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8 Experiences I Had That My Kids Won’t

admin November 11, 2014

The other morning, I was lying in bed, thinking.  I was thinking about my own childhood, and how different my kids’ childhood is so far.

Honestly, I think they have the advantage.  But maybe I’m biased. 😉  I’m sharing with you, here, some key ways in which my own experience was different from my kids’.  Please keep in mind that this is just our experiences and I’m not intending this to be universal.  Still, I think some of you will be able to relate.

1. Most of my friends were my same age — or within a year older or younger; my kids have friends of all ages

In public school (at least my public school), there’s a clear “hierarchy” and it’s dependent on how old you are.  The older you are, the higher you rank, and you do not waste your time with all those younger kids.  Plus, it was most practical to be friends with people your own age since those were the people in your class, that you spent the most time with.

In contrast, my kids are regularly in groups or circumstances with kids from birth to age 7 or so.  They draw no boundaries or hierarchies and are friends with all different people, of all different ages.

2. I knew how I “ranked” based on my report card from kindergarten on; my kids have no idea what “grades” are and don’t compare themselves to their peers

From my very first kindergarten report card, my friends and I compared what we got, as did our mothers.   I was well aware that my friends got “perfect” marks in things like ‘keeps a neat and orderly work area’ and ‘follows directions’ and I didn’t. I felt “less than” because I didn’t get perfect marks, even at age 5.  (In no way are your kindergarten grades or neatness marks related to future success in life, yet we were sort of led to believe they were.)

In contrast, my kids are not given grades.  Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses and each masters new skills in their own time.  Should any of them try to draw a comparison (only to their siblings, not to people outside the family), we remind them of this and don’t let them feel superior or inferior to others based on what they’re doing.

3. I knew that being different was bad; my kids think it’s just being yourself

Kids can be pretty merciless (not unlike some adults…) in letting other kids know when they don’t fit in, and that this isn’t okay.  Teachers, despite being well-meaning, are not really better (I was constantly criticized for having a messy desk or not turning in busy work on time as if these things actually mattered).

In contrast, my kids will actually tell you, “This is just how I am.  I’m different.”  They feel no shame in who they are or how they do things.  They’ve never been subject to peer ridicule.

4. I was taught that you had to be “at grade level” (or ahead) in every subject to be “smart;” my kids have no concept of being smart or dumb based on what they are currently learning

In public school — and I think this is pretty universal — all kids are expected to be “at grade level” in each subject.  That is, there’s some minimum standard that they need to meet in every area (math, reading, writing, etc.).  If they don’t, they know they’re “behind.”  If they’re in the ‘extra help’ class for reading, they know it’s the “dumb” class. (I definitely knew, at least by second grade, which classes I was in, and which my friends were in.)  This is no criticism of teachers; kids figure this stuff out.

In contrast, my kids work at each new skill when they’re ready, which means they’re ahead of “normal” in some areas, and behind in others.  They have no concept of what they “should” be learning at any given time, nor have they ever gotten the idea that they are “dumb” for working at a different pace.  Mastering skills when you’re ready is more important to them than keeping up with other kids.

8 experiences i had that my kids won't

5. I got the message that lots of things were “scary” and really dangerous via scare tactics — drugs, strangers, alcohol, smoking, etc.; my kids are not taught with fear

I was exposed to “drug” programs from kindergarten on, telling me how scary and dangerous drugs were and how I had better stay away from them.  We were taught few facts and no balanced perspective.  It was be scared away, or get curious what all the fuss was about and try it.  (I happened not to try any.)  I was also taught never to talk to strangers because they could be bad.

In contrast, my kids have received basically no messages about smoking, drugs, and drinking, besides them asking what it is when they see people out in public smoking or buying alcohol.  They’ve learned that these are things some grown-ups do, that we don’t do, that aren’t very healthy for you.  No scare tactics.  As for strangers, when I’m present, they are encouraged to say hello, if they’d like.  We know most strangers are nice people who mean no harm and we behave as such.

6. I was taught that new babies and having to help with younger siblings was a bad thing; my kids are taught that it is good

I watched TV shows and read books where kids were unhappy or fearful about a new baby joining the family; they felt their position would be usurped or their parents wouldn’t love them or take care of them anymore.  I was also told frequently that kids should be allowed to have their own, independent lives and not have to help with siblings very much, if at all.

