My grandmother was a Prude with a capital P.
Even though I spent most of my childhood living thousands of miles from her, I feared showing my true self to a woman who expressed immense disgust at even the slightest impropriety.
But her high expectations for other humans and her limited tolerance for behavior that stepped beyond boundaries she defined as appropriate weren’t necessarily bad characteristics.
They kept me in check, because I often asked myself, “would I disgrace grandma if this went public?”
That’s not to say I never misbehaved or made really stupid mistakes. I did. Quite a bit. But when I said and did things in public, I often considered what Grandma would think.
Shortly after my grandmother died at the age of 96 in 2005, I started asking myself another question: “What kind of role model will I be for my children if I say or do this in public?”
Common sense tells me that all parents would ask that question, but once again, common sense doesn’t always prevail.
Times have changed significantly since I worried about displeasing my grandmother. Social media has allowed us to connect with people from childhood and to have a broad audience for our thoughts an opinions.
That shouldn’t give people license to be disrespectful, rude, inappropriate or self-indulgent, but apparently some people think it does.
Twice this week, I saw Facebook posts that would have had my grandmother shaking her head and my children questioning how people can talk about family values out of one side of their mouths while spewing venom out of the other side.
I don’t want to point fingers or to fall into the same trap, so I won’t go into too much detail. But I do have a few words of wisdom that could have, and probably did, come from my grandmother’s mouth:
You cannot call yourself a good parent while belittling other parents in the same sentence. Good parents don’t put down others to pull themselves up.
You cannot claim the moral high ground when you are calling other people names, no matter what the situation.
Never publicly tear down a child or adolescent. Ever. This is just as true for your own children as it is for the children of others.
Finally (and this definitely comes from my grandmother) using foul language in a public setting, whether written or spoken, will never impress anyone. The English language is vast, and limiting yourself to four letter words will never cause anyone to be in awe of what you are saying. Generally, it just makes others feel sorry for your limited vocabulary and lack of anger management skills.
On the flip side, inappropriate posts and comments in social media do serve a purpose: they provide a great public service. They teach us how foolish we look when we act more immature than (most of us) expect our children to act.
And, even though close to a century separates the birth of my grandmother and the birth of my children, I have no doubt that they would both agree that I make them proud by saying that in public.