Raising children

Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you a man.

Francis Xavier, co-founder of Jesuit order

There is a story told to me by my Father.  It was very popular in Poland, when we were run by communist Russia after WWll.

To help women with a heavy work schedule in factories, government created nurseries and kindergartens. Some of them were for a day, but some lasted for a week.  Young mothers were dropping off children Monday morning and picking them up Saturday afternoon (there was a six day work week).  This was designed to “help” working women and of course was free of charge.  One Saturday afternoon a mother is picking up her child and noticing, that the child given by the attendant is not hers.  She calls the teacher and says “This is not my child!”.  The caretaker is not moved at all. “It really doesn’t matter, you will bring this child back on Monday anyhow” is the answer.

Communists were not the only ones who appreciated early education (indoctrination?) of young children.  The same was done by Nazis (Hitlerjugend).  Turks as early as in Xlll century were taking away boys as young as 5-7 years of age from their mothers in invaded Poland.  They were trained to become soldiers (Janczarzy).  All were converted to Islam.  They usually constituted an elite fighting force, quite often fighting against their compatriots, not knowing their roots.  They could retire at the age of 45, if they lived that long.

To have complete control over childhood education, home schooling is vigorously fought by governments with totalitarian system.

Here is another story, this time from our lives. A very educational one.

When our twins were born, we hired a babysitter to help us with handling all four kids.  She was a girl in her twenties, from a very decent family, with religious background, looking for a job.  After a few moths she decided to go to Washington DC and look for an employment there.  She found  work as a nanny for a recently adopted baby.  Child’s mother was a high power executive woman in her 40s, whose biological clock was saying it was getting late.  She was not married and traveled a lot.  After one of her many business trips she came home and realized, that baby doesn’t recognize her any more and calls babysitter “mommy”.  So nanny was fired.

The similar thing happened to me and my sister, when my Mother left for a 30 day vacation (a very unusual event) and we stayed with our Grandmother.  We were also very little at that time.  When our Mother came back, we were calling Grandmother – Mother and didn’t know who this strange  new woman was.  Mother was petrified and long solitary vacations never happened again.

In our family we were very careful, to a fault, to balance professional lives and personal lives.  Dinner times, family vacations, school’s and extracurricular activities were priorities.  And when the work time was becoming overbearing we found ways to restrict it.  Work in a hospital is like quicksand.  It will pull you down before you know it.  It’s very appealing and rewarding.  Most of the doctors are very good professionals.  Patients love them, nurses respect them, their orders are being fulfilled and feeling of being in charge is addicting.  And I am not even talking about free coffee and donuts.  Time spent in hospital is expanding easily and by default time spent with the family, unfortunately, is shrinking.   When we realize that something is wrong, quite often is too late.  We are being swallowed by the quicksand.  I’ve seen so many divorces amongst medical professionals.  Children don’t know father’s birthday, not even talking of  Father’s Day.  For some doctors one of the main rewards for hard work is money.  It seems logical, that they see material rewards as an expression of parental love.  Therefore children are getting expensive Christmas presents, cars, clothes and vacations.  Unfortunately quite often monetary gifts come as a replacement for time not spent with children.  It never works.  Quite often it is much easier to do a complicated operation and give part of this money to your child, than to go with his class on a trip to Washington DC.  At least in hospital they listen to you.  At home, that’s another story.

But when I am getting older, more and more it becomes clear to me, that one of our most important goals in life is to raise children.  It may be the most important.  It’s not how much money you will leave for them.  It’s how they will remember you.

The best way to raise children is just to be there.

    I said it.  But I don’t know how many people said it before.

2 thoughts on “Raising children”

  1. Vito,
    I read this post with great interest, especially since I was the babysitter mentioned at the top of the post. I now have my own family; my husband and I have a beautiful 4-year-old girl, Ellie (Elise).

    I am the oldest of six children and I was a nanny for three families as I worked through college. And now as I raise my own daughter, I draw heavily on my early childcare experiences – and I find that I most closely follow the example of two important sets of parents in my life. My own parents (of course), and you and Bonnie.

    First, I cherish the time I spent with your family and I learned a great deal from my time with your children. I can attest to the value that you and Bonnie place on spending time with your family and that influences me daily. My husband and I have to work full time, but when we are home, we do things as a family. Even if we are all doing different things, we do them together. That is a direct influence from you and Bonnie.

    We always encourage her to explore her likes and find her talents. I am sure I will endure many more hours of silly storytelling and crazy singing and dancing – she loves words and music – but I know how important it is to listen and laugh and help her find her voice. You and Bonnie did this masterfully. I fondly remember Jason’s early saxophone days!

    I know that if I continue following the examples of my own parents and you & Bonnie, I will raise a happy, successful, loving daughter. I only have to look at my own siblings and your children to know that your theory is correct. Truly, the best way to raise a child is to just be there. Thank you to you and Bonnie for showing me the value of this important principle.

    Cami Moffat Munk

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