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(from Forever Erma By Erma Bombeck, March 5, 1969)

Ever since President Nixon’s inaugural plea to "speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices," I’ve had misgivings about my big mouth. I’ve always admired parents who discipline their children in hushed whispers.

"Arthur, you are a naughty boy for turning on all the gas jets. Now I want you to drag your little sister out into the fresh air, give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and apologize. Don’t make Mama have to raise her voice."

I’m a shouter. Once on a vacation, when one of the kids turned on the car heater while going through Georgia, my mother told me they felt the vibrations as far north as Port Huron, Michigan.

No one is born a shrew. I used to watch women getting flushed and angry while they chewed out their children and I’d say to myself, "My goodness, that woman is going to have a heart attack. No one should discipline a child in anger."

(I was five at the time and being flogged with a yardstick by my mother.)

Having children of my own knocked a hole in that theory.

To begin with, there were only 32 hours out of every week when I wasn’t angry, and then I was sleeping.

Also, I discovered children never took a "No" seriously unless the dishes rattled when you said it.

And the real clincher came when I discovered I had runners. "Runners" are kids who, when they commit some sin, take off for the fields, trees, basements, neighbors, attics or sewers. Did you ever try to whisper to someone you couldn’t see? I took to shouting.

We once had a neighbor who was born out of her time. She belonged in a hoopskirt eating a basket lunch at Tara. I lived next to her for four years, and not once did that disgusting old dame raise her voice. Of course, you can imagine what that made me sound like. (The Shore Patrol breaking up a floating crap game.)

Anyway, one day the boys were throwing a ball against her house and she appeared like an apparition at the door, gestured to them and said softly, "Boys, would you all come here for a moment?"

I watched her gesturing, talking and smiling. When she finished, the boys disbanded. I pounced on my son. "What did that mealy-mouthed little frail thing have to say to you boys?" "She said if we broke her windows, she’d break our faces!"

From that day forward I forgave her for her quietness. What she lacked in volume, she made up in content. What class!

I should love to follow President Nixon’s advice, but when you’ve got varicose neck veins from years of shouting, it isn’t going to be easy.

(From a sermon by Bobby Scobey, "Mother’s Day 09 - Honoring Mothers" 5/4/2009)

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