Commentary: OK Kids, Let’s Buckle Down

By Suanne Thamm

Some years ago a now-departed neighbor added a new acronym to our vocabulary: WIWAK. This term, courtesy of his grown children, was coined to describe our friend’s experiences while growing up. Our friend’s instructive narratives, meant kindly of course, were inevitably received with eye rolls and stifled smiles by his children, as they referred to these When I Was A Kid tales as WIWAK stories.

I’m sure you have your own WIWAKs, and many of them are commonly shared:

When I Was A Kid …

  • I had to earn my pocket money.
  • Bed time was 9 o’clock on school nights.
  • If I was thirsty, I had to drink water — from the tap.
  • Thank-you notes had to be hand-written, reviewed by Mom, and in the mail within days of receipt of any gift.

Sound familiar?

Now many of these dicta sound quaint, along with other admonitions, such as:

“You will eat what the rest of the family is eating — or go hungry.”  

“If Mary Jo jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

“You are older than your little brother and should know better.” 

And the ominous “Just wait until your father gets home.”

Ah, those were the days. Everyone knew his or her place in the family and in the community. The rules were common knowledge and vigorously adhered to by parents, teachers, and even (mostly) by children. Youthful transgressions were handled quickly and soundly with a spanking or loss of privileges. Woe be unto a student sent home with a bad report from a teacher, because the teacher was always right in the eyes of the parents.

Everything seemed so ordered, so clear.

With the passage of time, clarity has been replaced by ambiguity, or in some cases it seems like downright chaos. This is a logical consequence of more choices and fewer rules. Not to mention many competing voices offering both sound and questionable theories on child raising in this age of the growing dependence on technology to solve what had initially seemed like simple problems. Are we better for the information explosion or just more confused?

Where does authority lie in today’s family? Does father—or mother—still know best? Or have children pulled a coup and become the ones who make the rules today? And has that same lack of clarity migrated to local government?

This ambiguity of authority is apparent in our communities as well as in our families. Do our political leaders make fact-based decisions or do they rely on popular opinion to chart the future? Are squeaky wheels appeased at the expense of strategic planning for the future needs of a rapidly changing society? Do people choose to get involved in elected politics to help their communities — or to advance business or political ambitions?

We are about to enter a new political season in Fernandina Beach. In 2024, three City Commission seats will be up for election:  Seat 1 (Bradley Bean); Seat 2 (David Sturges); Seat 3 (Chip Ross). It is not known at this time if Bean and/or Sturges will seek reelection.  However, Ross will have already served 2 consecutive terms, so he cannot run again. Voters will be asked to choose the next mayor. Only commissioners James Antun and Darron Ayscue will be eligible to run for this office, since theirs are the only two seats not up for reelection.

City elections, at least by charter and tradition, have been non-partisan.  

It is still early in the term of the current Fernandina Beach City Commission. Frustrations over the firing of the former city manager and hiring a new one are understandable. But this commission still has time to pull it together to tackle the many problems facing the city with respect to sea level rise, the waterfront, downtown improvements, facility decline, parking and beach accesses.  

Let’s hope commissioners put aside personal grievances and work together to accomplish the goals that they and former commissions have routinely singled out as priorities during their annual planning sessions.

When I Was A Kid, that’s how grown up behavior was defined.

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Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_68434)
1 year ago

Wise commentary.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 year ago

Those good old days included abusive fathers and husbands, shame in reporting such, rampant discrimination against anyone who was not white/Christian, hidden alcoholism, the good-ol-boys network in politics and business, and other dark parts of society. Much of that has come to the light of day, including raising children to be independent, critical thinkers (some of us, anyway). But Suanne hits the nail on the head on two accounts: legislators should be working for the common good and we all need to get involved to make democracy work.

Richard Cain
Richard Cain(@richardcain)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

I don’t think the issue of “abusive fathers and husbands” is confined to the “good old days” nor “hidden alcoholism” and “good ol boys in politics and business”. Really in many respects things haven’t changed except we now have a generation of young people who feel entitled and are lazy … obviously not all but it is pretty common. “Independent thinkers?!” My observation is that the young today are a bunch of lemmings that follow “influencers” on social media and are incapable of thinking for themselves. Again, certainly not all. But in general I’m not impressed with them.

Jojo sullivan
Jojo sullivan (@guest_68458)
1 year ago

I agree with many of Suanne’s comments about our local government being non partisan and working for all of the community. I am hesitant to even consider political office after observing our last runoff election for county commissioners. Some of the comments that were written about the two individuals who were not elected were hateful and false. Why would one risk putting themselves in such a vulnerable position? There is a climate of “hate” that lives here. Maybe because of the national political environment it has worsened. My father, who was a honest but flawed human being, would roll over in his grave if he saw the hypocrisy here. I am learning to keep my political thoughts to myself to just feel a sense of safety. I think about putting signs on my lawn and then reconsider. I think I may have picked the wrong town to retire in?????
anonymous female