Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Mormon Childhood

Apparently... I grew up Mormon. Well, not precisely....but my overbearing, ultra conservative and super-strict mother laid down the law with so many rules, restrictions, traditions and teachings that as I was sitting in our Stake Conference last night, listening to the panel of LDS parents discuss some of the challenges parents are facing today, I was shocked to realize how amazing my own mother did for my brother and me. I know part of that is due to her relationship with Him, despite her being a rather laid-back Catholic, she prays everyday and I am confident Heavenly Father heard her prayers and answered them, blessing her in so many ways amidst the hardships and sacrifices she has made throughout her life as a mother, wife and friend.

When I was growing up, television was forbidden from Monday through Friday 3 pm (yes, conniving and smart, I challenged why I could not watch TV on Friday mornings if the rule ended Friday and the rule was clarified as extending until Friday 3 PM). I'll be the first to admit that my Pops was less strict and while Mum was off at Adult School one time, I was allowed to watch Superman and even caught a glimpse of the Beverly Hills 90210 pilot commercials. Anxious to watch this cool new show that was basically about anything and everything I was unable to comprehend (and righteously so!) as a 10 year old, I set the VCR to record the show at 8 PM (mum would be back by then from class). The perception was I obeyed like a good filial daughter. The reality was I sometimes snuck around and watched TV until she came home. Unfortunately, she was mostly home from after school until sleeping. Hence, my weekdays were mostly television free and my Friday nights became TGIF (no pun intended since ABC had the TGIF line-up!) all night long.

When I was growing up, we ate dinner together at the table, without distractions only known to today's technology filled world, everynight. I don't recall there ever being an exception except when the dance team's practices started going until 10 PM. At that time, the other three members of the family still had dinner together. I did hear the tradition started to falter a bit when I went off to college as cooking for three just didn't seem the same, but at that time, our tradition became family dinner once a week. To this day, my brother and I both feel a void when we have not had family dinner in a while and aim to plan something together, whether it's brunch or dinner, because otherwise .. it just feels awkward. Sometimes the conversation is great, sometimes there is a bit of bickering, sometimes we finish quickly and depart our separate ways, but always it is time well spent and time that is crucial to strenghtening our family bonds. When I see families in restaurants where the kids have earphones on or the parents are reading newspapers, I am shocked and disgusted and want to run over and scream at them. Alas, that is their family and their upbringing, I can only keep the concept in mind for when I raise my own family.

When I was growing up, my parents were part time chauffuers. They carted my group of crazy hoochie momma girlfriends from mall to movies, to home, to movies to mall. Anxious to take our glamour shots, we even sought out farther malls with better backgrounds and ride shifts seemed to always be split between the BFF's mom and my pops. Nobody else's parents seemed to care or have cars. Oblivious to my parents and even me at the time, was how this little act of driving the kids everywhere kept them sane and comforted because they always knew where we were. The days of dialing 1-800-collect and then shouting out "Pick us up Dad" when prompted for your name and then quickly hanging up and awaiting his arrival are gone in today's age of cell phones, but I confidently believe cell phones don't matter since kids rarely pick 'em up anyway (as evidenced by my own brother six years below). My parents also distrusted 16 year olds with licenses and that being said, my parents drove my high school boyfriend and I to Disneyland despite him having a car and despite the group of friends we were going with who all drove and met us there.

When I was growing up, my curfew was 8 PM. It's not that I couldn't hang out with friends after 8 PM, it's that I could not go out after 8 PM. In other words, friends could come hang out at our house until the break of dawn but should I decide to step out of the house ... trouble would I be in. Sneaky and manipulative mother of mine knew having the kids over would enable her the power of peace of mind, knowing we were there and not up to trouble. There were exceptions to the rule known as school events such as dances, speech tournaments and dance concerts and rare outings such as Disneyland or Magic Mountain. I remember how angry I was when my parents would not let me go to Citywalk with my high school boyfriend even if I offered for them to drive me there (especially when Disneyland was okay). I remember how angry I was when my parents would not let me go to Old Town Pasadena with my friends even if I threatened to just lie to them and say I was just hanging out at my friend's house. I remember how confused I was about why they would let me go to the mall, which was just as much a mess as Old Town or Citywalk and how frustrated I was with the stupid restrictions that I alone had. When I was old enough to go to such places with friends, I realized they were filled with older people, drunk, inebriated and just weird whereas the mall was not populated with such "weird" people as my mom will explain today.

When I was growing up, I was only allowed to use the phone 3 times per day. I easily got around the rule by talking on the phone whenever my mom wasn't home and then claiming it was my first call when she did get home. Even WITH the rule, I was on the phone for an exorbitant amount of time. In fact, it is sad how much time I lost on real life interactions with friends, schoolwork, or books because of the time lost talking on the phone. However, having the rule, I knew the moment mom was home, I had better be doing something other than talking on the phone. And again, her sneaky little restriction worked because when not talking on the phone, I did my homework, read or hung out with the family. When that became too boring, I immersed myself in extracurricular activities.

That said, I cannot wait to be a mother and to instill the same values and rules (catered to whatever issues my own kids will be facing in their day) my mom did for me, but to also explicitly teach my kids the principles of faith, prayer, and repentence and the gospel. It won't be easy... as evidenced by the panel discussion at last night's conference but my mom once said.. "I gave you wings and I taught you how to fly .. but whether you decide to stay here, glide in the air or soar above, is up to you. I cannot prevent you from crashing or guide the path of flight once you have flown off and you can decide which principles of flight you take from me but the eventual flight is your own."

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