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The face

Published May 18. 2013 09:04AM

My mother was well-trained in the art of saying "No." She came from an immigrant Italian family with a strong matriarch at its helm.

My grandmother died when I was 5 years old, but the memories I have of her are vivid. She was the boss. Everyone knew it. When she said something, our family understood that they had received the final word on that subject.

My mother inherited that power. As my two sisters and I grew up, the biggest fear we had was displeasing our Mom. She made a face of disapproval when we did something she disliked. That face haunted us.

We tried very hard NOT to see that face. If we even for a minute considered doing something that would bring displeasure to our Mom, we envisioned that FACE and the idea flew out of our heads.

There was no arguing, no discussion, no "ifs, ands, or buts." When Mom said "No," she meant it. In my heart of hearts, I truly believed that we had no choice. She was the boss and we obeyed.

Of course, the day came when we grew older and began to think for ourselves and live our own lives. Did Mom say "That's fine? Do what you want"? Of course not. No self-respecting Italian mother would do that. She made the FACE. We could be 18 or 58 and she still controlled us with her looks, sighs, quiet disapproval, and the FACE.

Up until the day Mom died, she was a powerful force in the lives of her three daughters and her 8 grandchildren. We all sought her love and approval and wanted to be the kind of person she expected us to be.

As the three Wells sisters raised our children, some of that "mother power" lost its effect. For some reason, we couldn't always pull off the FACE. Perhaps we couldn't because we wanted our children to respect us and not fear us.

Our family is a good example of how time changes things. As generations of children are farther removed from the "old style" of parenting, positive and negative aspects occur.

It seems to me that parents seldom say "No" today. They say "Maybe" or "When I have time" or "If you behave" or "I can't right now." They usually leave the door open for negotiation.

Some parents don't like to say "No" because they feel as though their child won't love them if they are too strict. This is far from reality. Children will love their parents because their parents care about them and love them a lot. Sometimes that love takes the form of the word "No. "

I get tremendously annoyed at mothers who will not correct their children when the kids are behaving badly. Watching a toddler race through a grocery store and exhibit out-of-control actions while the mother tries to ignore him and continue on with her shopping gives me a migraine. It takes all my willpower to not grab the little guy, place him gently in the cart seat, and say "Don't you dare buy him any candy."

Every child needs boundaries. Correcting bad behavior or preventing it in the first place is a major parental role. Children who are allowed to have their own way most of the time can grow up to be selfish and uncaring. That type of little tyrant will cause his parents much heartache.

There is a happy medium between the dictatorial and controlling mothers of the past and the weak, ineffective mothers we see today. Hopefully, most mothers in 2013 can find that center, practice the FACE in a mirror, and raise happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved children.


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