Remembering respect in a changing society

Today we’re going to think about relationships – what they were and what they are. Times have changed and so have our children. When there’s a change, you usually get something and lose something. Let’s look at all the freedoms our young generation has. They have “free sex.” Is it free? The experimentation they enjoy is freedom. It is freedom because society does not make you feel guilty because you are having sex, or because you have a child out of wedlock in the same way it used to. But what kind of relationship does an unwed father have with his son or daughter? Will he just provide financially for that child, or will he live with the mother and the child as a family? Marriage strengthens a family. The roles of each parent are defined and respected. It may be that one parent is the financial provider, and the other takes care of the day-to-day needs of the household. Parents teach their child what his or her role in the family is. They teach their child about respect and responsibility. If a parent hollers and screams, he or she takes away the joy in the relationship. But if the parent speaks softly (even sings!), hugs the child, pours out love, then the child will return with positive responses. Both parents can do this.

When people of my generation were in their teens, they had different attitudes from the young people of today. When males had sexual relationships, they bragged about another notch on their belts. The girl would try to hide the fact that she had “given in,” and the boy would be proud. If a girl got pregnant, she usually went out of town and then gave the baby up for adoption. Then the girl would return and try to behave as if nothing had happened. Some of the unwed girls kept the babies, but this was usually seen as a disgrace to the family. Some of the girls married the fathers of their babies and tried to make families. Some of the marriages worked; some didn’t. Some of these girls admitted they regretted “giving in.” But I have never heard a woman say she was sorry she waited until marriage to have sex. As for the men they married, their husbands were proud of the fact their brides had been virgins.

Personally, I think the old ways were better. There were more stable marriages and stronger relationships. Certainly there was more respect between the spouses who took their marriage vows seriously.

As for homosexual men and women, I never heard of them before I got married. Either there were very few gays and lesbians living in our area, or else they weren’t “out of the closet.” Now, it is much more common to meet people who are openly homosexual. Our society is a different place.

Look at how the roles of women have changed. I remember how women went to work in the factories in Buffalo during WWII. They did men’s jobs because they had to. The men were off fighting. I guess some of these women liked the money, and some of them liked their new-found independence. They never did go back to “the good old days” altogether.

Some people think men are clever about mechanical things and that women are quite dumb when it comes to machinery. For those men and women who are sharp in that area, I congratulate you. I happen to really be one of the dumb ones. That’s okay, though. Humility is something we all need.

Here are some of the things Russ and I learned how to do together. We put a new roof on our house on Main Street. Then we converted the basement into an apartment and beauty shop. We painted the walls and laid tile on the floor. For furniture in the living room, I took an old couch and pulled it apart. We wrapped some green material around each section and made a pleated skirt to cover the cement blocks that were holding up our sectional furniture. We put a table and a TV. between the couches. It was really a pretty nice apartment!

We used to laugh a lot. When we were down in the basement, we could tell who was coming in by looking at their legs!

Those were some of the best years of our lives. We learned to improvise and take pride in our work. And we were doing the right thing, because my brother (the principal) told me to never let my kids come home to an empty house.

Here’s an idea: Are the kids bored waiting for rides after school? Are there retirees who can come to the school after classes and tell stories about “the good old days?” We don’t want to lose our kids to the television. We are losing the art of conversation.

Let’s not forget how important relationships are. Some things are important for all relationships, and “respect” is at the top of my list. Always respect your classmates and your friends. Treat them the way you want to be treated. This is true for people of all ages. How do you feel when you are ignored or put down? Isn’t it awful? It’s like you’re worthless and you don’t count. You don’t want to be guilty of making others feel that way. Listen to your friends and peers and try to help them if you can. The fact that you listened will go a long way, even if you can’t help. Listening is a form of respect. Talk to one another. You’ll be surprised at how much you have in common.

Children, do you enjoy when adults come into your classroom and read to you? If you do, why can’t it happen more often and at different times of the day? Why not ask your teachers to invite different people to come to your classes? Usually the people who come to read to you are well-known community leaders, but there are many good readers out there who would enjoy visiting schools. Maybe you could ask local libraries for some possible readers. Who knows? Maybe a small thing like this could enrich your life. It’s worth a try. Get involved. You’re never too young or too old to make new relationships.

Remember: Have a great life!

Margaret Valone is a Fredonia resident. Comments on this column may be sent to