As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
I have empathized with and celebrated what parents have faced and triumphed over during this pandemic as it applied to their school aged children. Thinking back to my school days, I try to put my parents in the current predicament to imagine how they might have handled the situation as admirably as their children’s children have been. After picking myself off the floor, my sides aching with the laughter this image provided, I began getting specific.
“My parents based their entire child rearing philosophy on our being within eye or earshot of them only for very limited times of the day. Beyond meal, bath and bedtimes, their only concern was that they not find out about our whereabouts or condition of life on the evening news or in the morning paper.”
First thing, parents back in the 1950s would not have stood for school closings over something as relatively trivial as a potentially lethal communicable disease. My parents, for instance, sent me to school with the fear of polio still gripping the world (as close to home as you could get, my father had been crippled by it). I know this, because I had already started school when the Salk vaccine was beginning to be distributed among school systems. My parents loved me, but in a different way than keeping me and my brothers home with them all day, merely because there was a chance one of us might spend the rest of his life in an iron lung. I became immune from measles and chicken pox by getting them. I never got the mumps, but it never occurred to my parents to do anything from preventing me from getting it.
It was considered all part of growing up, like riding bikes without a helmet and roller skating without knee and elbow pads. But closing school for a whole term? There would have been gunfire.
My parents based their entire child rearing philosophy on our being within eye or earshot of them only for very limited times of the day. Beyond meal, bath and bedtimes, their only concern was that they not find out about our whereabouts or condition of life on the evening news or in the morning paper. The thought that we might be home with them day in and day out was not just anathema; it was beyond human comprehension – as if they’d suddenly been confronted with having to raise wolves.
We were sent to our rooms alone to do homework, as if homework was something like children needing to discover how certain aspects of their own bodies worked. The thought of either of my parents explaining how to add and subtract fractions, diagram a sentence or point to Latvia on a world map is as ludicrous a thought to me, as being given the job of preparing dinner or gassing up the car as a three-year old. As far as them preparing or conducting lesson plans, it’s easier for me to imagine them with powers of levitation or telepathy.
My point is not to mock my parents. They were right for the times. But they had nothing to pass on to their children, and then onto their children’s children that would have prepared us for what is transpiring now. It proves that adaptability is a human capacity, rather than a generational pass down. Whatever the explanation, my hats off to all of you who’ve suddenly become teachers, administrators and mental health providers by the – ill conceived? – act of procreation.
But I bet all of you are looking back now to your parents’ and grandparents’ time as the good old days.