Sixty years ago, when my two oldest daughters were my only children, we all lived in an apartment above that of another family who also had two small daughters. Their mother and I often went on little trips together, which is what we were doing this day. As we set out, my neighbor said, “We must be sure to get back by four o’clock so my girls can watch their program.” Today this sounds quite normal. Sixty years ago, it sounded odd. While I didn’t say it aloud, it was a new thought to me to give importance to the wishes of a child to watch “their” TV program.
When I was being raised, in most families of my generation as well as the ones before that, adults came first. Children’s wishes were paid attention to only if it was convenient or the adults didn’t have any priorities. Dr. Benjamin Spock and his book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, helped to change that—some thought for the worse. However, when I was raising my daughters, he was only just becoming a well-known authority. In those days, respect for children’s wishes was scarce or even nonexistent. Children were supposed to respect adults; not the other way around. However, these days we have made some progress: children are not considered the possession of the father as in previous centuries.
Once upon a time Children and elders were an important part of the family. Furthermore, in an agrarian society there was respect for the women who planted and grew the food for the table, wove and sewed the clothing, and kept the tribe healthy, fed and clothed. In such a society, there was respect for elders and for the knowledge they had to pass on. Today’s elders, once they cannot live independently, are often shunted off into separate housing. Gone are the days when generations lived together and everyone had tasks that contributed to the household, even the children.
Respect has diminished today, not only for elders but generally. This is an important cause of friction in our society. Respect for one’s other half in marriage is an important component in a good marital relationship. We all have our differences. Some of them are more important to us than others. When there is a difference of opinion it is vital that each side respects the point of view and/or the needs of the other. These things can be discussed amicably, especially when there is respect on both sides for what is important to the other person. Also, it may be necessary to ask one’s partner or friend what his or her needs or feelings are. Shyness or inexperience in relationships may silence the other person.
These days, our society encourages us to put ourselves first. While there are times we may need to do this, when one’s decision or actions involve other people, and most especially in a marriage, it seems wise to seek the other’s point of view. Some things can be changed, others cannot. Some deeply ingrained habits are nonnegotiable, some are not. Bringing the issues out in the open helps even if nothing changes, it shows respect for the other’s side to discuss it. The keystone in an arch that keeps the rest of the stones in place. Respect is a keystone in dealing with others.