Wednesday 1 April 2015

The Problem of Small Families

Today large families in the West are rare, rarer than they were even a few decades ago. But the small size of modern families has a number of concerns that are seldom mentioned and I think should be mentioned.

One aspect that affects us all is that people often have little or no experience with children. In the past both boys and girls had to look after smaller children, whether they were siblings, cousins, teammates, classmates or simply neighbourhood children. Whether they liked it or not they got practical hands on experience with children, they knew what was normal behavour and what wasn't, they knew lots of people of all ages who also had that experience, so if they didn't know the answer it was likely someone did. People weren't scared of children because they know what to expect. But the small size of most modern families means that today, large numbers of people grow up with little practical experience of children. Of course not everyone in the past got that experience, but they were the exceptions. Today it is the exception to have such experience.

What happens when adults don't understand children?

They seek the advice of "experts", people who in many cases understand the theory and are not always as good with the practical. They often give advice that is theoretical or that is true "in the best of all possible worlds", but not so much in this one. When most people have experience with children childcare isn't much of an issue, when it is a rare skill things change. Government wants to manage things and if possible business wants to make money from things. When they want or need advice they ask the "experts", not parents, on how things should be done. Those who work in childcare or teaching must then act on the advice of the "experts", on how things must be done. What nursery rhythm they may sing, what food they may eat and what games and teaching are acceptable, to the "expert".

The size of families has repercussions within the home. When a Mother had only boys in times past most would have still been around girls and the same in reverse for Fathers. For most people there was still a healthy way of expressing your masculine or feminine aspect even if you only had all boys or all girls. Mothers could interact with girls and use there femininity to help them grow into women. Fathers could use their masculinity to help boys grow into men. But with smaller families there is a lack of connection. Your not helping children who mean something to you, nephews and nieces, or the children of a close community, but random children. For some thats enough, but for many it is not. What I see is Mothers trying to make boys more feminine and Fathers trying to make theirs girls more masculine. Boys tend to fight what they don't like early, but thats not true for girls. Girls are more cooperative, they want to be liked and they especially want to be liked by their Father, so when he says he likes kickboxing many join in. They like their Daddy, not kickboxing, but they want to share something with their father and if he likes kickboxing, then its kickboxing that they do together. It might be sport, computers, camping, fixing cars. The Fathers often don't understand what they are doing, they are turning their daughter into a surrogate son.

Then as the daughter gets older he encourages his surrogate son to succeed. You can do anything, he tells her, he might never have given any serious thought to Feminism, but he tends to become a Feminist. No one can stop my surrogate son from becoming a Supreme Court Judge or a Paratrooper, she's as good as anyone, especially any man. After all every Father knows there is no man who is really good enough for her. His personal pride is at stack, the families pride, she must succeed. All the effort that would have gone into supporting a son gets transferred to his daughter. Often he will tell you he believes in equality and in fairness, his daughter deserves every opportunity. But how often does he stop to think about how he closes off opportunities?

About how competing with men will affect her, about how she will feel when she comes to understand she isn't valued as a daughter should be, but as a son should be, about how being more masculine will affect her. No, I bet he has never given any of these things a single thought.

We all have needs, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, they are not always the same and we need to express them in acceptable and practical ways. For too many people the small size of our families does much more harm then you would at first suspect.

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  1. The concept of "experts" has done much damage to our society, analyzing their cult is several books in itself.

  2. The other tragic result of small families is that elderly people simply don’t have enough children to care for them. When people had three or four children, and maybe six to eight grandchildren, it was possible to spread the load. When there’s only one child and often only one grandchild it’s a real problem. If that one child is either unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility of an elderly parent then that elderly parent ends up in a nursing home even if they are actually well enough to be be cared for at home. The final result is desperately unhappy desperately lonely elderly people.