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To love, or not to love, your kids
October 25, 2010 - Kylie Saari
Not long after my son was born, my grandma told me something that has stuck with me, needled me as I drift of to sleep, and reshaped my impression of parenting generations ago. The comment was offhand — unfortunately I rarely had any deep conversations with grandma — she had over 50 grandkids, so I tended to feel like one in a group and didn't get as close to her as I now wish I had. What all that means is that I never followed up with her when she said: "Kylie, we didn't know we were supposed to love our kids." Grandma had nine kids, and was never shy about the fact that that was more than she would have chosen if it was up to her. My oldest sister is just three years younger than my dad's youngest sister. Grandma stayed at home, without a drivers license, and grandpa worked constantly to provide. I never knew exactly what she meant when she said that about not knowing to love kids. I had a baby myself, and couldn't imagine having to "know" to love him — it was natural. I wondered if it was an excuse. So imagine my surprise when I heard This American Life on Minnesota Public Radio last night. The topic was experiments in the 1960s designed to prove that love is beneficial for children. There were lots of them, Universities put out lots of money for their scientists to study this topic. Apparently, and I am assuming some of you know this because, let's face it, the 60s weren't that long ago, there had been a large effort by the scientific community to not show any kindness or love to children. It was thought that kind of behavior would ruin them. It was actually suggested that kissing a child more than once a year was excessive. Obviously, the pendulum has swung back, and sometimes it seems a little to far. Now parents are afraid to let their kids get angry or deal with the consequences of their behavior. What I want to know is where is the middle ground, and why is that not being pushed mainstream. Why is it that parents are so very swung by "experts" when they themselves are experts of their own families? Grandma must have been doing what she thought was right back in the day by seeming unloving toward her children. How heart-wrenching it must have been to raise her kids during that time and live to see the scientific opinion swing so far. I wish I had asked her how she felt about it looking back, and if she really believed loving kids would hurt them.
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