My kids are excited about new babies and often beg for them!  (They are currently praying we have “girl twins” next…)  They have no fear of being loved any less and frequently show love and affection to their younger siblings.  They also enjoy helping with them and playing with them, and they’re taught that we all help out in the family — whether with each other, or with household chores, etc.

7. I was taught that most kids hated vegetables; my kids don’t have any preconceived notions about food

So many TV shows did and do reinforce the idea that all kids hate vegetables — even that they “should” hate them and how to cope with being served them anyway.  I felt ‘weird’ because I didn’t really hate vegetables.

My kids think this is a silly fantasy (they’ve come across the idea on TV) and when I ask “Who likes vegetables?” I’m met with a chorus of “ME!”

8. I was taught that being fat was bad and something to avoid at any cost; my kids do not know people are judged by their weight or physical appearance

From a young age, I was aware of weight.  A friend of mine was praised for being “skinny” when I was 5 or 6, and I knew this was a good thing, and that what I was, was “less good” (even though it wasn’t said quite that way to me).  Calling out someone else’s body shape caused me to question my own.  I always had the perception that I was bigger or heavier than I was, and when I was briefly overweight in my pre-teen years, peers called me fat, or “triple chin woman” and other such rude names.  I knew that physical appearance was important and was a way to judge others as good or bad.

My children have no such conception.  We have never referred to any person as ” fat” — my daughter once asked me, “Why is that lady’s stomach a circle instead of straight like yours?” because she did not have any other words to describe the situation (she was at least 5 at the time).  We do not talk about our own body flaws or issues with body image.  We do not praise their bodies except with words like “strong” and this is not a comparison between people.  They are not taught to judge others on appearance.

I have to say, I wish I’d had their experiences!

It’s so hard, as a kid, to have all of these things ingrained in you — to be told that you’re to be judged not on how you treat others, but on what you look like, if you act the same as everyone else, if you get good grades, if you’re athletic.  Basically, judged on outward appearances and not who you are.

We’re breaking that cycle.  By the time they’re old enough to realize that others judge people in these ways — and they will — they’ll think it’s silly, not valid.  My goal isn’t to shelter them from it forever, just long enough to make a difference in their lives and not allow others to be their standard.

There are plenty more things I can think of, honestly.  Such as, I ate processed food all the time and my kids are taught that healthy food nourishes their bodies.  I was taught that birth was a scary, painful emergency (mostly via TV), and my kids think it is a normal, fun part of life that happens mostly at home.  And lots more.

What experiences did you have that your kids don’t or won’t?

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13 Comments

  1. I love this!
    And it is so true, the things we realize are not important later in life.

    Reply

  2. Well, since you asked. 🙂

    1. I had no friends my own age. I was socially awkward and had no idea how to interact with peers, since I was homeschooled and spent most of my time with younger siblings and adults. I am 30 and still struggle with knowing how to interact with people my own age. I’m good with kids and old folks though.

    2. I never had any idea what grade I was in. I always felt embarrassed when people asked me that. I didn’t know how well I was really doing with my schoolwork. My mom said it didn’t matter but when I had to cheat my way through Algebra because no one kept track of grading and I didn’t understand it, I think that knowing my grade would’ve been helpful.

    3. Being different was lauded at holy and a good thing. But I grew up feeling like an unwanted freak. I spent my childhood and teen years longing to not be so different, to just fit in somewhere, feeling like a freak all the time. These days, I am still different, some in ways that I have chosen, others as a result from how I was raised. The first I’m fine with, the 2nd is nothing but a hindrance and source of shame.

    4. Being “smart” meant parroting the right information, the right doctrines, and knowing how to defend the right beliefs to the death. We were taught that we were inherently smarter than other kids purely because we were homeschooled and homeschooling was superior.

    5. My entire childhood was based on fear. Fear of the World, sin, hell, evil, sex, alcohol, fear of being spanked and punished by my parents, fear of not measuring up, fear of failure.

    6. We loved babies and had a large family. My kids love babies too.

    7. I was taught how to cook and enjoy healthy meals and real food, something I’m also teaching my children.

    8. Appearance was everything in my youth. Image was everything. Too fat meant lack of self-control, too skinny meant an eating disorder. What you wore (or didn’t) mattered even more. Image had to be perfect and we were taught how to judge others by it, how to be obsessed over our own image. Our character was judged by how we looked on the outside.

