Kids live up to parents' expectations

You're never disappointed if you expect the worst. Rest assured, I didn't see how it could get worse.

The temperature was 100 degrees, and here I was, helping tend to 30-plus children and their parents who had come to Coddle Creek Ranch in Mooresville for horse and pony rides. The air was heavy with heat and dust and horse smells, and the kids had to wait their turns.

It didn't take long for me to realize that something was seriously right.

Nobody whined or complained or cried. Nobody retreated to an iPod or game. Nobody fought, not even siblings. Nobody had to be told twice what to do – or not to do. To a child, they said “please” and “thank you.” Most of all, they were enthusiastic, appreciative and had fun.

Who were these kids?

No, these weren't cardboard cutouts or holograms of the children you see acting up at church or in the grocery or in your own home. These were the sons and daughters of members of the 145 {+t}{+h} Airlift Wing of the N.C. National Guard.

“I saw great kids,” said ranch manager Jeff Saunders. “But mostly, what I saw was excellent parenting.” Days later, riding instructor Colleen Cheek was “still on Cloud Nine” thinking about it all.

Sunday afternoon at the ranch was an interesting study in how children live up to expectations. It was the end of the 145 {+t}{+h}'s Family Day, which began with games and plane explorations in a hot hangar at the airport. Then families who wanted still more fun drove to Mooresville.

Some of the parents are preparing for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Some have come back. Some have remained on duty here as support for those going to war. One airman was in full camouflage dress – and pointed out that Baghdad can be considerably hotter.

The common denominator for all these adults is that they live by rules from above and discipline from within – and expect their children to do likewise. The children all were having a great time – but within clear boundaries.

Kathleen Flaherty, Wing Family Programs Coordinator, organizes and oversees an event in October called Operation Kids on Guard. This will be the fifth year that 150 or more children and youth gather and go through military activities.

You do the math – 150 kids times four years equals 600. How many incidences of misbehavior? Flaherty doesn't need a calculator. The answer is zero. Over the years, not a single child has caused any kind of problem.

A military upbringing

Many of us born in the 1940s and '50s had a sort of military upbringing. Our fathers had served in World War II and expected us to obey orders just as they had.

Were I or my siblings slow in doing what we were told, my father would boom, “Instant obedience!” We obeyed.

If we complained, he'd say, “If you're unhappy, you're halfway. Turn around and get happy again.” We did – fast.

We were expected to behave well, and we did. The children at Coddle Creek Ranch that Sunday know exactly what their parents expect, too, and they respond. What a pity they are the exception and not the norm.