Easier Childhoods Make it Harder on Parents

I take it for granted that we have chosen to make things harder for ourselves. I mean this in the personal sense and in the societal sense. Personally, I have chosen to share my life with a partner from another country, I have proceeded to produce three children with this foreign partner and then temporarily moved to a third, middle income country in the former Soviet Union. I could have made other choices that would have made things a bit easier. Like have less children or not move with
them.

In the simpler days (without pesky child labor laws) kids would be out working not making it harder for parents by demanding a well-rounded and fun childhood.
In the simpler days (without pesky child labor laws) kids would be out working not making it harder for parents by demanding a well-rounded and fun childhood.

I think we as a society have also chosen to make things harder for parents as well. When we decided that children under the age of 18 were to have childhoods, no matter their socio-economic position, we made a decision that makes living harder. It was easier when kids were broken and put to work right away. Children were largely less happy (this is a normative conclusion, I have no scientific research to back this up, although I am sure that it is out there. I think just the combination of child mortality rates and common sense would back me on this.) but they were occupied. (This depends on how far back we are looking. There was a problem of poor children in newly industrialized citites not having enough to do 100 years ago, but that was about the time that we started to give kids childhoods, i.e. didn’t allow them to work any more.)

There might be a risk to read me as saying that there was no such thing as childhood 200 years ago. That isn’t exactly what I mean. Rather, it was that childhood had a different meaning. We don’t love our children more than our ancestors did, we just love them differently. In the end, I think that while I have chosen to make my life more difficult, I have in fact been able to help my children in a way that parents who are raising kids in the environment that they themselves were raised in might not be able to do. The fact that I live in a transnational environment means that flexibility in solving a given problem is greater as a result of a dominating norm. The problems of children are the same all over the world, but the solutions to these problems are very different.

To give an example I’ll use RAT and girls with ADHD. The process of helping her get better returns from her efforts has been life-long, but it has only been in the last year that we have seen some real results. RAT is a hard worker, who struggled to get anything out of the work that she put in. Despite this she never gave up, which I find impressive.

What this has to do with difficulty is the fact that we were able to use one country’s medical system, another country’s school system and vast array of advice from a number of different countries to create an environment that is slowly allowing her to succeed. (As a side note, this success has a down side: School is getting more demanding, if not harder which is natural for anyone in 3rd grade).

We might have done this without creating difficulty, but I don’t know. My partner would disagree. She would say that if we had stayed in Sweden RAT would have made steps anyway. I am not sure.

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Babies to students

What happens to you when your children leave one phase of life and move on to another? What happens to parents when babies become students? Can’t say that I have thought much about this. After nearly 9 years of being a parent of very small children I have over the last year, become a parent of still small but not as very small children.

From kids to students, the youngest is actually student-driving the car!  THATS WHY ITS SO FUN!

From kids to students, the youngest is actually student-driving the car! THATS WHY ITS SO FUN!

My oldest is in second grade, so this hypothetically could have happened at least two years ago. But for whatever reason it hasn’t hit me until our middle child got half-way through kindergarten. This has its explanations (the learning problems that our second grader has, the move from the Swedish school system to an American international school) yet explanations only take me so far.

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Am I insufficient at Fatherhood? Something you would never hear WBD say, but PapaGoob is feeling it…

Am I insufficient?

I have had a feeling of insufficiency the last few months. As though everything I do is not enough. Not that I am doing the wrong things, just that I am not doing the right things as often or as long as I should. A classic problem, I realize, but one that I am not all that familiar with.

This is particularly true with regards to RAT and her siblings. RAT has struggled in school since kindergarten and now that she is in second grade we decided to do something about it. Now we know that she has dyslexia and ADHD.

While the fact that RAT has difficulties learning is not new to us, it has been a relief to feel that it wasn’t just a failure on us as parents or her  as student. Now we have specific areas that we can work with and support at school. Great.

But why is it I am still unsatisfied with things? I think it has to do with RAT siblings. We usually say that RAT is 20% of the family, but takes up 60% of the families energy (My partner then usually says that I take up 30% and they are left sharing the remaining 10%. Not very nice of her…)

Regardless of how the percentage is distributed, her brother and sister are left asserting themselves to get appropriate attention from us. BAT, who is three, doesn’t seem to have any problem with this, she prefers to be on her own anyway. But NAT has been acting out, sometimes at the expense of his big sister. And this probably will only get worse.

On top of this I should be thinking about finding new work. I like the people I work with and that I am working for something I believe in. But we are a flat organization and I am new to the whole field, so I am having a hard time finding things to do. But we are living in a new country, with a language(s) I don’t understand, and I don’t have a work permit, and I lots of education but no work experience. Where do I begin?