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Parenting: Mama Rock doesn’t like what she sees in homes today
By Jason Lesley
Comedian Chris Rock is not Rose Rock’s only successful child.
She raised 10 children and 22 foster children and used her experiences to write a no-nonsense book about responsible parenting, “Mama Rock’s Rules: Ten Lessons for Raising a Houseful of Successful Children.” She says parental neglect has reached epidemic stages and blames it for many of society’s ills.
Rock will be the speaker next week during a benefit to support the Pawleys Island Child Care Center in Parkersville at its third annual Black History Month program.
Rock said day care is the only place some children get a hot meal and — this breaks her heart — hugs.
“When I was being raised,” she said, “you had a grandmother and neighbors. You had a village that looked out for children. That’s totally gone. Without good child care, they’re sitting in a house all afternoon. Without after-school care when they are little, what do they do? Sit and watch TV. A lot of these kids don’t get a real meal between when they leave on Friday and when they come back on Monday. If you don’t have a mom who takes you to the library or takes you out, you don’t learn. Most of these kids have teen-age mothers. No one parented them.”
Rock won’t accept excuses for poor parenting, and she starts with the day babies are given a distinctive and unusual name that is hard to pronounce and spell.
“These crazy names,” she said, “handicap a child. I don’t even have a word for it. It’s just crazy.”
Rock said a child came to her at a book-signing event with her name written on a sticky note. “I get this name,” she said, “and it’s this big. She cannot even tell me how to pronounce it. I just stopped and said, ‘Where is your mother? Do you understand what you did to this child? It makes no sense.’ ”
Rock said the worst was a little girl named “La—a.” “It was the dumbest thing I have ever seen in my life: LaDasha. That’s why I’m doing another book.”
Rock has raised seven birth children and three “given” children — they came to spend a night and never went home — along with 22 foster children.
“Some of those kids had never had a toothbrush or a pair of pajamas,” she said. “You have no idea. I was so dumb to so many things until I got here to see what goes on. The saddest thing is the kids who never get hugged. A 4-year-old just melts when you hug them, but a child that has never been hugged just stands there.
“Chris and his wife brought in a child and said, ‘Let’s cuddle.” He said, ‘What’s cuddle?’ Oh my God, that breaks your heart.”
Rock said she didn’t appreciate her own mother until she had children.
“I didn’t like my mother till I was 40,” she said. “I thought she was too mean, she was too strict, everything. But when I started to raise my children, I found that I fell right into that same groove that she did. I was saying the exact same things to my child. It worked.”
Too many of today’s parents are not ready for the job, she said. “People are not committed to their kids, not committed to being a family, not committed to being married,” she said. “You just do it. Everything is temporary. We were raised that when you got married, you got married. When something didn’t work, you worked on it. And when you had children, they took precedence. Once you had a child, all that stuff that you wanted to do on Saturday night — hanging out and all — had to be put over here. That’s not to say you didn’t have a life, but those kids came first. What’s happening now, kids are no longer a priority.”
Neglect is not the only problem Rock sees with parents.
“I never felt the need to be friends with my children — not when they were 8 or 10. Not even when they were 16 years old. My kids had their own friends, and I had mine. I never set out to win any popularity contests on the home front. Like my mother, I know my kids don’t have to like me — neither do yours.”
She calls “Toddlers and Tiaras,” the children’s beauty pageants, another horrible idea. “One name,” Rock said, “JonBenét Ramsey. Need I say more? Who wants a 6-year-old to look 22? When you do, how many predators are out there looking at that. It’s the sickest thing I’ve heard. Parents are living through their children. Every little girl should be a princess, but she should be daddy’s princess or mommy’s princess in the house. I’m not supposed to exploit you. Do you think a 5-year-old wants to be tortured having her hair pressed? Honey Boo Boo’s mom gives her a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull — she calls it go-go juice — so she will be awake and smiling when she should be in her jammies in bed.”
The other big mistake parents make, Rock said, is trying to negotiate.
“We’ve all seen those crazy mothers on Maury or Jerry Springer. You know, the ones who complain how their children — even 10-year-olds — talk back to them. I want to shout to the TV screen: ‘Hey lady, you are the parent, you need to draw the line and get some respect for yourself.’ The message to children is this: You cannot live in my house, spend my money and disrespect me. It is that simple. I don’t hand out freebies.”
Discipline is another area she wants to clarify. Rock said she spanked her children, but there’s a difference in spanking and abuse.
“I would rather tap my son on the bottom and sit him down than scream at him: ‘I’m sorry you were born.’ That’s what people do. My thing is I pop them, sit them down and ask if they know what they did. Five minutes later, you come back loving, and that’s the end. Words don’t go away. That spank, they forget that the minute you kiss them.”
Rock will speak Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church during a benefit to support the Pawleys Island Child Care Center. There is no admission charge, but donations will be accepted.