Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 10, 2023

Good intentions

In the world of business, "the law of unintended consequences" cautions business folks that sometimes an action may have an outcome very different from the desired one. I'm pretty sure there is some sort of equivalent law that applies to child rearing. In the past, I've shared a couple of examples from our family.

One involved daughter Mariya. When her arrival was pending, I decided that a circus-themed nursery - complete with clowns - was just the ticket. As an adult, Mariya shared that she sees clowns as terrifying figures. Oops!

When she was 5, the Freelands gathered for a family reunion in Pennsylvania. To compensate for hours of oldsters reminiscing, among other things, a tour of the Hershey chocolate factory was included. Part of the tour involved sitting in a train of small carts that were pulled past displays showing videos of various chocolate goodies being made. Mariya saw a parallel between a movie of almonds moving along a belt to be covered with hot chocolate and our train. She worried that our fate would soon be the same as those nuts. Oops II!

When daughter Katie was born, Big Bird from "Sesame Street" seemed like a nice companion, so I put him on a shelf in her room. Years went by before Katie mentioned that she thought his red mouth was that color because it was filled with blood! Oops again!

But good intentions going astray are not limited to childhood. When husband Art was a youngster, he was looking at something with his father Tom's name and realized he had no idea what the "L" in his middle name stood for. Art's mom Donna said Tom's middle name was Lorenzo, but he didn't care for it and told people it was Lawrence.

Years later, when Art began doing family history, he quizzed his parents over their recollections of their various long-dead aunts and uncles. During that discussion, Tom mentioned his mother had been particularly close to her brother Rennie, who had died in a lumbering accident before Tom was born. But Tom became emotional when Art commented that he had discovered Rennie's proper name was Lorenzo. Tom's middle name had been bestowed by a mother honoring her beloved brother, and Tom felt bad he had rejected it.

One day when Art was chatting with Donna, she commented she had a rather poor view of her father Charles when she was young. Night after night, Donna's mom Alvina would put supper on the table, only to have Charlie come home hours later. Donna saw this as being inconsiderate in the extreme.

One day long after Donna had left home, she mentioned this to her mom. Alvina wasted no time in straightening her out. She pointed out that Charlie had just started a new business selling automobiles. This was when they were still a new thing, and just how such a business would work was not well established. His work included building a garage, hiring men, and teaching them how to repair those newfangled machines. Another part was meeting with prospective customers on their terms, which often meant after normal working hours. Alvina told Donna that having a meal ready for her husband whenever he came home was her way of helping out. Donna countered that her dad could have called, but her mom reminded her that the only phone they had was at the business.

Donna said it taught her to be careful about judging situations she might not fully understand.

What prompted my walk down unintended-consequences lane was a recent discussion with Katie.

When Art was growing up, Tom, Art's uncle, and Donna's dad were all involved in trucking. Like any youngster, Art thought it would be cool to accompany them. More often than not, they would agree, but with the requirement that in no way was he to impede what they were doing. While it was fun for Art, it was work for them.

The practical consequence for Art was there would be no stopping until there was a need to stop for fuel, food, or to transact business. Bathroom usage was to be synchronized with other essential stops.

Art began these trips when he was about 6. As the years passed, he also began to help out, transitioning from passenger to worker.

Art was not unique in this regard. When his parents first married, Donna would accompany Tom just as her brothers had accompanied her father. Art said following these requirements was a sign they qualified as worthy companions.

Many years later, Art and I went to Wisconsin at least twice a year to visit his family. Because the trip was a long one, Art imposed a similar set of requirements on those traveling with him. I say "similar" because we would stop at restaurants, whereas if he was by himself, he'd travel the 12 hours without eating to make the trip quicker. When the kids were small, we also took along a "potty" chair, but the idea was that as they grew, the kids would train themselves to the pattern of the adults.

While friends complained that taking their families on long trips was a nightmare as they were constantly stopping to eat and take bathroom breaks, our "crew" handled such trips with aplomb.

Well, maybe not.

I no longer recall if we explained to the kids the benefits of stopping as little as possible, but it might have been seen as obvious and not explained. Whatever it was, in our recent conversation, it was clear Katie saw these restrictions as just an arbitrary decision imposed by Art.

Ah, yes! Good intentions, but unintended consequences!

Top-left: Mariya with two of her clowns. Top-middle: Mariya, lower-left, eyeing a display at the Hershey plant featuring a large chocolate "Kiss." Bottom-left: Katie stuffing Big Bird into a sleeper. Bottom-middle: Lorenzo Sheldon and his sister - Art's grandmother - Alma. Right: October 1920 advertisement for the Paige automobile which could be purchased from the Charles Herrmann - Art's grandfather - Motor Car Company.

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