He was a little guy, perhaps around 8 years old with sandy blonde hair that reached his shoulders. His dad was twice his size. Tears fell down the little guy’s cheeks as his dad spanked him hard and yelled something to him about manners.
My grandma and I were right outside of Disneyland’s crowed entrance, leaving after a full day. In a huff, my grandmother grabbed my hand and walked over to the dad.
Next thing I knew, she was admonishing the dad in a calm, but confident manner. “Stop hitting him,” she exclaimed. “You should not be treating your son that way. He’s just a child.”
The dad clearly caught off guard, stopped hitting his son and looked at my grandmother. Satisfied she had made the intended impact, we walked away.
The 1970’s were a time when punishing children in public was not questioned. Back then children were expected to do what they were told, “or else.”
My grandma was no ordinary woman, regardless of the time period. Nanny, as we called her, was a feisty red-head who frequently challenged social norms.
Throughout her 89 years, she either divorced or outlived five husbands. She worked outside the home as a waitress, always bragging about the great tips she earned. I don’t believe she had a domestic bone in her body.
Her favorite pastime was betting on horse racing. I have warm memories of Saturdays spent in Mexico at Agua Caliente watching her meticulously pick horses.
Ida “Nanny” Belle was unlike anyone I knew as a child. Though there were times when I was embarrassed by some of her actions, I always admired her ability to be herself despite what others may have thought.
She was an unconventional mother and grandmother. Though, because of her ability to live outside of most social norms, I knew she loved me because of who I was, not for what I achieved.
Cultural norms and customs come and go with the times. It’s interesting how we tend to accept parenting and education norms without question.
Much of how we parent stems from how we were parented. Popular parenting styles, forms of discipline, and expert opinions also heavily impact how we parent.
Education is also filled with century-old norms. How many of us view traditional education, including things like grades and homework, remain largely the same.
Sometimes, even I, catch myself being the proverbial frog in the boiling pot, barely noticing or asking why the water is getting so hot.
It takes courage to question the way things have always been. As parents, most of us strive to live according to our values. How much, though, are our values determined by culture?
Conversely, how much of our values are determined by our need for approval?
I don’t know about you, but I want to be more like Nanny. I want to allow my rebel spirit to grow so I can be more comfortable in my own skin and valiantly speak up for what’s right because, at the end of the day, I’m responsible my choices.
In the words of Maya Angelou:
“When you know better you do better.”