    I’m also breaking the cycle. My kids are also being raised completely opposite of how I was. I was homeschooled in a very religious home, for all the right reasons. My kids are in public school and we are not religious. I too am thankful that they will never have to experience some of the things that I did, that I have to fight even today. You see, how you educate your kids is not what matters here. You can homeschool and be very dysfunctional. You can send your kids to public school and be very dysfunctional. It’s how you *parent* that matters, and how you, the parent, teach your kids and instill respect, empathy, and strength into them.

    Reply

    • Darci,

      I found some of the things you mentioned interesting because they were the same for me even though I went to public school. I was and still am socially awkward around people my own age. Some of the things I think were part of the time as it looks like we are close to the same age.

      Reply

    • Great points Darci. Le me start out by saying that I was both homeschooled and went to private school. We live in a religious community where there is a constant battle whether it’s better to homeschool or send your kids to school. The majority of homeschoolers are perpetually trying to shield their children from evils, bad influences, or social trauma their kids might experience in “the world” and the people who send their kids to school are always pointing out how socially inept and often academically incompetent the homeschoolers are. It’s a sad battle because ultimately, both sets of parents just want to make the best life possible for their children.

      I am choosing to send my children to a religious private school for several reasons. My religion is important to me and so is challenging my kids to their upmost. Also, I hate to say it, but I do see way to many socially awkward homeschoolers. It has much less to do with the way they dress, talk or what music they like than the way they deal with everyday problems….like conflicts. My husband works with 3 homeschooled brothers. They can NOT handle any typical guy teasing. One of them (18 and draduated!) actually had his dad come talk to the boss about a guy who was teasing him. I think this comes from parents who love their kids so much they don’t want them to experience the social problems that most kids normally experience in school when Mommy is not there to watch every move. I’m not talking about bullying (which is a serious problem not to be ignored) but issues like dealing with a grouchy teacher who bores you to death but you HAVE to deal with because you need that English credit or that snotty girl in the desk next to you who won’t leave you alone….Situations like these prepare you for the adult world in ways that no amount of loving talks from Mom and Dad will.

      Also, I tried homeschooling for 2 years and it was incredibly stressful for myself and my daughter. On top of doing housework and taling care of 2 other children, I had to teach her to read, write, and do math. I never had time to just “be her mommy” because I needed those spare moments to simply make sure she was learning. When I did put her in school, she was very behind. Luckily, she is a very bright girl who learned more in 2 months at school than she did in 2 years of homeschooling with me. It was a very humbling experience that made me realize that I simply can’t do everything.

      I’m not trying to denigrate all homeschoolers here. Every child and family situation is different. I’ve met several INCREDIBLE homeschooled children whose parents taught and socialized them so well that they excelled all around. I’ve also met a few sadly inept kids whose parents managed to shelter them and send to school. I just had to put in my two cents on this article written in a very superior tone. Children who attend school can be well educated and well rounded independent thinkers (as the author proves by example!). They can even have a happy childhood (-:

      Reply

    • Amen!

      Reply

  3. Lots of things but here are 2: I ate McDonald’s, my kids haven’t, I was vaccinated, my kids aren’t.

    Reply

  4. Holy Cow! How do your parents feel about your perspective? Your post reads like an indictment against them for their poor parenting practices. My parents would be so hurt, and I would feel terrible for setting an example that it is okay to criticize the choices my parents made ( I’m sure with the BEST of intentions). Are you prepared to have a similar post written about you in the future, because your kids will certainly disagree with some of your choices?

    My childhood was wonderful! I never expected idyllic because I realize loving humans, with flaws, raised me. I ate foods that are now considered bad ( they weren’t when I was a kid -something we think is good now will be bad in 10-20 years), I went to private and public school and learned I do have to measure up to others in the real world, and I didn’t have to take care of my younger siblings or be “friends” with kids whose interests were years ahead or behind me. I was a kid and did my own age-appropriate thing; the adults took care of the younger and older kids to make sure I was able to age-appropriately develop.

    I’m sorry you seem to think you were poorly parented (although it sounds to me like your parents were great) and you felt ostracized. I’m a firm believer everyone feels “different,” ostracized, at some point ( yes, even the “cool” kids.) No matter what you or I do as a parent, our kids will experience situations beyond our control (unless we’re totally controlling) and will likely think we could have done a better job. I pray for grace from my kids. I make the best decisions I can with the information I have. I hope your children extend you the grace your parents likely wish for. Good luck!

