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Moderated parenting

May 26, 2009

So, I was reading an article at Feminist Mormon Housewives about what Idahospud calls Teaching Fail. Personally, I wouldn’t be so harsh…but something she said struck me…

I never planned on being ”one of those parents” (putting the scare into scare quotes) who invests time into the oldest kid and ends up slacking on the younger ones, evidenced by eight photo albums of The First Child doing dance lessons and tumbling class while the youngest has eight photos total, and no cute teeball trophies. I exaggerate, of course, but it is a common lament of youngest children that the elder ones reap the benefits of a parent’s energy and time while the subsequent children receive less time and attention due to waning parental energy combined with increased responsibility.  It is a truism that no two children are born into the same family.

I don’t say this as a parent, and I don’t pretend to understand this as a parent, but I say this as the oldest son of a family whose parents have seemed to noticeably change their parenting styles for my youngest brother and sister.

Sometimes, people are just way too hard on themselves.

But I read a part about how it seems her youngest children seem more familiar with Pocahontas than with Jesus’ stories, and I wondered…hmm…have I ever felt that way with my youngest brother or sister?

I am from a family of four children. One brother (let’s call him YB1 for younger brother 1) and I are closest in age, and then there’s a gap of sorts, and then I have another brother (YB2) and sister who are close. And as I look back, I can see so much difference in how my YB1 and I were raised and how my YB2 and sister were raised.

YB1 and I went to church pretty regularly. My dad didn’t force us to go, but rather implied that it was connected with that LDS idea about the nature of choice — you are free to choose, but not the consequences! (And actually, YB1 didn’t really catch on to this too well, as he found out when he started shirking some priesthood duties [in many ways, your parents being disappointed in you is way worse than any actual punishment]). I guess I should be fortunate for my dad not phrasing it in such nihilistic terms — a choice between liberty and eternal life or captivity and death might’ve been too much for us when we were young.

Regardless, I think this formed us into particular people. I can’t say it really worked as my father expected, because I don’t believe, and I’m not sure about my brother, but I don’t think he takes it seriously. But at least we have that good ol’ mormon culture down. I can relate to members and exmembers because I’ve been there.

…but what about YB2 and my sister? Many members of my old ward are surprised to even find out there are more children in my family than YB1 and myself. As milestones like baptism and the priesthood have come, my dad has taken YB2 and my sister to church…but it’s never been regular. YB2 and my sister have an almost comical illiteracy of the way the church or of how religion in general works.

And honestly, I’m conflicted about it. At one point, I generally argue that sometimes, giving kids such freedom in the matter can be helpful in the long run — at least they won’t go about resenting the church. But, at the same time, I kinda wish they would’ve had those experiences, so we could identify and relate. At this moment, even though my youngest brother and sister are my own family, I don’t think we have much in common religiously.

I don’t think it’s so cut-and-dry as to say YB2 and my sister believe they were slighted. I don’t think they lament much (in fact, I personally believe my parents go way too far in “making up” experiences that my youngest siblings aren’t even aware they were missing out on). But I can say there has been a difference…perhaps an evolution…in parenting. Not good, not bad, but different.

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