Bonnie Shell's Life Stories

What is your best advice when it comes to raising children?

I was 40 years old when I became a mom. I knew I was pregnant right away, but the early tests at the doctor's office kept showing negative. I was persistent and brought urine samples (an olive jar full) every few days. Finally, a positive, and the doctor was surprised to see such an elated 40-year-old when he told me the news. The nurse then gave me this jar for my following urine sample, saying, "Mrs. Shell, we only need a little." I floated out of the office that day.

Near the end of my pregnancy, I wondered, what if I don't like this child? What if this child doesn't like me? It was love at first sight. It was a little boy, and we named him Andrew Bernard. He was an easy child to care for. He was a quiet little boy and never caused any trouble.

I think children need to know they are loved. Most children need to have boundaries. It gives them security. I don't believe in strict schedules. We had bath time, nap time, lunchtime, and playtime. In the summer, we would go to the playground and many times would have a picnic. Afternoon nap time was 1:00 p.m. We had clean-up toy time before Daddy got home. If you make it a game, it gets done quickly and is fun.

As children get older, you have to give them some freedom. The rules were that we know your friends, where you are going, and there is a curfew. Trust must be earned. Andrew knew that as a teen if he got into any trouble, he could always call home. We would always pick him up from wherever he was.

Homework had to be finished before going out with friends. Kids should learn to be respectful to family, friends, teachers, and the bus driver. Other kids are doing this, or that is not an excuse for bad behavior. You are responsible for your actions.

Friends were always welcome in our home. Some days, we had a bunch of boys for dinner, and that was usually the day we cleaned up all the leftovers. We had several parties during the school year, and we never had any problems with drinking or any other unwanted behavior. Kids knew that if they followed the rules, they would be invited. We always were at home and present.

One day, we had an amusing thing happen. We were the last family to have a rotary phone. A boy came home from school with Andrew, and I asked him if his mom knew where he was. He said she did not, so I told him to call her. He stood there briefly, so I asked if he knew his mom's number. He said he did, but he didn't know how to use our phone.

As children grow into teens and young adults, they must remember that mom and dad are parents and not their best friends, but we always have their back, and they can come to us for anything and talk about anything.

Andrew is now an adult and a dad. He has made us very proud because he is living the good values we instilled. He is a kind, caring, hard-working, and generous young man.