(written between the early to mid-1950s) (facsimile
When Mrs. Golden called me she asked whether I would speak to a group of very interested women who had been doing a considerable of thinking for themselves but now wanted to hear someone else speak. I told Mrs. Golden that I would be glad to speak with such women but that all I would say was — Think for yourselves some more, because the best authority or experts on Parenthood I know are Parents themselves.
Maybe we are not expert enough — Then we must become more expert.
Maybe we don't think enough — Then we must think more.
Maybe we don't know how to think. Then we will need help and mental exercise.
If we depend on the others to tell us how to live, how to rear our children, and what to believe, I think we are doomed to confusion, insecurity, and turmoil.
Parents have been told so many things about what he should or should not do by so many authorities I wonder he has survived at all.
I've wondered for a long while why so many people take such joy in belittling parents. Why should anyone belittle the most conscientious hard working group in our society.
I do not tell parents they are good or fine or smart because I want to flatter. Rather I say it because I think it for the most part is true and also because I think without self-confidence in ourselves and our beliefs we cannot adequately function.
And I do not speak of a state of pig-headedness, conceit, or dogmatic conviction. I speak of a self-confidence which comes from knowing ourselves — our capacities and our limitations. A self-confidence which comes from new learnings and constant development.
I know what I offer parents is not easy — Quite the contrary — I place upon ourselves a great responsibility — that of being our own expert — of finding our own answers easier. But I believe that if we demand that each parent be his own expert — only then will we have parents who can rear children who can survive this very tipsy-topsy world.
Let us examine for a few moments some of the things parents have been instructed to do and see if it is really possible to instruct in this business of parenthood. Let me repeat — I do not refer to men of science who observe and try to draw conclusions from his observation.
(1) We are told to love our children. Love is an emotion and I don't know how we can teach a parent love if he doesn't have it. I think if parents would stop listening to every Tom Dick and Harry about love and would stop and examine their own feelings about their own children and would permit their own natural love instincts to shine they would know how to express their love.
Do your remember John Watson and his school of Behaviorism and his strict schedule. Your baby is born, says he like a lump of damp clay — Be strict, be rigid don't spoil don't kiss, Mothers are wicked. Marriage is doomed. Parents believed him. Thousands followed him, and babies starved for affection.
And more recently, we hear a lot about self-demand — interpreted to mean — if your baby cries — you jump — and lots of little unhappy tyrants resulted. But who is saying and who has said — Parents, examine yourself, What do you want to do? What do you think is right? I for one prefer a Mother's or Father's natural instincts which come out when we express ourselves freely and the good that comes from the love and self-confidence of following one's natural instincts. I think we can depend on these instincts.
Have you ever had the experience of watching a mother monkey and her child — and wondered who taught the monkey her love protection warmth?
I think human beings are as good as monkeys — they too can love and protect their children if we will only let them be human and protect their children.
(2) But — some will say what of that dangerous human emotion called Hate. If we are not instructed on how to curb our hate — what will happen to our children. I think parents have been instructed on how to curb their hates. The only difficulty is again — we can't instruct about emotions — what we feel we feel — repress or conceal — so many parents have learned to smile outwardly and hate inwardly — result — colitis, ulcers — and all kinds of civilized ills — on the children's parts — all kinds of vague subtle methods of meeting these new fashioned repressed hates.
Far safer I think — is the parent who says and does what he feels naturally and with assurance — our children can safely respond to our natural expressions of hate — He can take hold of these freely expressed hates — examine them and throw them back to us if he doesn't like them.
I suppose I'm asking for honesty about our emotions — honesty about ourselves with ourselves and with our children. Let's not tell our children they're darlings when they behave like brats — they know what they are, and they will respect us a lot more if they know we are honest with them — and true honesty is an honesty about our feelings
But — you will say — people change — we do not have to remain hateful. Fortunately, this is true. People can improve until the day they are no more.
But we do not improve thru instruction, or formulas, or techniques. Rather thru self examination — self improvement and a desire for self-development.
And now you might ask Does it hurt to listen to experts so-called. I think it can and I think often it does artificially.
And this is how it can hurt us.
A Mother reads that a good mother nurses her baby — for many reasons she doesn't or can't nurse her baby. What is the result? Guilt. A Guilt which hurts her and her baby far more than the loss of the breast ever could.
A Mother reads that a good mother never spanks her child. While Mother restrains herself Johnny teases until Mother hits. What is the result? Guilt. A guilt which hurts Johnny and Mother far more than a good wallop ever could.
The authorities say baby's bath should be fun time — and maybe it should but some mothers don't enjoy giving babies baths — it hurts their backs, and they like other things more — but authorities say that if they are good parents they will enjoy it. — Result Guilt — far more harmful to Mother and child than a brisk rub-down could ever be.
In our household we have three children and we get thru bath time very fast — why — we prefer to linger at the dinner table and to do lots of other things. But some authorities say and let me quote "the parents who really want children are never content to let their baby's bath be simply something they do to get him clean. For most of them the bath becomes fun time.
Take the advice given on the question of diapers. Be comradely when you change your babies diapers. Your aim should not be just to get your baby clean. You should enjoy I think a pretense at pleasure — where there is no pleasure can harm far more than just getting the baby diapered. He begins to wonder what's wrong with a diaper a parent has to try so hard to enjoy.
You all know I could go on endlessly about what good parents according to authorities are supposed to do or not to do. To feel or not to feel.
But let me repeat — examine yourselves — find your own answers through self examination and self development. Its hard work — but it is the only method I know that does work.
