The other night I watched on the Discovery Channel a program about one particular gang that is spreading like a virus across this country and even to other countries. On the news I’ve seen too many reports on how teenagers are out of control. Heck, I viewed about ten minutes of “The Nanny” last night, just enough time to watch an eight year old and a ten year old defy their mother and treated her like “garbage.” All I know is, my mother wouldn’t have approved.

Throughout my childhood the groundwork was laid for what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior. I learned most of those lessons quickly; a whack on the backside usually made a big impression. Other lessons required review. I spent plenty of days during my high school years at home under the penalty of grounding for things like poor grades or curfew violations. Some might say they’d sneak out after mother went to bed. First, my mother slept fitfully. She might be up two or three times a night, and I’d surely come home during one of her “awake” times. Second, I wouldn’t do that because Mother wouldn’t approve. That reason is what has kept me from doing plenty of things during my early years.

I was fortunate to date some girls in high school. In the old days, part of the date was parking along some abandoned road or newly developed subdivision street. “Necking” was an accepted practice, and sometimes, teens got a bit carried away. In the heat of passion, teens don’t think clearly, nor do they much want to. On occasion I found myself in that kind of situation. It would have been so easy to have carried the passions of young love further, but I was lucky to have a guardian angel—of sorts. For some reason, I always gained enough lucidity to think of what might happen as the result of a heated session with a gorgeous young girl. Then, I would realize that “Mother wouldn’t approve.” That meant that she would be disappointed that I had made such a stupid mistake. No evangelist could have ever turned me from the slippery slopes of possible parenthood so quickly.

I am a chilled of the 60’s and 70’s and often relate events to my English students as a means of comparing their lives to mine and to a piece of literature that we might be studying. Today’s teens know the stories of my generation, especially the sordid ones. They asked what it was like to be around so many people who dropped acid and smoked dope. I tell them that nothing is much more repulsive than a person who is in an altered state. Then they asked me about my exploits. When I tell them that I have never smoked marijuana, they sneer in disbelief. It’s true, however. Sure, I sat around with friends in high school and college as they passed a joint, but I never touched the stuff. The reason was I always thought of how disappointed Mother would be if I were to have been caught and arrested for using the stuff. Even when she was a hundred miles from my college home, she had a grip on my conscience and controlled my actions.

During my adult years, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do things that would advance my cause while I did in another person. I couldn’t do it because Mother had drilled into my head what was and wasn’t the right thing to do. So, I have lived a rather law abiding life and haven’t overstepped the line of what is doing to others as I would have them do to me.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am a saint. I’ve done plenty of things of which I’m not proud. However, things could have been much worse. Daddy died when I was thirteen, and I could have pulled the line that too many kids use today—“I didn’t have a parental figure to help me.” It would just be a lie. Mother struggled to teach three teenaged boys what the right things were. Evidently, she succeeded to a large degree. The three of us grew into manhood gauging what we should do by determining whether or not Mother would or wouldn’t approve.