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Parenting advice for a non parent

 
pollinator
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So, as you can tell from the title of the post, I am not yet a parent. Up until a couple years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to pay me to have a child. Now, I’m happily married and we plan on starting to try for a child or two pretty soon. So, unlike some people, I have put very little thought into a future where I have to give advice and guidance to a child. I’ve been thinking a lot lately and am seeing possible issues.

What are “good” reasons to have children? I say good because obviously financial incentives, pressure from family or friends, social norms, other’s expectations, guilt and fear (among other things) really aren’t an acceptable reason to create more people in my opinion. I worry that I will be trying to live vicariously through our future children and I have doubts whether that will be good for me or them. What I mean is, although I had a good childhood and live a very comfortable life now, there are countless things I am unhappy with and things I wish were different. I think its safe to say that if I become a father, I will try to make sure our children dont feel that way.

For example: As a child, I was told (by my father) that “you will have debt. You will need 2 vehicles and will almost always have a car payment. You will have a mortgage. You need insurance.... I didn’t make it this way it’s just the way it is.” I hated it and it felt like ignorant lies, but nobody gave me any alternatives. Nobody promoted any other way of life. Nobody supported my lack of interest in money or “normal” modern life. So, naturally, I ended up with debt, 2 vehicles, a mortgage, insurance... and then (naturally) discovered alternatives on my own...afterwards...

Now, as I am in the prime of my physical life, I wonder how can I teach our future children the truth that it doesn’t need to be this way as I work a full time job doing shit I dont want to do? How can I tell them there’s another way as we struggle daily to live this way? I know everyone is a hypocrite to some extent, but this seems bad! I have honestly been designing our property with my unborn children in mind more so than myself, which seems insane considering we could move, I could die, maybe we wont have children, maybe the children wont give a damn, maybe I’ll finally quit my job and lose the house... but I cant plant a food forest just for myself. I likely wont even be around when it reaches maturity! And I cant force our kids to conform to what I wish my life would have been when I was younger. It almost feels like a trap!

I also think it would be so fantastic if I dedicated the next handful of years to building a system where our children could basically live off of our 2.5 acres. Gardens, food forest, solar, wood heat, rainwater catchment. And then, if our kids got to their teenage years and actually loved this sort of thing and wanted to hang around, possibly paying rent, possibly inheriting the property as we age, I would be so honored. I feel no desire to teach my kids to go work hard to earn money. I feel like thats a sad sad life. To me, raising children who wanted to work hard for the sake of working hard, or for the enjoyment of it, or for the fact that someone needs to if we want to have a future is much more admirable than working hard for your bank account. From where I sit now, I feel that if my future child tells me he/she never wants to move out and wants to take care of this property after I’m gone, I would be more proud and honored than anything else I can think of. But I cant make that happen, I can only ease them in that direction.  But how to communicate that with children who watch me leave every day to go work for money? I guess if I can explain debt to them at an early age maybe then they can understand the situation.

Advice is definitely appreciated! Some of this is probably me overthinking and venting due to the fact that I haven’t done anything physically exhausting in weeks. Job isn’t physical any more and I’ve been busy working on house issues so no hauling logs, splitting wood or digging holes has got me feeling very agitated and full of angst!
 
pollinator
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You don't really have to "say" anything.  children learn more from the example they see set than they do from being told how things are.  The best advice I have is to be the example of the person you want your child to be.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Trace Oswald wrote:You don't really have to "say" anything.  children learn more from the example they see set than they do from being told how things are.  The best advice I have is to be the example of the person you want your child to be.