Sure read, listen, all your can — but always keep in mind that we can't be told — we 've got to find. out tor ourselves in the form of prescription.
And now about the rights of parents
I have all kinds of books, articles pamphlets in my library. None of them talk about the rights or parents. Some or them hint at it. Some suggest it. But nobody I know has made a real point of it. Why? I've been wondering why.
Are the rights of Parents unimportant?
Are the rights of Parents to be taken for granted?
Are the rights of Parents already clarified?
Or should Parents have rights?
I believe we have a complicated topic here. But one should attempt to answer. I believe that we can find some good answers together.
Always when I am trying to think a problem thru I ask my children what they think. I have a deep respect for little children. I think they are terribly smart. I think they think well. They haven't, been as contaminated by the thoughts of others as we have. They are honest.
So I asked my children — What do you think are the rights of parents, One of them answered well, I believe, when she said — well — Shouldn't parente have the same rights as anyone else? I thought to my self how true but do they?
When our democratic form of government was organized we first wrote a Constitution in order that the rights and duties of the participants are known.
So I believe in establishing a home we should clarity the rights of the participants — today specifically the parents. The rights of children have been announced to the tree tops. They have been publicized so well that in some homes no one has any rights left.
So let us turn our attention to a Bill of Rights for Parents.
Article 1. The right to enjoy life. You might cry Utopia. I would ask is there any point to a life we don't enjoy. Sure people have troubles — lots of them. I know the woes of the world seem too bad to be true, but I think life can be enjoyable, and I think an inalienable right of a parent should be to enjoy life — not every minute but generally speaking we should feel that life is good.
Nov if we ware to become philosophical, and I think we should if we are to seek answers we would of course ask — what is good? what is enjoyable — what do we mean when we say — Enjoy 1ife.
It we are to interpret enjoying life, to mean an increase of recreation such as more time for bridge, television and movIes we would all agree that neither we nor society should have much to gain.
Through a process of education and self improvement however we would find ourselves enjoying 1ife a in more constructive ways. We would find our satisfaction in giving. I don't believe just giving does either the giver or the receiver much good. But a giving because we want to give is good for both the receiver and the giver. Our next question to logically follow then is what do we give if we are to enjoy life — and I would answer every parent should have the right to enjoy life by giving of himself.
But you might say how silly that's the trouble with parenthood. That's all we do is give and give and give — so much so we have no time for ourselves — and here is my point. I don't think that we can enjoy life by that kind of giving to our children all the time. A tired parent cannot give. They're maybe around — but they are not giving. A bored parent cannot give. They're maybe going thru the motions but they cannot give. An over anxious over-protective parent cannot give. They too are always around but they cannot give.
Each of us thru contemplation and self examination must find how to best exercise this right.
Article II. The rights of parents to have feeling of accomplishment about rearing their children. Sometimes it seems as though parents get all the blame and none of the credit in this business of parenthood. So many people are eager and ready to give parents advise — many parents seem to have forgotten how to make a decision about the simplest problems of morality. The endless flow of foolish questions which infer such a lack of self-confidence — What should I do if my child k1cks me in the shin? What should I do if my child wants to hit his sister over the head with a hammer?
I think parents have the right to feel a sense of accomplishment which comes from having enough self-confidence to be able to answer for ourselves the ethical and moral questions necessary to keep a family from taIling apart.
I do not mean by this imposing upon ourselves and our children long lists of rights and wrongs. Restrictions which prevent us from thinking and acting freely. I mean the basic ethical and moral standards which every individual home or society must have if it is to survive.
Article III. The rights of parents to have a feeling of accomplishment besldes their children.
I believe a parent makes a serious mistake when being a parent becomes a full time job. The dangers nare are great. The satisfaction precarious. The results poor.
Until our children reach school age we can save ourselves a lot of frustration if we accept parenthood as just about a full time job-leaving our spare time if any for our husband or wife.
However when the school lends its helping hand and we continue to devote ourselves completely to our home and children, I believe we should examine carefully the present and the future and ask ourselves is this enough?
I believe a mature individual would feel a need for more giving. He will turn his heart and his head to people outside his home — to children outside his own. Each of us must again find our own interests, our own ways. The opportunities are unlimited for he who wishes to give — the world is badly in need of all the help we can give it.
Article IV. Another very important right of a parent is the right to be a husband or wife as well as a mother or father.
So much of the literature for parents tells us what to do and how to teel about our children and here and there advises that you should spare some time for your spouse if you are to succeed as a parent.
If I were giving advise, which I never do, I believe I would rather the cart were turned. I think children would be safer — with parents who devote more love and time to each other — thereby permitting their children to breathe a child's life — less disturbed by parents and adult standards.
And then after giving to parents the right to be a husband and wife I would give to them one more final and important right.
Article V. The right to be an adult and to live an adult life. With this article I would give many things to parents which I have heard many so-called experts take away.
Have your read those popular articles which say "I turn over my home completely to my children. I don't worry about noise, messiness, confusion. My children can do what they want in their own home. Inferring I suppose that parents retire to a small closet — basement or maybe the public library — for peace and quiet. What is accomplished by such tyranny I wonder.
I believe being an adult implies a need for study, thoughtfulness, quiet and order. I think parents should look to their own home for the meeting of these needs.
I believe children acquire their adult standards by observing how their parents live — and if they are to become parents they must witness parents who live like an adult.
But you will say — Children must be noisy-active-and messy- and this I know and agree with heartily — but let us organize our homes and our lives so that the rights of each are respected — self respect and mutual respect would result, I believe, in the happiness and success of both parent and child.