The Thinking 

Families Then and Now

May 9, 2012


VINCENT C. writes:

When one reaches a certain age – mine – and looks back at today’s child rearing practices, I cannot help but notice how U.S. society has been transformed in the past half century. No societal change has been more dramatic than the victory, temporary, I would pray, of convincing young women to allow other people to raise their children. Where I live in Northern Virginia this profound mistake is accepted as readily as many young women accept advice about such things from the feminists who dominate “The View.” Sending babies to “day care” when the child is 6 months old can only be explained if one understands that far too many of today’s mothers see that practice lauded on the television programs they watch, the books they read, and is further nurtured in the movies they view, and the classes they attended. In short, it is pervasive.

It is, then, a great satisfaction for me and my wife to see the young parents in our church, most with several children, who have fought that false popular wisdom, and believe that parents, not their surrogates, must raise their children. The results are startling even for those at any early age. These families with many children are hierarchical also in that the older children are their siblings’ guardians when the parents are not present. I shall never – ever – forget a family with seven boys ranging in age from five through 14, the father of whom was a (then) active US Naval Officer (since retired).

The oldest boy would enter the church with his younger brothers in line behind him, all of whom were properly attired. He would then genuflect, and then turn to face the younger boys as they entered the pew. If any of his brothers, regardless of age, didn’t do the right thing, the older boy made sure that he did. The behavior of this family is not an anomaly in our parish, for one sees that although they have decided to forsake the extra benefits that come with a second income, the mothers of our parish do believe that raising their children is their greatest responsibility…and joy. It is a delight to watch.

Interestingly enough, these children are invariably more polite and courteous than those raised in non-familial settings. They do not seek attention, or do they interrupt when adults are talking. I insist that “day care” has been instrumental in weakening the necessary instruction for children “to be seen and not heard.”

Perhaps it is age combined with nostalgia, but seeing these children each Sunday is a wonderful evocation of a past when most children were raised in a similar manner.

Laura writes:

One has to have the benefit of time to appreciate the full extent of the changes that have occurred. When I was a child in the 60s, parents did not bring toys and food to church to entertain their children while they were in the pew as they do today. Children will always find it hard to sit still and remain quiet (and in Catholic churches, children are not required to attend Mass before the age of seven and shouldn’t be brought if they are disruptive), but somehow we did it, and many other children did too.

The loss of the “seen and not heard” phenomenon is not due entirely to day care or employed mothers. We live in an age when children are both neglected and intensely indulged. Many parents, even women at home, let their children dominate discussions and social interactions. Smaller families tend this way by nature. And, as you say, the loss of authority and hierarchy is pervasive.

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Vincent C. adds:

Coincidental to my comments about child rearing then and now, the Save the Children organization has just released a report which places the US in 25th place worldwide for the best place to be a mother. Norway, Iceland, and Sweden (Iceland is not considered a Scandinavian, but Nordic, nation), ranked 1-2-3; Niger replaced Afghanistan as the worst place for mother and child.

The report, which claimed that the US has improved overall since the last report (it was 31st last year), concludes that “educational factor are largely responsible” for that change, but added that, “America (an imprecise term, to say the least), still performs below average overall and quite poorly on a number of measures.” I won’t go into the statistical commentary more than to say that Save the Children is an organization that sees the Socialist medical care paradigm as the ideal. Created in England after World War I, the organization’s reach now extends into about 50 countries.

The organization’s measurement of infant mortality, which in the U.S. is complicated by the untrammeled abortion license, which does not exist in the Nordic countries, skewers that measurement. Did Save the Children take into account the more than one million embryos who are destroyed in the US each year? There is no – and I repeat no – nation that does more to save children in serious distress after birth than the United States. The children who are not saved are usually those from mothers whose drug and/or alcohol addiction or other life style peculiarities have endangered that fetus from conception. It is highly improbable that these new born infants could survive elsewhere either.

Norway ranks #1 on the list. I lived in Norway for 4 years, and although there are medical facilities that deal with serious pediatric problems, they are – or at least were – in no way comparable to facilities in the U.S. But Save the Children lets the cat out of the bag when it says: Norway, on the other hand, “ranks the very best on contraceptive use, female education and political representation, and has one of the most generous maternity leave policies in the developed world.”

The Save the Children report, like any report from a Non-Governmental Agency (NGOs), must be seriously scrutinized, for their biases surfaces very quickly. The plethora of suggestions about “improving educational levels for women and girls…” (emphasis mine), indicates that childbirth may very well have cultural implications that those in the Nordic countries would not find acceptable.

“In the United States and other industrialized nations, governments and communities need to work together to improve the education and health care for disadvantaged mother and children.” Perhaps before making that statement, the Save the Children organization should examine the benefits that mothers, including those who are in this country illegally, have, including pre and post natal care, and the costs to the taxpayer of that medical care for those “disadvantaged” mothers. They would be very much surprised.

Robin writes:

Vincent writes:

“Interestingly enough, these children are invariably more polite and courteous than those raised in non-familial settings. They do not seek attention, or do they interrupt when adults are talking. I insist that “day care” has been instrumental in weakening the necessary instruction for children “to be seen and not heard.””