Well, that sounds like the hardest thing to do! I sure as hell dont want my kids feeling torn in half or like they’re living double lives like I do. But I see what you’re saying. I learned a lot of what not to do, or what not to say from observing my parents. Its easy to call that unfortunate, but it was all valuable in the end. I guess even if the kids see my mental and emotional struggle, that might make it clear to them what they dont want to do. I just really wish I had the drive and education I have now when I was in high school and I would probably be in a very different situation right now. Granted, many people would love to be in this position. Regardless of that, it’s a struggle!
 
pioneer
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Great topic and very brave to open up like that and share. It made me smile, I’ve been on your path. This week my eldest, my first born, left for college. He’s 3000 miles away in BC. I had many of your questions and I’m still asking them today. The one piece of advice I was given which has served me well, when I remember it, is called the three A’s - Affection, Attention and Acceptance. The first comes naturally to me - I’m a hugger, but hardest for my wife as she comes from a family who have little or no physical contact and little requirement. So as my son grew up, he wanted hugs less and less, so the acceptance kicked in and I had to accept that he’s wired that way. Attention can be hard. I used to think that routine was a good fix - set times of the day that I spent with them, read them books, talking to them walking home from school. But that was a parent ticking the attention box. So I’ve got better at being available, putting my phone down, fitting in with their needs. Acceptance is what you wanted from your father or at least I did, not doom and gloom and meeting his expectations. They’ll be your kids, you’ll see many characteristics that are yours, your wife’s and some that scarily skip a generation! You’ll have to accept them all if you want to build the future you are talking about. Anyway . . . Time for me to shut up as I’m missing my big boy . . .
 
steward
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I don't have children. I would like to offer one piece of advice based on my observation of what seems to me to be common in todays families. I see them too busy to have a sit down meal together at supper time. I grew up with this - a meal prepared and my siblings and I sat down at the kitchen table with mom & dad every evening. We shared a meal together and talked about the day. It was a rare event that we didn't do this. Today it seems, to me, families are busy this, busy that, gotta work late, got soccer practice, got this to do, got that to do, - just get something from the drive-thru and eat in the car on the way to something. Family supper time seems to have become collateral damage, falling to the wayside in the "busyness" of modern life.
 
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No plan you make will end up looking anything like what you envisioned. Be prepared for memorable events. Great joy, and great sorrow. Laughs and tears Accomplishments, both yours and the childs. Learning and teaching. So many memories and don't take them as common place. It is a journey that encompasses more than the child or just you and the child.
addendum:
These are things my daughter remembers and still uses.
Praise in public-correct in private. Whether a child or an employee
First impressions count no matter how pretty you are people will remember how you treat them and what you first say.
Laugh at yourself.
 
Posts: 195
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Hi,  Somethings to consider. Having a child will change the way you see things. The moral development along with the psychological development of your children will be dependent on you. Yes,  living your way may be their choice, or not. But the way they live comes from the choices they make. You can influence them and train them, but when it comes down to it, it is still their life. They will defy you, push boundaries, and live from the things they have been taught, whether by you or the school system, or people on the street. We can only know what we have been taught, weather it be truth or lies.

There are countries that do not have mortgages. The parent works and saves money to buy their child a house. There are countries that do not value the life of it's citizens. There are countries that teach/or tell their people how to live and do and be better.

You and your wife live in a country where you need to make the decision for yourself weather to procreate or not. But don't let pressure decide. Your children will be your responsibility to raise and let them go and fly. They may want to fly home or start their own place, maybe like yours or not. Either way they must fly and you will be asked to help, and then hopefully they will help you when you get too a place of not being able to do.

Do well my friend
 
pollinator
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I agree with Trace, just be yourself and they will see your acting on your beliefs and values.

Honestly, it feels very strange to me that your father would explicitly tell you that you will have a mortgage and debt. That's typically things that people just learn along the way in my experience.

My parents are granolas, so my childhood was quite different than yours. And I have never been a childless adult.

My perspective on parenting has always been that it's my job to help my children become the best version of themselves whoever they are and to love them unconditionally. To be down in the trenches with them through all of life's hardships and to never abandon them, even when they want you to leave them alone. In my mind, it's not a job that you get to quit. They are my responsibility always and forever.

I wish you well.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Edward Norton wrote:The one piece of advice I was given which has served me well, when I remember it, is called the three A’s - Affection, Attention and Acceptance. The first comes naturally to me - I’m a hugger, but hardest for my wife as she comes from a family who have little or no physical contact and little requirement. So as my son grew up, he wanted hugs less and less, so the acceptance kicked in and I had to accept that he’s wired that way. Attention can be hard. I used to think that routine was a good fix - set times of the day that I spent with them, read them books, talking to them walking home from school. But that was a parent ticking the attention box. So I’ve got better at being available, putting my phone down, fitting in with their needs. Acceptance is what you wanted from your father or at least I did, not doom and gloom and meeting his expectations.



