We left the last article with the thought that everyone involved in raising children has a unique experience, whether they are the parents or the children.
Each Child Has a Unique Experience
Now think about this: Each of your children had their own, unique experience of life.
Let’s say that you had five children, fairly evenly spaced over a ten-year period. There was only one first child; only one second child; only one fifth child, and so on. The only thing that some of them may have had in common was that the second and third would both have been middle children. Yet even their experience was unique. The second only had one older sibling; the third had two. In addition, by the time you had your third, the first was probably getting ready for school. This would certainly be the situation by the time you had your fourth.
Realistically, though, if you had five children, it is likely that there would be a gap, somewhere along the line. Maybe you thought, like so many parents, that you had finished having children, when the “youngest” was eight, only to suddenly find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, again. So your eldest child could have been a teenager by the time the youngest was born.
Therefore, each child grows up in his or her own environment.
(By the way, so far I have avoided the idea of gender. Please remember that any references to “him” can generally also refer to “her” and vice versa. Any exceptions should be obvious!)
Also, bear in mind that, if you had your first child at age twenty, and the next, two years later, only one child had the experience of having a twenty-one year old father or mother, even if they don’t remember it.
Now, how does this unique experience affect the way each child is raised?
I have already referred to the possibility that your diet, exercise, and rest may have slipped in quality as each child came along. That, in itself, is a cause of differing experiences.
Yet, what about changes in understanding? For example, maybe you were raised with the idea that smacking children was acceptable. So when you had your first couple of children, you carried on in that tradition. However, let’s say that your last child was born after the Child Protection Act (in Britain) became law. Media campaigns would now have made you think about how you disciplined your children. Maybe now you started to wonder whether smacking was appropriate. So you stopped using physical punishment on all your children. Yet, how did this affect your last child; the one who never knew what it was like to feel the sting of a palm on his rear end? We will return to the subject of discipline in a later chapter.
What about advances in food technology, and our understanding of the effects of diet and exercise? Many people in their seventies, today, grew up during the years of the Second World War. They experienced shortages of what many consider to be basic foodstuffs: Butter, eggs, meat, etc. So they learned to eat what they could get. Where I come from, many older people like what is called “bread and dripping.” Essentially, this is bread spread with, yes, you guessed it, the fat that pours off the meat during cooking. In fact, many people in my area would give this some flavour by sprinkling it with salt. I tell you, this is pure cholesterol! No wonder there are so many heart attacks in this area.
When I was in school, I remember the British government sponsoring an advertising campaign encouraging a balanced meal of meat, potatoes, and two vegetables. Today, we are encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables, every day, and to cut down on red meats. What effect did this have on the way we raised our children? Then, again, we are heading into the first generation that could see the widespread use of genetically modified foods. How will that affect future generations? We don’t know.
Then there is the matter of hand-me-downs, of course. The first child probably had brand new clothes, even if he did benefit from an older cousin’s cast-offs. The second child probably had fewer new clothes, especially if the first two children were of the same gender.
Still. Each of these changes mean that each of our children grew up in a different environment.
Each Parent Has a Unique Experience
The other aspect of raising children is that each parent has an experience that is unique to him or her and that changes with time. After all, who made all the changes mentioned in the last section? You probably improved your children’s diet; you probably improved your children’s exercise regime; you probably improved your children’s educational experience; you probably improved your children’s life experience.
Consider, though, how your experience changed, over the years. Maybe you grew up in a home where healthy and diet rarely appeared in the same sentence. Maybe you grew up in a family whose most energetic exercise consisted of reaching for the remote control. Maybe you grew up in a family that was almost fanatical about health, diet, and fitness. How much of that have you changed since you left home? How much of it have you passed on to your children? How much of it have you discarded in your own parenting?
So it was that you raised what you would like to think of as responsible children.
And then, they left home.
In the next article we will extend the idea of raising responsible children to the way that grandparents can help their children raise their grandchildren. And we will start to look at the way to handle concerns.