Voice from the Past

Jan 22, 2014

Voice from the Past

The middle-age woman spoke tentatively as she reached for words to express her meaning.  She was raised in the south, the great-grandchild of slaves.  “When I was growing up,” she said, “We were taught that children are to be seen and not heard. I wanted to be a good girl, so I spoke very little until I went to school.  There, I struggled to keep up with other children whose language skills were light years beyond my own.”

This woman acknowledged the love behind her parents’ stern warning—they wanted their children to be respectful and thereby stay out of harm’s way.  And yet, she says, when her own children came along, she made a conscious choice to raise them differently.

“I encouraged them to express their feelings.  This created friction with my parents and grandparents, who I still loved so much.  But I knew I wanted my children to have a different experience which I hoped would better prepare them for school.”

This woman describes the cost of choosing to raise her kids differently. She found it possible to still have a loving relationship with her own parents, but it took conscious effort. 

Lots of young parents make choices in child-rearing practices which differ from their parents’, often based on their own research and thoughtful decisions.  They may choose breastfeeding while their own mothers fed them from bottles.  They may choose a dual-career lifestyle while their parents made sure someone stayed home with the kids.  They may decide to use their resources and free time in a way that does not mirror grandparents’ values.

Many choices are dictated by societal changes.  Today’s parents are not raising their children in the same world in which they were raised.

But whether they choose a style similar to their parents or different, there is one inescapable truth:  Parents will continue to hear that voice in their heads that guided them through their growing up years.  Each of us brings both “ghosts” and “angels” from our nurseries who carry the past into our present, often building experiences our children will carry into the future.