I like that 3 As, it’s easy to remember! I’m not much of a hugger (not sure why) but my wife is. I feel like I’m naturally good at acceptance, although I’m sure children will really test that haha. The attention aspect is tricky though, as you discovered. I tend to slip into habits and routines, but that is unconscious activity and the opposite of attention. Routines seem efficient, and they can be, but they are a slippery slope towards a robotic life. I’ve gotten better at trying to be flexible, open and available for people, but it’s tough when you’re busy. Kind of like a constant test of awareness.
 
Brody Ekberg
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James Freyr wrote:I don't have children. I would like to offer one piece of advice based on my observation of what seems to me to be common in todays families. I see them too busy to have a sit down meal together at supper time. I grew up with this - a meal prepared and my siblings and I sat down at the kitchen table with mom & dad every evening. We shared a meal together and talked about the day. It was a rare event that we didn't do this. Today it seems, to me, families are busy this, busy that, gotta work late, got soccer practice, got this to do, got that to do, - just get something from the drive-thru and eat in the car on the way to something. Family supper time seems to have become collateral damage, falling to the wayside in the "busyness" of modern life.



I know what you mean. I grew up eating with my family around the dinner table every night. It was valuable and I dont think most of my peers had that. Some would get their plate and gather around the tv to eat, but staring at plastic is a lot different than spending quality time with family. My wife and I eat together as much as possible and plan on eating together as a family when we get to that point.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I agree with Trace, just be yourself and they will see your acting on your beliefs and values.

Honestly, it feels very strange to me that your father would explicitly tell you that you will have a mortgage and debt. That's typically things that people just learn along the way in my experience.

My parents are granolas, so my childhood was quite different than yours. And I have never been a childless adult.

My perspective on parenting has always been that it's my job to help my children become the best version of themselves whoever they are and to love them unconditionally. To be down in the trenches with them through all of life's hardships and to never abandon them, even when they want you to leave them alone. In my mind, it's not a job that you get to quit. They are my responsibility always and forever.

I wish you well.



I asked a lot of questions as a child (still do!) and it used to annoy my dad. I’m assuming because he couldn’t answer most of them and most of them had to do with questioning the “normal” way of doing things. He always accused me of trying to go against the grain or buck the system, which I was. I was probably complaining as a teenager about how money doesnt make sense and that working for money seems insane when he told me that I will always have debt and whatnot. I cant help but wonder what my life would be like right now if he would have explained some alternative lifestyles at that time instead of telling me my life would be the same as his and everyone elses.

I think my dad (like most “normal” Americans) believe people have to be a certain way. Have to conform to a certain lifestyle in order to be acceptable. That never resonated with me as a child and now that I’m aware of the alternatives, I will do my best to not push that belief on our children. I do believe that people should live a certain way for the sake of sustainability and having a viable and worthwhile future, but I’m very aware that not everyone cares about sustainability or the future and that is their right. I will certainly try to help our children to see the value of human life on earth and show them a way to keep on trucking. But, if they would rather let it slide and not care so much, I will do my best to not force my beliefs on them and love them for who they are despite our differences.
 
Trace Oswald
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

Stacy Witscher wrote:I agree with Trace, just be yourself and they will see your acting on your beliefs and values.

Honestly, it feels very strange to me that your father would explicitly tell you that you will have a mortgage and debt. That's typically things that people just learn along the way in my experience.

My parents are granolas, so my childhood was quite different than yours. And I have never been a childless adult.

My perspective on parenting has always been that it's my job to help my children become the best version of themselves whoever they are and to love them unconditionally. To be down in the trenches with them through all of life's hardships and to never abandon them, even when they want you to leave them alone. In my mind, it's not a job that you get to quit. They are my responsibility always and forever.

I wish you well.



