Recent reports about women choosing not to bear children has brought the “Childfree Choice” into the spotlight. Time Magazine reports that in 1976, only one in ten American women in her forties was childless, compared to the current statistic of one in five.
Some say our world is in such a mess they cannot in good conscience bring a child into it. Others describe their own sad upbringing and fear making the same mistakes their parents did. Still others say they could never be as good at parenting as their parents were.
Parents long to know what’s on their kids’ minds, but getting kids to talk about those things can be a tough nut to crack.
But there’s one time when kids are likely to have a great deal to say, and that’s when in they’re smack-dab in the thick of an interesting experience. If you want to hear your kids talk, plan to be present with them when something’s going on. Here are some ideas:
There were never two parents raising the same child anywhere who ever agreed entirely about how to do it. When adults care about the same child, a certain amount of “gatekeeping” is bound to happen, in which each adult thinks he or she knows best about how to parent.
Here’s an example: Adam says, “Eve, you should make that boy behave.” Eve says, “Adam, he’s doing the best he can. Quit riding him all the time.” Years down the road, Cain slays Abel, and the finger-pointing commences. “I told you we were doing it wrong!”
It was a recent blistering hot afternoon. A weary mother marched across the discount store parking lot with her three little boys. She firmly grasped the hands of two of the stair-step tykes while the third trailed solemnly behind.
The two boys whose hands she held howled in complaint as she spoke to them seriously under her breath. Noticeably, no bags of purchases accompanied this small group. The purpose of the trip had obviously been aborted while the beleaguered mother dealt with the misbehavior of her sons.
Amazingly, a wide variety of parenting styles produce healthy adults. But the divergence of those styles may make for disagreement with other parents.
A young mother recently described a play date with her college roommate who has a baby about the same age as hers. Amber had long anticipated getting their babies together to play, fantasizing about introducing these little girls to a life-long friendship.
Recently I wrote about children seeming to absorb by osmosis the characteristics of their families during the years of growing up. But a new book explores the other possibility: Children sometimes turn out very differently from their parents. In his book Far from the Tree, psychiatrist Andrew Solomon shares stories of hundreds of families whose children have very different lives from their parents.
Among my favorite memories is a lovely evening in late May of 1984. Just home from the hospital, I sat outside with my newborn son, listening while his two older sisters and dad played in the yard. Other happy memories stand out around this little boy, including his third birthday where he sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wearing a football helmet and one of his sister’s ballet tutus.
A recent summer storm provided an object lesson for a family I know. Making their way along an interstate highway on a weekend outing, the family drove into a violent storm moving erratically across the state.
Within minutes, hailstones pelted the car along with heavy rains. Visibility was seriously compromised. The parents prayed for safety and watched for an exit where they could get off the road to wait out the storm.
Meanwhile, the four-year-old in the back seat was alarmed by the noise of the pounding rain and hail. She asked her parents if they were safe.
Preschool provides a safe venue for kids to learn some hard lessons about the world. Is your preschooler ready?
Lesson# 1: What do you mean you’re not going to stay? For kids who’ve been home with parents, preschool may represent their first major separation. You can prepare your child with visits to friends, playdates in other homes and seeing the classroom before the first day of school.
As summer winds down, parents see the start of another school year lurking around the corner. Summer freedom has been a blast, but academic expectations lie just ahead. Here are a few suggestions to rev up your kids’ learning power.
A family of five I know has had a heck of a year. They’ve lost a grandfather, suffered the loss of a job, and now struggle with the serious illness of their mother.
This family’s three children have missed out on the carefree days of youth in the last year. Instead, they’ve attended a funeral and mourned the loss of one who played a significant role in their lives.
They’ve listened in as their parents strategized about how to make do with less in the face of a lost salary.
“Don’t sweat this deadline,” commented the longsuffering contractor. “It’s not a matter of life and death.”
Reflecting on his words, I was thinking about how we use that phrase—“a matter of life and death”—to denote the singularly most essential issues in our lives. Our very language respects the importance of the experiences of life and death, but this honor dims in the reality of our expectations sometimes.
If there’s one thing I know about parents of toddlers, it’s this: They would give their signed Michael Jordan basketball if their child would pee in the toilet.
Parents who’ve faithfully changed diapers for months run out of patience for this task which becomes more heinous by the week. Changing the stinky diaper of a thirty-five pound toddler begins to feel just plain wrong.
Recently I attended a fifth grade “graduation” ceremony. Stuffed like sardines into the hot multi-purpose room typical of public schools, proud parents and grandparents grinned and waved as their kids walked across the stage.
I recently joined Dr. T. Berry Brazelton in the celebration of his 95th birthday. A great storyteller, Berry regaled me with tales from his long, interesting life, including stories he shares in his new autobiography, Learning to Listen.
He’s studied families around the world. One story is from the Mayan babies of Zinacantan in southern Mexico. Nights are cold in this mountainous region, so families live in small round mud huts, warmed by a fire in the middle of the floor.
The plane had touched down, but the young mother was still flying high.
She was traveling through three airports with her one and four-year-old children to visit relatives several states away.
Hauling a diaper bag, car seat, and other paraphernalia needed for two little ones, this mother had her hands full. She had thoughtfully prepared snacks, activities and everything else she could think of to make their trip go smoothly.
So an unexpected encounter with a fellow traveler was especially gratifying to her.
Two-year-old Gabby strode confidently into the play group. When I asked where her big sister was, she replied soberly, “At ‘chool.” Gabby was more than glad to have a “’chool” of her own to attend that day.
As a “little sister” myself, I understood her angst. Its the work of the baby in every family to watch from the sidelines as older siblings leave home and do exotic-sounding things like go to preschool.
Ann Patchett's bestselling novel "State of Wonder" tells the story of medical researchers studying an Amazonian tribe in which woman routinely bear children into their seventies. The idea of developing a pill to replace exhausting and expensive fertility treatments has this fictitious drug company seeing dollar signs.
The novel's timely release addresses the growing number of couples who are postponing parenthood for a variety of reasons. Many folks are waiting longer to marry (if they marry at all) and likewise they are putting off bearing children.
From our first breath, we seek connection. Newborns blink against the bright lights, then scan their surroundings until they catch sight of their parents' faces. Their eyes light up as they fix their gaze on a loving countenance, investing themselves in this growing bond.
They use their hearing in the same way, listening through the noisy din to recognize the sounds of familiar voices they have come to know already.