As a child, I was captivated by emotional stories and how words strung together had the power to make me feel happy, touched, sad, or inspired. The rudiments of my education came around the kitchen table or in the car as I listened to Mama's and Daddy's storytelling.
Q: The woman I've been dating - a single mom with two young boys - and I have decided to get married. My only reservation, and I've told her this, concerns the stepfather thing. I'm not clear and really neither is she on the proper role and responsibilities of stepfathers, especially in the area of discipline. She reads your column religiously and told me to ask you for advice. It would be most appreciated.
Q: Our son is a rising second-grader at a private school. Last year, his behavior was often disruptive and sometimes even downright defiant - problems his first grade teacher did not have with him. At home, we have no more than typical "boyishness"- nothing approaching serious.
It would be, I decided, a nice gesture of Southern thoughtfulness if I made a dish of my famous macaroni and cheese. I call it "famous" because it Duke's mayonnaise once put the recipe on its label along with my name and my Aunt Ozelle's from whom I stole it.
The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed Daniel Eddy, a New York City chef, on how to have a mutually-successful experience with a young child in an upscale restaurant ("How to Take Your Kids Out to Eat and Actually Enjoy the Experience," July 14, 2016). WSJ obviously thinks the fact that being a chef qualifies one as an expert the subject; it seems to me, however, that a waitperson would have the better perspective.
It is now that I have reached the age where the wiser generation, those who taught me and mentored me, are starting to take their leave of this world that I search both their lives and deaths for lessons.
One of the more powerful parenting memes to emerge from the parenting revolution of the late '60s and early '70s was "Children deserve reasons." To large degree, that was a reaction to the previous parental policy of answering "Why? and "Why not?" with "Because I said so."
Q: What can we reasonably expect of our 18-year-old daughter when she comes home on weekends from her summer job? She usually heads straight to her boyfriend's family's home and rolls in around 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night. We'd love to have a family meal with her. Do we say, "Dinner is at 6 o'clock and it would mean a lot to us if you'd join us," and let it go at that or should we insist that she have at least one evening meal with us?
The little house in which I was privileged to be raised, the same one I wrote of recently, needed its annual deep cleaning. This involves polishing furniture, mopping floors, scrubbing the outside doors, cleaning out the window sills and wiping down Mama's cracked, ceramic canister set.
Q: My 8-year-old daughter is having anxiety issues that seem to border on obsessive-compulsive disorder. She wants me to repeat certain things back to her and has a set routine of things I must say when I'm tucking her into bed. She's genuinely upset by all this and tells me she thinks there's something wrong with her.
Q: Our 12-year-old has a smart phone. I know you don't approve, but all - and I do mean all - of his friends have them and texting is how they communicate. I don't think, under the circumstances, that making him be the "odd man out" socially is a good idea.
There are two Bibles that sit, always untouched, on the fireplace mantle in our living room. They are delicate and old, yellowed pages are falling from them, the black tabs denoting the different books mostly gone.