I asked a lot of questions as a child (still do!) and it used to annoy my dad. I’m assuming because he couldn’t answer most of them and most of them had to do with questioning the “normal” way of doing things. He always accused me of trying to go against the grain or buck the system, which I was. I was probably complaining as a teenager about how money doesnt make sense and that working for money seems insane when he told me that I will always have debt and whatnot. I cant help but wonder what my life would be like right now if he would have explained some alternative lifestyles at that time instead of telling me my life would be the same as his and everyone elses.

I think my dad (like most “normal” Americans) believe people have to be a certain way. Have to conform to a certain lifestyle in order to be acceptable. That never resonated with me as a child and now that I’m aware of the alternatives, I will do my best to not push that belief on our children. I do believe that people should live a certain way for the sake of sustainability and having a viable and worthwhile future, but I’m very aware that not everyone cares about sustainability or the future and that is their right. I will certainly try to help our children to see the value of human life on earth and show them a way to keep on trucking. But, if they would rather let it slide and not care so much, I will do my best to not force my beliefs on them and love them for who they are despite our differences.



It sounds to me like you're going to do just fine.
 
pollinator
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I agree with Trace. If you find yourself about to utter the words, "Do as I say, not as I do," you're in the middle of a teaching moment where you can correct your own behaviour and educate your child.

I also agree with Robert. No battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy, to paraphrase the saying.

It is difficult to parent as part of a person. You can't really compartmentalise yourself as some would like to do, to be the work person at work, and the dad person at home. I mean, you can try, but one persona invariably bleeds into another, and you find dad person acting in ways perhaps only after-work person allows.

Basically, you have to own your own shit. Kids will pick up everything, most especially those things you try to hide from them. You'll think you're doing fine, and then you'll mash your thumb with a hammer and yell, "FUCK!" Suddenly, it's the only word they know, and it's hilarious to them. (To us as well, though we can't admit it).

Behaviours are the most important. If you come home from a day of work and plop yourself in front of the TV while your significant other does all the home tasks, you're ingraining into your children what it means to go to work and come home. If as a person and parent, you're constantly not only deferring to, but waiting for, your significant other to make the decisions, you're teaching your children that it's the job of the male to shirk the mental load, and that it's the job of the female to do all the planning and execution, excepting the tasks she specifically allocates to the male.

If you're going to focus on one thing, let it be the sharing of the mental load between couples. It's good to check in, even constantly, with the other partner in the mix, to make sure you're on the same page, but it's critical that each do their share of the heavy lifting where it comes to not only execution, but planning.

As to the future, you can't dictate what your kids will like or decide to do. The best you can do is design your property to do what you need for it to do for the rest of your life, so you can age with your land. If they're of the same mindset as you, they will want to be a part of it. If not, they won't have to worry about you as you age, because you will have taken care of your collective needs already.

And after you're gone, they might decide to sell. But you won't be there to suffer that. And hopefully one of your children will see the value in it, to carry on for another generation, at which point they will face their own version of this question.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:
It sounds to me like you're going to do just fine.


I would agree!
I also went from absolutely not wanting children to thinking, okay, this might be worth doing.
I wasn't able to rationalize this decision much beyond wanting to do better than was done unto me, essentially, and maybe try to add one more good person to the world. I come from a small, very dysfunctional family of poor people, so no need to produce heirs or continue the family line!

A lot of good things have been said; I came at parenting with no great role models (quite to the contrary: I was literally raised by a drill sergeant) but I did have education training, and saw professionally that children already have their personalities from early childhood. You give them skills to become functioning adults. They are also super resilient and can adapt to nearly anything.
I always tried to keep my eyes on the long-term goal: a happy adult who can fend for herself, hard as that occasionally was. I also remembered throughout the process that this all was entirely my choice, it was only going to happen once, and I was determined to enjoy it all. My daughter is now 22 and in college, great company and someone whose opinion I really value. Not alway easy by any means, but totally worth it.

