One of the things I’ll miss most about working in the office is the lunchroom conversation. Yesterday’s topic turned to
children and their place in the family.  One of my colleagues, whose husband is one of 10 children, was reminiscing about her father- in- law.  “When he came home from work at the end of the day, he expected his newspaper on the chair, and his dinner on the table, and he expected peace and quiet.  If the (ten!) children got too noisy, he would grumble ominously, and my mother-in-law would quickly shush them. ‘Quiet, children!,’ she’d say.  ‘Your father has worked all day and he needs some peace and quiet!'”

As if she hadn’t worked all day raising ten children.

Another co-worker recalled her father in-laws favorite saying to his brood of six.  “If things got too noisy, he’d yell out ‘Pipptydoo!’ and they all knew that was the signal to quiet down and shape up,” she said.  This was the same man who brought home pizza on Friday night, but always ate his fill before allowing the kids to come in to get the leftovers.

My, how things have changed.  Now family life is centered around the kids – their schedules, their food preferences, their bedtime routines.  One of the women in the group mentioned her niece’s elaborate bedtime ritual that involves her mother laying down with her for at least an hour each night before she goes to sleep.  “She’ll never learn to get to sleep on her own!” was the general consensus.

Well..gulp.  That story hit close to home – a bullseye in fact.  My dear son had the most elaborate bedtime routine you could imagine, and I admit that I indulged it religiously.  He liked to be read to (several stories), he liked to make up stories to tell me, and when he started kindergarten we began a ritual known as “day telling”  in which he relayed every activity of his day in minute detail. It took at least an hour, sometimes more, before he was finally “down” for the night.

Contrary to the expectations of my co-workers, he did learn (eventually!) to fall asleep on his own. But in retrospect, I should probably have set some limits on the procedure, rather than allowing him to control the situation.

Truth be told, our son was spoiled by any standards.  The beloved only child/grandchild of two only children – how could he not be indulged beyond all reason?  Besides that, he was a good child, well-behaved and quiet. He might have been “spoiled” in the pejorative sense of the word, but he was never “rotten.”   By the grace of God and some uncommon good sense on his part, he turned out to be a responsible, hard-working, and considerate man.

I know that isn’t always true.  Children who are overindulged, who have no expectations set or limits on their behavior, often lead miserable lives, and make everyone around them miserable as well.  It’s a syndrome that’s prevalent these days, where children rule the roost in many households, and are the pampered darlings of the family.

I was reading a book the other day about the psychological and sociological ramifications of being an only child.  Although we’re notorious for being “spoiled rotten,” that need not be the case.  The author suggested that it was imperative to “frustrate your child occasionally,”  to not indulge their every desire no matter how much you’d like to do so, or how much easier it would be.  I’m know I’m not much of  a disciplinarian, but even I can accept the efficacy of age appropriate frustration in teaching children how to cope with life’s inevitable losses.

While the pendulum seems to have swung in the opposite direction from the 1950’s and 1960’s when Dad was King of the Castle and the kids were little more than aggravating peons, it would benefit everyone if a little balance could be achieved in the opposite direction.

Perhaps it’s time for families in general to call out a collective “Pipptydoo!” and bring everyone into line.


9 thoughts on “Pipptydoo!

  1. Wow, this one really pulls at the heartstrings. I loved to be the one to put our daughter to bed and read her a story or two. She is an only child and we were very fortunate that she was a lovely child. She still recalls the only time I lightly swatted her on the rear when she was about 7 years old, it was the thought of it more than anything else that just mortified her at the time.

    That was the only time she ever got any type of a swat, she was just such a good kid. Unfortunately, her mother and I were divorced when she was 12 and I didn’t get to see her much due to the acrimony of the divorce. I moved out of state a year or so later and then her mother moved to California with a new husband and it became even more difficult.

    Long story short, we didn’t really re-connect in a very meaningful way until she was in her early 20’s and about to get married. We still only get to see one another once a year or so when my wife and I visit Ohio, the good thing is we always talk on the phone every so often and that is good.

    I certainly understand your not being the disciplinarian with your son, sometimes they just take care of themselves so well that they really don’t need anything but love.

