Judy’s Comments

Because I Said So

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The summer before entering 7th grade, my parents gave me the choice of attending Junior High School in my district or being bussed to school on the other side of town. The advantage to the former: the security and familiarity of my best girlfriends. The advantage to the latter: my father was not the principal of the school. I chose the path that felt right at the time and settled for middle school alongside my peers. How bad could Dad be?

Webster’s defines adolescence as a transitional period between youth and maturity; a time of conflict. Experts write about that cycle; likening it to an emotional rollercoaster. Having attended middle school under the tutelage of my father, I’d have to agree. Awkward physical changes and psychological highs and lows were tough enough. But standing on the sidelines while Dad reprimanded kids daily for running in the halls, passing notes in class and starting food fights in the cafeteria was nothing short of traumatic. I wanted to evaporate when I heard his voice on the PA system. When I saw him in the hallway, I looked away; hoping to fade into a locker. In the car, I took it as a personal affront when he glanced in the rear view mirror. “Why is he looking at me? What did I do?” 

Amidst the inner turbulence, I was loyal to my favorite TV show: Father Knows Best. Often regarded as an example of the conservative nature of American family life in the 1950s, critics saw it as an overly rosy portrayal. Each evening, I got lost in the predictable, thirty-minute segments. Recapping the show in my mind, I considered alternate endings or future plots. While the situations in the Anderson family changed from day to day, the rules of the household and the roles that each family member played within remained the same. Children spoke courteously, elders were respected, conflicts were resolved, and for the most part, the members of the cast were inspired by faith, love and the Golden Rule.

Enamored with Lauren Chapin’s character, Kathy, (pet name: “Kitten”), I never missed an episode. Kathy was sweet, innocent and protected by her older brother, Bud and teenage sister, Betty. And, of course, she could rely on Mother and Father. No matter what emotional upset she encountered, Father made it all better – simply, gently and kindly. His years of life experience affirmed that frustration, disappointment and bumps in the road were all a normal part of growing up.

Sometimes, when I knew my Dad had had a particularly rough day, I would take on Kathy’s voice and demeanor and visit the basement where he watched the ballgame from his easy chair. “Hi Daddy”, I’d say; just like Kathy. “Hello Kitten”, he’d say. But my efforts at softening him rarely amounted to much. He was a tough man at home and ran a tight ship at school.

I rarely argued with my parents. While I may not have agreed with everything they told me to do, I knew not to question them. I behaved in my home as my girlfriends did in theirs. Parents were parents and we were their kids. Instinct told us that they knew more than we did.

In the unlikely event we pushed the envelope by questioning their authority, the response was simple: “Because I said so”. At times, their predictability seemed boring as they set limits and we followed the rules. But at thirteen, we needed scaffolding. Their modeling of right from wrong offered us stability. We knew and believed that they knew best.

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Monday, 27 June 2022
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