Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 23, 2015

Let kids be kids

Read All About It

Pettus L. Read

During my days of “full employment,” I thought once I retired, stress would be something I’d only feel during selecting a different choice on the buffet at the pizza place. I’ve found that to not be the case, as I’ve now become a granddaddy once again. Waiting at the hospital for another little Read boy to make his appearance does put stress on my older way of viewing things.

I grew up in the country landscape of this great state, where I had the chance to be a part of a lot of “grass roots” folks who enjoyed life. Being born in a log house in Rutherford County at an early age, I learned that each day is what you make it, and if you don’t, no one else will. However, since grandchildren have come on the scene, my outlooks have turned into you better look, or before you know it, it’s over.

One of my favorite “grass roots” people was Mr. Lonnie Safley, who could spin a yarn better than anyone I’ve met. He told a story one time about a family who lived in the backwoods of our state, and it seems the man’s wife went into labor in the middle of the night and the doctor was called out to assist in the delivery.

There was no electricity back then, so the doctor handed the father-to-be a lantern and said, “Hold this high so I can see what I’m doing.” It wasn’t long before a new Tennessean was born into the world.

Being happy with the birth of his new son, the father started to put the lantern down, but the doctor said, “Don’t be in a rush to put the lantern down. I think there’s yet another one to come.” Sure enough, within minutes. a new little Tennessee baby girl was born.

Now, being even more happy, the father started to set the lantern down to hold his new babies, but the doctor once again told him to hold on because it looked like another child was about to enter the world.

Being somewhat confused, the father looked at the doctor and asked, “Do you think it’s the light that’s attractin’ ‘em?”

As the number of my grandchildren increase, I also wonder if it’s the light that’s attractin’ ‘em, but my concern also goes to what will attract them in the future. I had the opportunity to grow up in the country during the ‘50s and ‘60s, when it was less stressful for a child than today, especially on a dairy farm in rural Rutherford County. With all that has happened since Sept. 11, 2001, I feel for today’s children, and can only hope that their childhoods will be as enjoyable as mine was on the farm.

I had the chance to be a boy prior to Internet, computers, cable TV, video games, shopping malls, two showers a day, and peer pressure clothes. We never feared going to school, unless we didn’t have our homework. School included the basics such as reading, English, math, history, shop (for the boys), and home economics (for the girls). FFA and 4-H were not really a choice, it was just what everyone did. The only Common Core was the fact that we were kids who respected our educators and each other. Our core came from the home, where if you got into trouble at school, you were for sure in trouble when you got home.

Terrorism was not even a word back then. People seemed to respect life and the other person’s way of life. Heroes back then were white-hatted cowboys, the police, presidents, TV star dogs, and our parents.

During my early years, school classes were small and gospel revivals were large. Today, that seems to be reversed.

You never heard a country kid say that they were bored. They knew that using that term could result in some added activities directed by their father. Those activities could include cleaning out the barn, cutting out a fencerow, restacking hay, or even worse for a farm boy, helping his mother in the house. 

Times have changed, and in many places, not for the good. Maybe it’s time to reverse the size of our revivals and school classrooms. I know it’s time to get our kids off the Internet and outside to once again. We could even let them organize their own sports sometimes instead of those being what we think they should be.

As a granddaddy, I feel it’s time to let kids be kids. They’ll be adults soon enough, and believe me, you’re an adult for a lot longer time than you’re a kid.

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted at pettusr60@gmail.com.