Addendum (June 23)

I just thought of something.

This post was inspired by a book I have been reading, the early chapters thereof: George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss.



I am fortunate in the parents and family I had.

They were good people. The highest moral standards and character. So respectful, appreciative of, and kind to other people. Taught their children such behavior by example.

They always said we love you all (four children) equally: the same. This sounded good, but wasn’t really true. Their affections fluctuated and were not consistent. They would admire and favor one of us for some particular attribute at one time or another.

My siblings and I were very fortunate to have had an intact and stable nuclear family with two parents in a stable, loving relationship.

My mother. Beautiful. Great taste and personal qualities. Refinement. The best values. Discretion and tact. Yet by no means a snob. Modest. So genuine with other people. Met them at the most common level, by which I mean sincere and genuine, not that she somehow condescended to be nice to her “inferiors.”

My father. Not easy to get a handle on. My siblings often get pleasure from portraying him as a rake and a boor. He was very far from that — there was a lot to admire. I myself never fully appreciated the good things. He wasn’t a great father. But he was, in his own way, a good role model.

Distant and inaccessible at times. Sometimes the exact opposite (a genial host and a kind of Santa Claus on holidays; gregarious and affectionate at such and other times). Devoted to work and my mother. Great with and well liked by people in general. His behavior in this respect set a very good example. That meant a lot — means a lot — to a boy. I had thereby some notion of maleness and manhood, which are important to have as one reaches adulthood.



I have more to say regarding parenting.

It seemed in many respects that my nuclear family – this was the 50s and 60s – was straight out of the situation comedy Father Knows Best.

But it wasn’t that. My parents were far from perfect, and their insecurities and neuroses were a factor. (Of course, none of this was evident to me then.)

They weren’t snobs, but they were very insecure about, very concerned with, being well thought of by their peers. This was something that, by extension, we children were burdened with.

By all means, don’t do anything that might embarrass them. This was paramount. Doing wrong in this respect would bring disapproval and a tacit withdrawal or withholding of affection.



Re parenting. As I experienced it.

(It should be noted and acknowledged that this was a different time.)

One thing that I think was very fortunate then: and which, in retrospect, is the way I think things should be: My parents weren’t mean, and although they could be critical (not necessarily a bad thing, since they enforced and were setting standards), they were usually loving and kindly. They very much wanted us to reflect credit upon them (as I observed above). So much so that, as my former therapist observed, it amounted to a form of narcissism. But they actually left us alone a lot. Allowed us to just be kids.

I feel a lot of today’s parents don’t do this. Regarding this, I think I myself very much failed and missed the boat as a parent.

In my childhood, we kids went out and played. For hours on end. With no supervision or parental intervention.

Games such as Hide and Go Seek and Giant Step. Later, board and card games. Playing ball. Building snow forts. Going places. Movies. Comic books. The toy store and candy bars. Hanging out on the stoop or curbside. Telling tall tales and being out after dark.

Hardly any scheduled or programmed activities. Until things like Little League. (And, of course, school activities and sports, most of which came later). No play dates. No karate classes, golf or tennis lessons. (My older brother and I were enrolled in ballroom dancing classes; my parents undoubtedly thought young men should be taught how to dance. And my siblings and I all took piano lessons, with varying degrees of success,) Most afternoons and evenings (and summer vacation time) were open for free play and associating with friends, outdoors or indoors.

This in my opinion is crucial. Essential for individual development, for developing one’s tastes, ideas, and a personality.

Parents must let kids be kids. Not proto adults or achievers in residence. Not paradigms. Just goofy, loveable, inchoate little people. Soon to grow up on their own schedule and in their own way.


– Roger W. Smith

  June 2023

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