By Lyzz Repa
Growing up I must have heard “Back in my days” or “when I was growing up” at least three times a week. If it wasn’t my mother it was some random lady to a child. It was said so often that at times you could sense it coming and say it before a single word could be muttered. But the truth is, no matter how many times it was said – it didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Listening to my mom talk about how the train was only a token back when she was a youngster was irrelevant to me. I should also note at some point in my lifetime I also used tokens to get on the train, though I must admit I am not quite sure if they were worth a dollar or not. I do remember when the train was just a dollar fifty (if someone could make that happen again, I’d greatly appreciate it. While you at it, please tell dollar cabs their name is dollar cab for a reason – the fare should be a dollar!). Back in the days this back in the days that you could never escape it, and you were sure to hear those words when you got in trouble.
Look, I wasn’t the best kid. I was a great kid, no seriously all jokes aside I was a bad ass kid. As in I was awesome! (with moments of badness). I was very respectful, I listened more often than not and I had manners. Even with all of those great qualities I still had to hear my mother tell me about how when she was my age she couldn’t dare get away with certain things with her mother. That just made me think my grandmother was a Cuban dictator, especially since Fidel was still in power. Figured it was a Cuban DNA thing. I now know that isn’t true because my mother is more of a Shang Dynasty general. One time I lost my mind for a brief second and I told my mother “we are in different days now, you should let it go”. I almost ate my words that day and I am certainly eating them now, because back in my days kids were kids.
I remember getting home being excited to go out and play with my friends. I didn’t care much for the television. In fact my mother didn’t have a TV in the house until I was twelve. To be honest, I didn’t miss out on much. Having a television was not foreign to me. I was allowed to watch it if I was at a cousin’s house but I rarely did. I wanted to read, go outside and play, and too busy with extracurricular activities. Dinner was at a specific time and I was expected to be there. And I could not just show up either, I had to be clean. My words (thank you, welcome, please, excuse me, sir and ma’am) were used often. I still use them today (I work in an environment where titles aren’t really used and I still manage to add Ms. and Mr. in front of co-workers names – well some coworkers).
I was blessed or lucky (whichever is fine) to have never been disciplined with a whip, my mom had a nice belt. That belt was just my size, leather, and never used on anything else but my behind. Come to think of it that might be the reason I don’t like belts. I own many but never use them unless for fashion accessory (once every several years). As for the whip my mother thought it to be slave-ish, why she didn’t associate the belt with it is beyond me. I’m glad she didn’t, I needed some of those belts. Anyway, I knew people whose parents used whips (Rigwaz, baton, fil electric etc.) and I didn’t judge. In fact I use to help my friends pick their twig when they got in trouble. It could not be too big because we cared about our behinds and it couldn’t be too small because you would lose the privilege to get one. It had to be just the right size. And after being disciplined you had to go to the corner (a genoux) so you could think about what you had done. I don’t think I actually ever thought about what I had done wrong but rather “This woman is crazy” and “Next time I’m going to do this instead”.
I now see parents telling their children they are grounded and banishing them to a room that looks like a pop-up shop version of Best Buy, and I think to myself “are you serious?” What’s the punishment in that? I wish when I was growing up words like “grounded” existed. And the privilege of saying “my/your room” could only be used when I was on good terms any other time it was my mother’s house and everything in it, including me, belonged to her. I hear children slam doors now when upset with their parents. I wish I could. Actually, no. I’d be dead.
Speaking of “I wish you would” back in my days those weren’t words. Those were a glance from the corner of my mom’s eye that would put me in check. The fact that parents have full length arguing sessions with their children is shocking to me. It is upsetting. Now, I know I am not to judge someone’s parenting skills but if your child can check you like you’re in a World Star video, your parenting sucks. In what world are you to be arguing with your child like an episode of Love and Hip Hop? Don’t get me wrong, my mother did have full length conversations with me but those usually happened right before or after a punishment (we also spoke at other times people, simmer down). In those conversations I was free to explain myself and my actions. It was also made clear to me why my actions warranted consequences. However, during those conversations I wouldn’t dare raise my voice or better yet use a curse word.
I understand the concept of child rearing is very different in many part of the world especially different when compared to Caribbean child rearing or blacks for that matter, and I don’t expect anyone to agree with my parents’ way of raising me. But the point still stand, back in my day I had respect for my elders. Children (most, especially those born and raised in America) nowadays don’t even begin to understand the concept of punishment. Actions and consequences. In fact if you told a child today to go get you a twig they’d ask you if you are going camping and do you need it for s’mores. Actually touching a child? Unless you want police to show up at your home, go right ahead.
I am not too sure what my far far in the distant future children will say about me, I’d hope they say I was like a democratic president in America after the Millennium. They may very well be annoyed with my back in the days but one thing is for sure they will be able to say “Back in my day my mama didn’t play that”. And if anyone tries to challenge that they’d hit them with a quick – Whatever!