A good friend gave me this when I was pregnant and it was probably the best advice I got:
 
pollinator
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I have 3 kids, always wanted kids, had ton of experience with kids. You want an honest parent? Kids are great. I love my kids. It's fun having these little people saying funny and cute things and being small.  Kids are also awful. Our almost 2 year old still sleeps like crap. Absolute crap. I haven't slept in years. Keeping that kid from killing herself is darn near impossible. The most active child we've ever had. Exhausting. Our middle child was born with cataracts. So that's been an awful experience and a lot of guilt as a parent every day as we force her to wear an eye patch while she cries. Having kids has been tough. Never have kids to improve a relationship, they do the opposite.

As far as teaching them the first reply was right. They watch you. However, working for a criminal defense attorney there are things I've made sure to teach my kids that most people do not approve of. My kids know the correct name for their parts and they know that no one can touch those parts and if someone says they'll hurt me if they tell they needn't worry because I know people who have successfully disposed of bodies. :D

There are some things you can do to help your kids be better adjusted. We have family dinners and we sit and talk. We also have family meetings every Sunday where we pick the weeks menu, air grievances, praise people and set goals. Open communication being huge. Also taking responsibility for your own actions teaches them to do the same.

Mostly I'll just say don't go into it with these preconceived notions of how it will be and how your kid will behave because they will make sure to show you how stupid your expectations are.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Chris Kott wrote:I agree with Trace. If you find yourself about to utter the words, "Do as I say, not as I do," you're in the middle of a teaching moment where you can correct your own behaviour and educate your child.

I also agree with Robert. No battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy, to paraphrase the saying.

It is difficult to parent as part of a person. You can't really compartmentalise yourself as some would like to do, to be the work person at work, and the dad person at home. I mean, you can try, but one persona invariably bleeds into another, and you find dad person acting in ways perhaps only after-work person allows.

Basically, you have to own your own shit. Kids will pick up everything, most especially those things you try to hide from them. You'll think you're doing fine, and then you'll mash your thumb with a hammer and yell, "FUCK!" Suddenly, it's the only word they know, and it's hilarious to them. (To us as well, though we can't admit it).

Behaviours are the most important. If you come home from a day of work and plop yourself in front of the TV while your significant other does all the home tasks, you're ingraining into your children what it means to go to work and come home. If as a person and parent, you're constantly not only deferring to, but waiting for, your significant other to make the decisions, you're teaching your children that it's the job of the male to shirk the mental load, and that it's the job of the female to do all the planning and execution, excepting the tasks she specifically allocates to the male.

If you're going to focus on one thing, let it be the sharing of the mental load between couples. It's good to check in, even constantly, with the other partner in the mix, to make sure you're on the same page, but it's critical that each do their share of the heavy lifting where it comes to not only execution, but planning.

As to the future, you can't dictate what your kids will like or decide to do. The best you can do is design your property to do what you need for it to do for the rest of your life, so you can age with your land. If they're of the same mindset as you, they will want to be a part of it. If not, they won't have to worry about you as you age, because you will have taken care of your collective needs already.

And after you're gone, they might decide to sell. But you won't be there to suffer that. And hopefully one of your children will see the value in it, to carry on for another generation, at which point they will face their own version of this question.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK



I finally got more pie and can continue responding! Haha

I must be one of those “resilient children” because you described exactly what I witnessed as a child and I turned out quite differently. My dad worked full time and my mom worked part time. My dad would come home at 4 and watch the local news until dinner, which my mom always cooked (after she got home from work). Then after dinner my mom would wash dishes while my dad watched the national news. Then after the news we would all watch Friends… so essentially, my dad felt that working a full time job was enough and put the rest on my mom. The whole thing really turned me away from the idea of both parents working and also turned me away from tv. I rarely watch tv now and would love it if my wife would let me give the damn thing away!

And I am already thinking ahead of aging and trying to age well with our property. That would be my ideal, but who knows. A lot could happen by then. Maybe we wont even be here. Either way, the concept applies no matter where we may find ourselves.
 
Stacy Witscher
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I think it's important to point out that people change. I definitely did not seem like someone who absorbed much of what my parents thought or did as a teenager, but I grew out of that. And even if your children don't choose the same path as you, lessons learned can be used in other areas. Resiliency and prudent planning are good skills in any lifestyle.
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