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Shirlee Smith | Parent Talk

Published on Monday, September 5, 2016 | 7:16 pm

The business consultant said his grandmother told him he was bound, in all situations, to tell the truth, but cautioned him to recognize that didn’t mean the same thing as telling everything he knew.

The bank manager said his mother told him women should never let their purses sit on the floor as that created a bad money flow – it was, in short, bad luck.

My grandmother provided her grandchildren with the following comparison: “If people can train their dogs to obey, I know you’re going to do as you’re told.”

Wisdom of the elders has a peculiar way of haunting us no matter what path we choose in our adult lives.

The business consultant shared several other grannyisms. The bank manager didn’t bother to keep sharing his mother’s warnings once I took my purse off his office floor and placed it in my lap.

Are the kids listening? You betcha they are.

It may look like the young ones are tuning us out, and they probably are at the given moment. But some scientific magic, better explained by those who know about “programming the brain,” keeps words of wisdom locked in.

Unfortunately, not just the good stuff gets stored away, but so does the crippling kind of commentary all too often dumped on our kids.

The young man pushing the grocery cart with a one-year-old kid in the seat was asked by a shopper if he knew which aisle the baby food was on.

He didn’t, but the brain of the little one was busy clocking stuff. “Baby food,” she said over and over as they moved down the canned goods aislel.

My mother’s friend, Alice Wilson, told me to always remember when I had kids that they were NOT my friends–they were my kids.

“Old folks gibberish,” I said to myself.

But years later, by the time I was the mother of six, those words rained down on me with powerful meaning.

Manny talks about his dad’s obsession with doing the job right the first time, and as a teenager how he was hauled out of a good night’s sleep if Dad found a chore half done. But Manny knows every time he’s gotten a promotion on his job and co-workers who half-step are resentful , he’s moved up via old folks wisdom.

Back to the youngster in the store shopping cart. What if the woman inquiring about baby food placement had instead unleashed a mouthful of profanity.

We know for the kids who hear “You ain’t never gonna be nothing.” that’s who they become.

We know for the kids who hear, “You just like yo no good daddy,” for some very unfortunate scientific reason, that’s who they become.

How often we hear of programs designed to help the kids at risk. In my world, a very crucial element is being overlooked.

Home environment makes a difference. Wise elders shouldn’t be overlooked.

Kids are at risk and their parents were at risk and probably there weren’t any grandparents around preaching their wisdom from their unwritten book of positive knowledge..


Shirlee Smith is a former Pasadena Star-News Opinion Columnist. She is a Los Angeles Press Club first place awardee and author of They’re Your Kids, Not Your Friends and the Spanish edition, “Son Tus Hijos, No Tus Amigos.” Smith can be reached by email at

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