include Chocolate for a Woman’s Courage, Rocking Chair Reader, Bedpan Banter, Story House, and Craft of the Modern Writer. She is currently working on a book, How the (Bleep) Did I Get This Old?, a compilation of her columns, life stories and ramblings. Laverne was interviewed by Bottom Line Retirement, twice.

When she is not writing Laverne gives talks and humorous readings in coffee shops, libraries, and for various organizations and workshops. Some of her topics include: Growing up in the Fifties, How to Get More Humor in your Life, and The Joys of Aging. Talks about the joys of aging don’t usually last more than thirty seconds.

Laverne was nominated for publication in the 2006 edition of Marquis Who’s Who of American Women.

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