Of course, it traumatized the two of us for life, but as children at least, the two of us were known for our company manners. We were the only children in our colony who said please and thank you at the slightest provocation. We carried our parents’ shopping. We were, in short, the kids your parents threw up at you. Not bad for a system of discipline that was based more or less on pure meanness.
We were laughed into speaking decent English. When we did things that our parents considered we shouldn’t be doing, they used to ask us, did we really want to be like this girl or that boy? Yes, rank racial discrimination, but it worked. If we fussed over the food, we were made to eat what was on offer or allowed to go hungry. If we talked in the car while my father negotiated traffic, we got yelled at worse than the other drivers who were getting on my father’s nerves. We had to do things because we were told to, none of that explanatory business for us. Everything was always our fault, no matter how many other kids were involved. I spent an entire childhood convinced that my parents were selfish, cruel and unjust people. They were, of course. But they also got me to acknowledge to myself (if to nobody else) the consequences of my actions.
When I see all these kids running riot, I wonder what their parents are thinking. They (the parents) were probably brought up as strictly as I was, and I suppose they want their children’s youths to be different. But letting your children grow up thinking it’s a fair world is in itself not preparing them for the hardships they will face.
I know, I’m not a parent (yet!) and perhaps you think I’m in no position to talk. But I’d rather be mean to my kids and bring them up to obey their elders than to have them dictating terms to me at the age of seven.