    • Well, thanks Lou! I’m glad that you had a lovely daughter, who, like my very lovely son, didn’t need anything else but lots of love 🙂

      My parents went through a rather nasty divorce when I was in my 30’s. I lost touch with my dad for a while, but now we are close again and I love seeing him whenever I can. (He’s 84 years young 😉 I’m happy to hear you and your daughter have opened the lines of communication 🙂

  2. I like to think of life as a delicate balance between longings and limits. When we’re born, we’re all “longing”. We long for food, warmth, comfort, stimulation. At the other end of the spectrum, we come up against the final limit of death.

    In between, we learn to recognize that both are a part of life, and we learn how to balance them. A child learns there are limits in the world – that not every longing can be satisfied. The elderly struggle to stay involved in life, to long for more than death.

    And we in our middle ages? We’re the ones consumed by longing for [the Mercedes/the house/the spouse/whatever] while being limited by [bank accounts/poor health/insecurities/whatever]. I long to travel, but I’m limited by the need to care for mom. A friend wants to travel, but health issues are keeping her at home. Another friend wants to retire, but her 401K got trashed and she just can’t. So it goes.

    It’s really pretty interesting. We all know adults who can’t manage the balance. The life-is-nothing-but-limits sort turns prissy and judgmental, while the let’s-give-in-to-every-longing sort is – well, Lindsay Lohan.

    The beautiful thing about “Pipptydoo” is that it acknowledges Daddy’s limits without really trouncing on anyone else. When I was growing up as an only child I knew when I was pushing the boundaries: my mom would say, “Linda Lee!” When she added my middle name, I knew it was time to cool it. 😉

    • Again, you sum it up perfectly. It is all about balance, and we have to learn it and practice it over and over again at every age.

      LOL, I got the middle name treatment too – it was “Rebecca Mary” whenever I was about to exceed my mother’s limits of patience!

      • The life-is-nothing-but-limits sort turns prissy and judgmental, while the let’s-give-in-to-every-longing sort is – well, Lindsay Lohan. — lol

        Becca, I would have been gulping right there with you. I lay with my 5-year-old every night until he falls asleep (after books, of course)… but it only takes a few minutes. I cherish the time.

        And I shout my own version of Pipptydo! all the time. It’s something like, “Boys, get out of here! Go! NOW!”

        When I was a kid, all my mom had to say was “Angela Carmen!” and that was my signal to straighten up. 🙂

  3. My son is an only child. He turned out to be very responsible. I think that along with the indulgence there comes a bit of pressure for only children. Their doting parents have all their eggs in one basket. I agree that balance is the answer… to almost everything. I’ve seen much evidence that kids are often running the show these days, but we certainly don’t want to return to the King of the Castle days, do we? As always, balance is the key.

    • Only children do have a heightened sense of responsibility – I can attest to that, for sure!
      I think balance should be the new mantra for society. That, along with some common sense, and things might get better around here.

  4. Boy, this hits right where we were talking the other day! I don’t know quite how it works, because we were talking about Rick’s boys. Raised with only a wall between them. They got split indulgence. Their mother was a financial spoiler — pretty much anything they wanted they got, and it didn’t do them any favors. Kevin the Younger came out of it and learned that he really has to work for what he wants. He works hard and while he prefers high life, he knows what he’ll need to do to have it. Greg prefers high life, too — and he doesn’t have a clue what it means to work for it. This kid was indulged because of his talent and now he thinks the world will come to him. Rick was the every-other-weekend-and-once-during-the-week dad with an entirely different background of struggle and work. While he was emotionally supportive, he didn’t have the means to bribe. I think his influence served Kevin well. But there’s a huge disconnect with Greg.

    Thing is, they aren’t onlies. I don’t know what the answer is — if they’d be different had there been a different custody arrangement. I think it all comes down to the parents, appreciating family and time together. Sounds like yours were like that and mine, and you were for your son. They grow up with the benefit of love and being there but with a balance that is critical. Balance… don’t start me on that one or I’ll go off on a tangent about soccer Monday and Wednesday, piano Tuesday, lessons Thursday… you get the drill!

    • That’s interesting about Rick’s boys..being an only child, I’m always fascinated by the way siblings raised by the same parents can turn out so fundamentally different in their approach to life. My mom is also an only child, as is my husband, but my dad is one of 6, and most of his siblings were very similar in their work ethic and lifestyle. It’s a puzzle…

      And yes, I’m in agreement with your last thought – I think kids today are sometimes way over-scheduled, which makes their lives very out of balance!

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