Let’s be very clear, I’m not a scientist. However, I do know that every species raises its young differently. Some hatch from eggs completely independent while others are nurtured by one or more adults. As for humans, we think our young are raised in small family units. Realistically, in America, as throughout the industrialized world today, children are raised in herds. But not the typical animal herd. Look at herds in the animal world. The young aren’t separated. Instead they are surrounded by adults. Of course, adults leave the herd to hunt or do other things. The human herd is opposite. Humans group 20 to 30 young together with one adult. In a good scenario, there may be only 10 young in the herd. Each herd of children will have an adult who is likely not related to anyone in the herd. We don’t want bias or favoritism, do we? The rest of the adults in the herd leave this single adult to handle everything. Keep the young safe. Teach them how to survive and thrive. Help them discover their place and purpose in the herd.
I know I’m not the only who sees the flaw in this thinking. Every species that raises its young that I know of (again, I’m no expert here) does not isolate the young from the adults. Plainly, even creatures with less cognitive capabilities understand that offspring require a lot of guidance, time, and energy.
I began to see the effects of this in my daughter. No matter how stellar the adults caring for her were, so many of her decisions were influenced by the rational of fellow 9 year olds. What better way to learn decision-making skills than from a group of 3rd graders? And then there is the concept of group thought and group emotion. That starts in infancy. Test it yourself. Place 6 babies in a room. When one begins to cry, watch how the other five follow. Why? Because children haven’t learned to think independently. And they won’t learn it from other children who can’t think independently.
Children need adults.
We are a drop off society. We drop off our children and go about our own lives, separate from them. School and daycare are the most common. But let’s not forget dance, sports, gymnastics, scouts, church, and the list goes on. When we attend something, it’s often as a spectator. We go to the concert, meet, game, or recital….and watch from the sidelines.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think children should spend every moment with their parents. Good grief, I’d have a 42 year old “child” living in my house one day if I believed that! Children NEED to interact with peers and other adults. I plan to launch my children at a healthy age. To do this they must learn to socialize, work in groups, stand up to a bully, deal with a slacker, say no to pressure, and make mistakes.
What I am questioning is have we gone to far? Do we rely on other people so much that we have little influence on our own children? I’ve found it very empowering and liberating to take control of this area of our family life. It takes a lot more time on my part. To be honest, sometimes I don’t want to be there for everything. I have things I
need wish to do. But then I remind myself that I WANTED these kiddos. And I only get a few years to do this. Once they’re launched, I can travel, have more hobbies, have a better social life. For now, I like being an active participant. If something goes wrong, I see it before its out of control. If I’m failing at something, it’s evident sooner. And best of all, I’m shaping their worldview. There are things I’m passionate about that I want them to learn. To fully understand. Faith. Peace. Family. Role of government. Self-Image in the skinny-and-sex-obsessed society. So much to impart. I’m not giving up that precious little time. I’m sure our kids won’t get the world view I desire from their peers.
So what does this look like in our family? Both our kids are competitive gymnasts. They spend 6-9 hours a week at workouts. Most of the time, I’m sitting on the sides watching. I hear the coaches. I can see where they are struggling and their achievements. I make mental notes and start conversations on the way home while the events are still fresh. The teams they workout with range from first graders to seniors in high school. Car conversations vary from goal setting to skills to boyfriends to pubic hair. Was I standing over them the when someone told them about pubic hair? Nope. But I’m there enough that it’s comfortable to talk about it. Our children attend a half day private school. This places a greater responsibility on the parent while maintaining a traditional classroom setting. After 4 hours of school, they can still remember what they did at school. After 7 hours of school, I got blank stares when I asked “So, what did you learn at school today?”
Do you have to be a single income, 2 parent family to make this work? Not at all! Find the time somewhere. You may need to be creative, but you can do it! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Volunteer regularly in their school class. The teacher will come to love you, the kids in the class will know you, and you’ll get the inside scoop on how your child is doing academically and socially (the kids will tell you more than the teacher!)
- Stick around and watch them practice. Basketball, soccer, dance…whatever they’re in, be there!
- Help out in their church group, even if it’s once a month. Sunday School, Youth Group, Choir, AWANA.
- Make your house the hang out place. Allow your kids to invite friends over for play dates and sleepovers.
- Set aside special time with your kids. Take them on dates, play games, make a craft.
- Help them with their homework. Or just sit at the table while they work.
So get busy and enjoy the freedom of taking control of how your kids develop!