Laura writes:

“The loss of the ”seen and not heard” phenomenon is not due entirely to day care or employed mothers. We live in an age when children are both neglected and intensely indulged. Many parents, even women at home, let their children dominate discussions and social interactions. Smaller families tend this way by nature. And, as you say, the loss of authority and hierarchy is pervasive.”

I write this through bleary eyes after working approximately three, ten-hour days this week as an in-home day care provider for a professional, working mother of two children under the age of five, who is also pregnant with her third child. My husband and I have two little ones under the age of three years ourselves, and when I work in this woman’s home, I take my child and my baby with me each day.

My husband and I have been through such a tremendous financial trial over the past five years of marriage, not unlike many other Americans during the recent recession/”man-cession” or whatever the term is at the present. He was laid off twice in three years and we endured over thirty six months of nothing but unemployment compensation before I began working for the professional mother. At the time that I sought out the job and accepted it, we had only one child and it was imperative that we have some additional income. I reluctantly began working part-time in hopes that it would be of short duration. Although it has blessed us, it has come at a serious cost.

When you speak of overindulgence vs. neglect, I think of my recent, three-day stint in this home with these precious children. The children have an entire playroom that rivals any toy store in contents and variety of activities: everything from two dozen baby dolls and accessories, to at least three dozen Barbies and related accessories, all the way to an entire “art and craft” shelf, musical instruments, ride-on toys, a slide with lookout, countless dress-up outfits, etc. Yet, they are bored.

Not only are they bored, the elder of the two clamors for attention. In fact, she requires so much attention at almost age five, that she actually takes attention away from my infant! The other day I had to tell her that I love her, but I will not allow her to dominate every conversation and every activity – basically, that she is a child, and she should go use her imagination and play! Otherwise, I try to engage her in helpful activities that are age-appropriate, such as serving snacks that I have prepared. It is like pulling teeth.

Recently I began to send my older daughter and the two children of my employer outside to their play set (a four thousand dollar ‘park’ in the backyard) in order that I have some time to nurse my infant uninterrupted. My two year old daughter does not feel the need to climb all over me while I nurse, yet this five-year-old simply will not leave me alone unless I rebuke her rather sharply. While my child is enthusiastic and excited about going outside to play, the other children I care for must be perpetually encouraged in order that they remain outside to play! They wander around their elaborate playscape, apparently as bored as they are with their playroom, and beg to come in after only forty minutes or so on a gorgeous, sunny day.

It concerns me that the younger of the children who is almost three years old is passive and withdrawn, and excessively so. She simply follows her sister silently and never asks for anything. She rarely speaks to me, although I am constantly engaging her – trying to get her to talk to me. I think the over-bearing nature of the older one has caused this extreme passivity in the younger; she has simply given up trying to gain attention and “does her own thing” silently. When she is angry, she pulls hair, claws with fingernails or hits the others, but never says a thing.

It is near impossible to have any kind of conversation at all with the mother in front of the children due to the constant interruption of the older child. This child will literally have a screaming tantrum if she does not get exactly what she believes she needs at exactly the moment she requests it! Thus, if I wish to communicate at all with my employer, I do so in writing, via email. It is frustrating and sad.

My husband has recently become concerned, because he does not like the “aggressive” nature of the older child, as he puts it. He has come over to my place of work several times on his days off as he is self-employed now, and he has observed the dynamic at work with the children. He told me that he is doing his best to build our business and that I just need to wait upon God to bless us, because he does not want any of this aggression and excessive, attention-seeking behavior to affect either of our children. What a gem of a husband I have! He says that he will work hard to afford me the freedom of being at home full-time with our children, in our home, teaching them and raising them. He says that he desires for me to have that freedom – the freedom to serve my husband and be his helper and his girl first, and to serve our children! I am so thankful to hear these words from him after such a long financial trial, that I could just weep. Behind Jesus, my husband is Superman to me.

In summary, I write this not so much as a litany of murmurings concerning my job (I am hopeful that it is more of a presentation of facts), but rather as a testimony to the fact that even IN-HOME “daycare” is less preferred than Mommy at home full-time. These children have both been raised by in-home nannies from age twelve weeks, and I agree that this is the primary factor in the aggressive, exceedingly dominant, grotesque attention-seeking behavior, especially in the older child. That and something known as “Positive Discipline,” which, in my humble opinion, is an un-biblical and very dangerous type of parenting being promoted by liberal writers to unsuspecting parents of the Y Generation.

My point is this: even with another “Mommy” in the home when real Mommy is at work, the children suffer. It may not be manifest to others who have not stayed home with their children, but it is obvious to me and my husband. There is very little parental authority in the home, there is too much unnatural noise and chaos and the children are ruling the roost. I can guarantee you that making the statement, “children should be seen and not heard”, in any form to my employer would result in prompt termination. They are to be entertained, and I am paid to “entertain” them, although I truly strive to almost parent them as I do my own children, in order to further preserve continuity in how we are raising our children.

I hesitate to ponder what is going to happen to these children when they enter the real world in years to come.

Blessings to you, Mrs. Wood, for your relentless presentation of the absolute truth.


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