Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Methods may change, but parents still care

What do you think, seniors? Did we miss a lot not growing up with Internet access? We keep reading and hearing about all of the action today's teens are privy to. They even have code words that only they can understand when they chat online with their pals.

We understand also that parents are concerned about what their teens are up to. They are becoming spies and not just because they're listening to conversations in their homes. They can buy software for the family computer that enables them to learn what their son or daughter is doing or planning.

Once they have learned what they wish they had never heard, they face the decision of whether or not to correct the child because that would divulge their undercover work. Obviously, it never occurs to concerned parents to just remove the computer from the house and live without one as people did for centuries before computers became more used in the American home than the stove.

Even before extension phones around the house, parents also cared what we were doing. I am going back a long way to the teen years of my generation.

My cousin and I like to remember when we were sitting on a low limb in the cow pasture on our grandparents' farm, smoking corn silk wrapped in paper. We were giggling and having a good time when our grandfather appeared from nowhere and gave us a good scolding. Believe me; we never smoked corn silk again.

Another memory of parental guidance may have been close to spying, although mother never admitted to it. I tended to get in trouble with my bicycle. One evening, I secretly planned to ride my bicycle down the street to meet a boy on the bridge, I never made it. As I passed a large tree en route to the assignation, a hand reached out and grabbed the handlebar. I screamed. Mother yelled. I never got to the bridge. You could say I was caught red-handed.

Back then, parents' methods of checking up on their kids was simple. My mother's spyglass was the big bay window on the front porch. More than once, when she judged that a young man was overstaying his welcome after bringing me home in his car, she streamed down the sidewalk in her flannel nightgown and knocked on the car window. It was very embarrassing.

A friend recalls that her mother had a similar technique when she came home with a boy in his car. The living room light flashed on and off in fair warning that time was up.

With 12 children to oversee, one B.C. (before computers) mother relied on the older children to keep track of the younger ones, one of the 12 siblings recalls. The family lived on a farm and the mother did not drive so the children busied themselves in both good and naughty activities. A favorite thing was to sneak to the creek to play and crawl through the tunnel under the bridge. At least one child always got bloodsuckers that had to be removed from the skin with a lighted match. They were never punished for going to the bridge because the older children who were in charge never told their mother.

A friend with five siblings and a detective father told an even better story. Whenever she or her sister was leaving on a date, their father always rubbed their backs and told them when to be home. "He wanted to be sure we were wearing bras," she said.

"He thought we didn't catch on."

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