    Reply

    • Katie,

      I don’t think you really understand the point of this post.

      I don’t know about your relationship with your parents, but I can talk to mine about the different choices that we make without it being a judgment of their parenting ability. And hey, they can admit to me that there were things they’d do differently if they known then what they do now. We don’t need to pretend that everything they did was perfect or that I shouldn’t have thoughts and feelings about it.

      Plus, although they did the best they could with what they knew, I *still* had experiences in my childhood that were basically beyond their control. Yes, I have strong feelings about some of those. They knew then, to some extent, and they know now. I guarantee there’s nothing in this post that I haven’t talked about with them before. Because, again — we have that kind of relationship, where we can be actually honest.

      We’re going to have to disagree that it’s best to have mostly same-age friends or that children shouldn’t ever have to help with their siblings. I think that is ultimately very selfish and teaches children to grow up putting themselves first. In fact, there are even studies that show that kids and teens who feel responsible to their families — for chores, helping with siblings, etc. — actually do BETTER in school and are more successful adults. So, I’m going to keep right on doing what I’m doing.

      I hope that you can re-read this and see the mistakes you’ve made. Seems like you read this through a very judgmental lens.

      Reply

      • I get you are only thinking of your older children helping the family with cleaning, cooking, and especially caring for their younger siblings so you can accept all the children God gives you, but what about the youngest siblings? It seems, according to your philosophy, that they (the younger siblings) will/should to be self-centered. How do you plan to stop the self-centeredness of your younger children? How will they have the same responsibilities you expect (and need) from your older children?

        Reply

  5. Interesting read! My first thought was that my preschooler has no idea who’s who in Sesame Street and has never had a PopTart! But we’re a pretty happy bunch. 😉 Thought provoking article about our choices and perceptions. I was one of the “smarties” in school and I wish I hadn’t felt so pressured (internally, as my parents only wanted me to do my best and weren’t pushy) through life to make people proud or happy by my performance.

    Reply

  6. I always felt the need to please everyone around me, to get good grades, to never do anything wrong. At an early age I understood that my mom called the shots and my dad took the orders which seemed backward even then. I always felt fairly self-conscious and awkward as a kid too, I was quiet and shy for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. My parents never pushed for me to do sports because it meant them having to get me to practices. We did mostly everything together as a family; eating dinner, cleaning up, yard work, running errands on the weekends, and vacations. My mom was also really big about having nice things and going fun places because she didn’t have those things as a kid. As I grew up though, the only thing I really wanted was more of her time not the things. I didn’t know what a good home cooked meal was until I met my MIL who then taught me how to cook from scratch(started dating hubby around 13).

    I kind of mixed the good in with the not so good above because both made me who I am and the way I choose to parent. Out of the good, I learned that family sticks together and have instilled that in my own family. The difference I made in my own is that my children know they can come to me at any time and talk to me without the same fear I had and the quality of time I spend with my kids is better. I also have a good work ethic and am reliable. The drawback is that I still spend more of my time trying to please others than take care of me-I burn the candle at both ends way too often. I’m also socially awkward around peers my own age. Kids and people who are older are the best conversations for me which could be good or bad since I am working on becoming a teacher. Although I could buy my kids lots of things I choose not to. Unfortunately, my mom still does the same thing with my children as she did with me-things over quality time and my kids have asked me why so many things and not so much time. I am thankful that from seeing the awkwardness of my parents in the roles they played as I grew up, that I married a man who might be quiet but definitely is the man of the house and I see that as the best model for our sons. To be the man doesn’t mean that you are the loudest person in the room all the time having the last say.
    Overall, I think I’m pretty well-rounded. I wish I were less self-conscious than I am. My oldest is also socially awkward but not as self-conscious about it and my youngest is a social butterfly. I’m always the first person both boys comes to with new things to share, thoughts, or just needing to talk about something. The more I think about them the more I realize they are the way I wish I could be, maybe I should take notes.

    Reply

    • I can tell from your comment you’re doing a great job! You’re first concern is obviously parenting your kids – not your own personal or professional life. Good for you! Your kids will be well-rounded adults who know their mother loves them more than anything and wants the best for them. Who knows their mother put herself second for quite a few years so they could be first (so admirable). What a terrific start on life you’ve given them!

      Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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