I don’t think about or analyze it much, but scratch the surface of parenting and I see the ugly underbelly of being a child raising children. You have all made a liar of statistics.
Predictions for children born to teenage parents are not encouraging. But let’s look at the positives: 1) Your father was no longer a teenager. 2) You were not born to a single mother. 3) Your dad and I married young (even for the late 50’s) but for the time it wasn’t totally out of the norm. 4) We had both finished high school and continued to get a bit of college experience. 5) We had some practical and emotional support from family on both sides. 6) We picked up good friends as role models along the way.
Even so, I can’t say what tipped the scales in your favor. I have no illusions about myself as a young parent. I spanked, I yelled, I ignored, and I’m positive that much of the time I just checked out. Some of my behavior might have been due to a different time in the annals of parenting. Some was following the model of my own parents. Mixed in with a healthy amount of immaturity it was a recipe for what could have been a disaster.
But there you are…good citizens, admirable people, leaders in your communities and each one-half of a parenting team to be admired in any generation.
You have a village to thank for making it through early childhood.
When your dad and I were first married, we really wanted children immediately. We lived in a dreamland without much income, education, and no experience. Times were different then. When we got married we took on adulthood as if we could handle anything. Your dad’s parents were skeptical, but busy with their jobs and their drinking. My parents were immersed in the bitterness of their divorce and my father’s remarriage. Our siblings each had lives and children of their own. Although when we asked for help, we got it from them. We just thought we were fine.
Luckily our dreams of having a child didn’t come true for a couple of years. By then we had moved into a perfect location for young parents. We rented a house in an old neighborhood filled with large families; an attorney and stay-at-home wife with 8 children, a policeman and stay-at-home wife with 8 children (plus one born during our tenure there), and a teacher and going-back-to-school wife with 5 boys. Those are not including the smaller families on the street. At one time we counted 42 children under 18 years in one city block. Parents gathered on porches and in back yards while children ran in packs.
There was group solace when we returned home from the hospital without a child. As we reeled from the news that you, our firstborn, might not live, we were surrounded by hugs and prayers. During those first weeks home after you were deemed safe, women rotated in and out of my living room, listening to my fears and giving assurance.
As we added children, we moved into houses on the same block to add bedrooms. It was all pretty seamless. When I ran to a neighbors house with a bleeding finger in my apron, someone sent an older child to stand by for your naps while I was driven to the doctor’s office. When you (my firstborn again) passed out, I carried you in my arms to the policeman who was getting back in his squad car to go to work. There was always someone to listen. Always someone to care. And a goldmine of parenting experience in all situations.
Those families and our connections with them saved my sanity and probably saved your lives. I shudder now with the memories of my inexperience.
But what saved your psyches?
to be continued…