Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was delighted to see, upon returning to Port Swiller Manor this cool and rainy evening, that Mrs. R had removed all the summah annuals from the half whiskey barrels out front and substituted multi-colored clusters of chrysanthemums.  I don’t much care for mums in and of themselves, but I do love what they represent, namely the onset of my very favorite season of the year.

Coming inside in a cheerful mood, then, I found Mrs. R and Youngest lounging about in the mawster bedroom, spit-balling about possible college choices for the Gel.  After chatting with them for a few moments, I turned to Youngest and told her to scoot, as I wished to take a shower.

“Oh, just close the doors.  She won’t come in,” said Mrs. R.

Well, I figured that.  But we have French doors between the bedroom and our bathroom, and from certain angles….well, Robbo is pretty draconian when it comes to his Personal Space.

Grumbling, I began to gather clothes to change into after my ablutions.  For several minutes, I looked about for my favorite light pull-over, as the evening seemed to cry out for it.  Baffled in my search through my sweater shelves, I went back into the bedroom, only to discover that Mrs. R was wearing the thing herself.

“I got cold,” she explained.

“So,” I said, “I don’t get any privacy, and people are stealing my clothes.  What do I take from that?”

“It means you’re home,” said Mrs. R.  Youngest snorted in mirth.


Related to that, have friends of the decanter ever experienced that weird sensation where you’ve never heard of a term before and then you suddenly hear a bunch of references to it all at once?  For Ol’ Robbo, the term in question is “lawnmower parents”.  Until this weekend, it was completely unknown to me.  I’ve seen it half a dozen times from half a dozen different sources since then.

The Great Big Book Of Everything*** defines lawnmower parents thusly:

Parents who try to remove all the difficulties that their children might have to deal with:  She criticized lawnmower parents, who try to come in and literally smooth out an obstacle in a child’s path.

(If you ask Ol’ Robbo how this term is different from “helicopter parents“, I confess that I’d be stumped.  Apparently, though, there is some kind of subtle distinction.)

At any rate, this kind of behavior is one of the great current traps in parenting raising children, as far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned.  Of course you want your child to have the Good Things and be spared the Bad Things.  But that’s Emotion talking.  Reason points out that the world is full of Bad Things, that they are unavoidable, and that the Best Thing you can do for your child is to ensure that he or she has the equipment for dealing with them him or herself.  And nothing endows a kid with said skills-set better than good, old-fashioned experience.

I was thinking about this today, because both the Elder Gels called me to say hello, and in each conversation I heard horror stories about new college kidz who, confronted with their apparent first doses of adversity, freaked out and did very stupid, self-destructive things.

What a generation.

I also thought back to my own misspent yoot.  My parents were of the Silent Generation, and although they did everything they could to both pull themselves up and provide my siblings and me a better life, they hadn’t the least notion of exempting any of us from attendance at the School of Hard Knocks.

I remembered my time in Middle School (a horror for anybody).  In particular, I recall getting into a fight with a psychopathic kid who was trying to bully me in the bus line after school.  After he’d been at it for a bit, I hauled off and clocked him.  He was both bloodied and dumbfounded (I’d spent a lot of time doing landscaping work for the Old Gentleman and was somewhat stronger than anybody expected), but came back at me, and we mixed it up unto the long arm of the law descended and marched us off to see Mr. Roach (yes, really), the Assistant Principal.

This was 1978 in South Texas, and paddling was still a valid disciplinary action.  I got sent home with a note seeking permission for Mr. Roach to apply five of the best to my backside for fighting.

I showed the note to my parents and explained what happened.  They looked grave and said that although I had done the right thing in defending myself, rules were rules and I’d have to take the official consequences as well.  But I knew that they were proud of me, too.

How many modern lawnmower parents would take that stance?

The result?  Ol’ Robbo felt good about sticking up for himself and whupping that punk.  (The credit I gained amongst my classmates didn’t hurt much, either.)  As for the paddling? I knew my parents were right, and faced the consequences of my actions, well, like a Man.

Again, how many snowflake children of lawnmower parents would experience that kind of personal growth?

(In the end, though, I must confess that I only got one swat, while the punk got the Full Monty. This was even after Mr. Roach asked me if I would ever do it again.  I said that if some bastard started something, of course I’d defend myself, rules be damned.  I think he also appreciated my position – unofficially, of course.)


***If you had small younglings round about the turn of the Millennium, you probably get this reference.