Not long ago I was faced with a parenting dilemma. Since much of what I know about parenting comes from being raised by the master parents- my very own mom and dad, I often draw on their techniques when faced with the challenges of rearing three small children.
I recall my mom sharing with me a particular experience involving my two older sisters that I have often reflected upon- usually with a smile.
This is the experience (to the best of my recollection) of my mother: she had just completed reading a book on proper discipline by the oh-so-famous Dr. Spock (no, not the one of Star Trek fame--- live long and prosper) (btw, when the husband and I lived in married student housing at BYU we had some neighbors who were Trekkies in a MAJOR way! They even studied the Klingon language. Weird. One time they invited us over for dinner and they kept talking back and forth to each other in Klingon. Then they would giggle. Really weird. Just for fun, you should Google "Klingon" and see what pops up. Again, weird. Note to self: dedicate an entire post, or series of posts, to the colorful peeps we met while at Wymount.) Anyway, among other principles of raising children, this Dr. Spock taught the principle of teaching children the value of respecting another's property.
My mom relates that my grandfather (her father) came one day to repair the screen door that had a gaping hole in it. Not an hour after the repair my mom passed by the screen only to find that a brand new gash had been made in the screen. She was upset beyond description and called her two darling girls in to witness the spectacle. Upon interrogation, she determined that oldest sister was the offending party and asked her (in true Dr. Spock disciplinary style) to please bring her favorite toy to my mom.
Oldest sister did as instructed. She ran to her bedroom, gathered up her favorite Raggedy Ann doll and returned to my mom where she presented her with the beloved toy. Obeying the guidelines set forth in the Dr. Spock Bible, my mom fetched a pair of scissors and snipped the arms and legs off poor little defenseless Raggedy Ann, thus illustrating the point of how it might feel when someone damages something we hold dear and therefore we should appreciate and treat with respect another's property.
Immediately, after the toy oldest sister had presented was amputated, the younger sister began to cry. When my mom questioned her as to what the problem was- after all it was oldest sister's toy that was snipped- she promptly explained that oldest sister had retrieved her toy and that it was not a doll belonging to oldest sister, but it was in fact younger sister's doll.
Not long after, my grandfather entered the house and, finding that two of his granddaughters were in distress, questioned my mother what might be the problem. She explained about the screen, the doll, Dr. Spock, the scissors, and the mistake. My grandfather then sheepishly admitted to putting the new hole in the screen as he was folding up his ladder to be stored in the garage.
Now, on to my own parenting dilemma. I happened upon a broken ring lying on the floor of my family room. This was not an expensive ring, but one that held small significance in relation to the husband and myself. I questioned my daughters and found out that oldest daughter was the offender. Calling upon the wisdom of my mother and attempting to teach oldest daughter the importance of respect for another's property, I asked her to hand me the necklace that she was wearing- a string of tiny faux pearls. She obediently removed the pearls from around her neck and handed them to me. I promptly snapped the string they were on, sending a cascade of pearls onto the carpet. She sat in stunned silence as she watched me perform this attempt at teaching a small lesson.
I then explained why I did what I did. Still she looked confused. I told her to please pick up her pearls and to have a little more respect for someone else's belongings in the future. She replied, "Mom, those are not my pearls, they are sister's." What? Was I hearing her correctly? Hadn't I studied and scrutinized and been taught the Dr. Spock model by my loving mother? Hadn't I vowed to not make the same mistake in its execution that she had made? Had I heard something before about history repeating itself? It did this day at my house.
The pearls sit in a Ziploc bag on a shelf, waiting to be restrung. I don't know if I will use this Dr. Spock technique again, but I certainly will pass on the story to my children and let them perpetuate the legacy. I look forward to the day when I receive the phone call that begins, "Mom, you will never believe what happened today..."