I Dare Say – Are parents people? (2-2-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (February 2, 1944)


Are parents people?

By Florence Fisher Parry

Are parents people? Are children human?

Will we ever learn, we parents, that we are just as impossible, present just as discouraging a front to our children as they could possibly confront us with?

There is a play in town, Kiss and Tell. It will be here for another fortnight. I urge its seeing. It provides the best medicine for parents of adolescent sons and daughters ever administered by that doctor of pleasant mien (whose bedside manner should be emulated by all practicing physicians) – THE STAGE.

Now in this play a typical young couple with a pair of typical young kids finds itself in a spot which, though not (we trust!) typical of the average American home, certainly has its familiar aspects. These parents have a perfectly normal daughter, 15, always hungry, excessive, exhaustingly healthy, the very epitome of everything that makes adolescence at once the most forlorn and objectionable phase in human development.

And she comes very near to wearing her parents out by her awful HEALTH. She’s at the Frank Sinatra stage. She is the spittin’ image of Junior Miss multiplied by a thousand mirrors.

The brats

There are other youngsters, too, in this engaging and hilarious play, and other hysterical and hopeless parents. The whole piece is a burlesque of American family life in any small town. Parents are going crazy with worry over children who look to be hopeless.

And then – all at once – the children are no more. And in their place is this generation that is winning the war for us. And all that seemed to us preposterous and hopeless becomes something to cherish as the funniest, dearest, NICEST memory we are ever likely to have!

The children! The blessed little BRATS!

There have been so many of these funny little American comedies of adolescence lately Junior Miss, Janie, the Hardy pictures, others too many to mention. It is as though suddenly we are hungry for yesterday, and can’t get our fill of anything that will remind us of how silly we were ever to have worried about our children while they were going through that most awful of all periods, their teens.

I was looking at some old kodak pictures the other day up home. They had been taken of our boys, the whole “connection” of them, in our backyard, the sand pile and the tiny swimming pool somehow all tangled with clotheslines and bikes and tents. And there was a moving picture, too, of them in a cops-and-robbers play, in improvised costumes.

Looking at these pictures, we didn’t remember at all what insufferable little brats they were, how completely hopeless they seemed so short a timer ago. The girls were gawky, and toothy and grimacing: the boys ungodly little devils profoundly despised and feared by the girls. All but two of these same little devils are now in the warm doing well! Well!

Yet somehow, when I think of them now, I get the picture of the way they looked then – little brats. And now already old – in their twenties – old in the knowledge of what killing and dying and separations and loneliness.

Will we never learn?

What made them turn out so well, so nobly? Not just the war, even war isn’t enough to change devils into gods. They had it in them anyway. All the time they were being impudent and shrill and unmanageable and repulsive little brats, the seed of all this – Now – was in them, getting warm, getting ready to sprout in the dark recesses if their obscure chemistries…

Will we never learn we parents? Will we never remember to laugh – secretly, covertly of course at the hopelessness of our adolescent children? Will we never remember that they’re still little boys with little hearts in their big hulking bodies: little girls with little unsure frightened attitudes.

Will we never remember how – unpleasant, how uncomfortable and humiliating it is, just to be young? How we hated it! How they hate it now!

Will we never realize that to them we are just as ridiculous, as infantile and as unmanageable, as they could possibly appear to us?

There is NO way to penetrate their world which is to us so idiotic and to them so PREFERABLE! All we can do, really, is to stand by (not appearing to be too watchful) and give them room to grow up!