Essay: Don't Contradict

Jun 21, 2019

Freedom of speech, while guaranteed in the Constitution, was not encouraged in my home when I was growing up. I could speak my mind only if I agreed with my parents. Otherwise, I was told, “Don’t contradict.” 

When they offered me an allowance of a dime a week, I objected. Objection overruled. When I claimed that an early curfew cramped my style, they said, “Exactly.” 

When Kennedy ran for president, I was too young to vote but spoke in his favor. My father was scornful. “The country will never elect a Catholic,” he said. This time I didn’t have to contradict; the voters did it for me.

Finally, as a young adult, I explored the issues for myself and made up my own mind. And I’ve concluded that this is every child’s responsibility. I said this to a friend who responded, “And the parents should encourage it.”

It’s possible, of course, that grown-up children will choose to believe what they were taught, but it must be a well-researched choice. As it turned out, I was pretty big on curfews myself when my daughter was young.

She contradicted but I expected that. Tried to encourage it. Tried to listen, to not say, “Because I said so.” Hard work, this growing up. For children and for parents.