Posted September 27, 2012 | comments 6 Comments

Letter to the Editor: Elders not viewed with respect


I watched a documentary on "Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1" about artist James Whistler. Whistler changed the definition of art by depicting a state of mind, incorporating devout principle and prayerful hard work, which were in direct contrast to Whistler's own way of life.

Denounced for its austere mood in the late 1800s, this portrait of his mother became an American icon with its viewing on U.S. soil in 1934. But, as one art historian noted, as much as Whistler's painting of his Puritan mother once befitted the apt depiction of motherhood in America, now it no longer applied.

Are these views really true? Is mother, and indeed any elder, no longer viewed with respectable appreciation and admiration? In the heart of Shenandoah County, it appears so.

A recent grocery excursion with my 2-year-old left me in doubt of the character-building that occurs in the schools, but more importantly in American homes. As I bent to get a box of baby wipes on a low shelf, my son gesticulated with his entire body to a higher shelf where a box of Huggies on which his favorite character, Winnie the Pooh, smiled. He put his foot on the cart seat (the straps wouldn't fit around his tummy) and was about to hoist himself up for a better view. A passing teenager could not resist exclaiming, "You need to keep a better eye on yer child."

Turning to look at my assailant, I said, "You need to kindly mind your own business..." and would have said more about showing civility in public had her mother not decided to lambaste me.

To her, "don't talk to my daughter that way! I'm handling it," I simply said, "You weren't saying anything."

So evident in this encounter is that our children are not learning respect for elders, appreciation for the hard work of mothers with young children, and common civility. Gone is the image of Whistler's mother in the minds of Shenandoah County residents and here is a view of mother as incapable, unmindful, and worthy of unkind regard.

Sarah Kohrs, Mt. Jackson

6 Comments | Leave a comment

    I am a teenager and I honestly believe this could happen. My parents raised me to respect the people around me and especially to respect anyone that is older than me. But I go to school with a bunch of rude teens. I agree with you that a lot of children are extremely disrespectful to people and elders even when they don't know the person. I was reading this for a project i am currently working on for a 4-H group and I was quite upset to read this. I'm sad to say i was raised in this time period because of how rude even one is now a days. I'm glad my parents raised me to be respectful to people cause it's hard to find anyone that is. But, just a couple of days during lunch i went into the gym area for the first lunch and everyone knows that we aren't allowed to eat in the gym. But this little 9th grader who thinks she is better than everyone because she's a cheerleader started eating chips. One of the teachers that was supervising the gym noticed she was eating and nicely but with a stern voice asked her to throw away the chips. When he did so she looked at all her little friends and then looked at the teacher like he was stupid but she never got up to throw them away. So, he asked her again yet she still didn't get up. And so he was getting irritated and asked her again but louder and angrier and she finally got up and threw them away. But after he walked away she had one of her friend go pick the bag of chips out of the trash can. I was so annoyed with it so when the bell rang to change lunches i walked up to the teacher and told him what she did and so he wrote her up and thanked me for being honest. But these teens are such rude people now.. It's horrible.

    Part of the problem is that there are no consequences for bad behavior. Worse, the State inreasingly makes parenting difficult with laws regarding discipline. Finally, "It takes a village to raise a child", and this is true for our community. Speaking out when bad behavior is occuring is not always easy, but who else is going to step in? I have seen children running rampant in restaurants while parents continue to chat or text.

    It is sad to see this collapsing of society, but I think we have to see it for what it is: something has failed us, and it appears to be the softening of the parental role, in conjunction with allowing the television or internet to be the baby-sitter.

    It also comes down to personal responsibility: something that becomes rarer every day.

    Thank you for your letter, Ms. Kohrs. It helps to keep a virtue alive.

    I've thought about this one since I read it. Mr. Stokes is correct in that it lies in multiple problems. School teaches our children if parents so much as raise a hand to come tell them. Which I would imagine is good when it truly is abuse. Having social services body check your children and show up at your door for a spanking is a bit much even if nothing comes of it. (been there), especially when they wont bother to show up when your neighbor thinks its funny to lock their unbathed, unfed 3 year old outside and stand on the other side of the door laughing at the child bawling and pounding to get in constantly...(been there too)

    Then there is the woman at the store that will complain about your two year old having a tantrum like you are the worst parent in the world, but will dial 911 in a flash the moment you swat said 2 year olds behind.

    There is more single parents nowadays and even if both are home, more often than not both are working, both circumstances often attempted to be made up for by trying to be the child's friend rather than parent.

    Schools hands are tied having to deal with the parents whom feel their child can do no wrong and its their kids right to text and play on facebook during class. We marched one of our boys back into school one morning last year to apologize to the teacher he got an attitude with and the teacher thought we were there to chew him out. No, we were there to ensure our son apologized respectfully, but that is the reality teachers live under.

    I can keep going, its a rubix cube with no simple solution. (But some of us really are trying Mrs. Kohrs)

    Wait a minute. You were looking away from the cart, and your two year old 'gesticulated' himself up out of his seat? And a passing teenager brought it to your attention? And that makes HER a bad person with a bad mother? Maybe the teenager has seen a two year old take a header out of a grocery cart before. Maybe she's heard the sickening sound of toddler skull hitting a concrete floor from 3 feet high. Maybe she was trying to help you, and maybe, just maybe, you should have been watching your child.

    You want to talk about a village, but when someone points out that your toddler is standing up in the seat of the cart, you yell at that person instead of your kid. Ridiculous.

      Thank you for your perspective, Snarks. You are right in one regard: civility needs to occur all around. However, consider the limitations of crafting an editorial: namely word count and the lack of tangible atmosphere. The atmosphere would likely indicate an attitude and conceit that are both all too present in our society, and especially among teenagers. Based on the image in the editorial, I see the child as gesticulating - pointing with his arms, turning his body - not standing. The writer clearly states that he was just putting his foot on the seat (so I envision the mother straightening up from her place standing directly beside the cart (and thus, her son) after heaving a heavy box or item onto the bottom of the cart), so she was present and watching her son. She also notes that the straps in the seat were too small for her toddler - meaning although she would have liked to strap him in, she couldn't. This is a conscientious parent.

      The larger problem is one you hit on the head: foremost, that civility was not present. All persons involved could have utilized more civil comments to one another; however, the fact that the teenager began with an insulting comment - one to tear down the parent and not proffer encouragement or help in a difficult situation - would naturally upset any elder in the same situation. The writer also clearly states that she was interrupted in the process of speaking - so perhaps her following words would have proffered better insight as to her intentions in commenting.

      And that is where the view on disrespect toward elders and more importantly the view of mother among our society speaks loudly - and not in a positive light.

Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137