We are all born into different types of families. What you do in yours might seem perfectly normal to you, but compared to someone else might be completely different. Growing up, I always assumed that all families were the same. It wasn’t until I was around eight years old, in grade three or four that I realized that no, families were not all the same.
GROWING UP IN A RELIGIOUS FAMILY
I grew up in a Christian family, and we went to church. Every Sunday. Twice. Morning, and Evening service. No ifs, ands, or buts. My mom was the janitor, and my dad was the organist/pianist, so we were always the first to arrive (so mom could unlock everything) and the last to go. This was normal for me. Part of my Sunday. I thought every family went to church. Nope!
When I was in grade three, I made an awesome friend named Wendy, and she invited me for a sleep over. Her family did not go to church, and her lifestyle at home was nothing like mine. I was shocked for weeks. I didn’t know people could live like that. Her parents smoked, they smoked in the house, and they also had alcohol. They watched a lot of TV, and I watched quite a few scary shows on my sleep overs there. They also did not eat meals together at the table, they ate on the couch in front of the tv. They also used swear words. It was an eye opener for me, because I thought all families were just like mine. (Note: we didn’t have a TV until I was about 10 years old, and our next-door neighbors gave us their huge clunky old TV that only had 4 channels on it)
The point of writing that is that just because your family behaved in a certain way, doesn’t make it the only way, or the right way of doing things. What was normal for you was probably not normal for someone else. And because children cannot reason till about age twelve or thirteen, we just assumed things as children growing up.
SOME FAMILIES HAVE STRICT PARENTS
I also had a friend whose parents were really strict. My friend had to always let her parents know where she was. If she left where she was, she had to call home and tell her mom, even if we were just going up to the corner store and coming right back. I remember sitting there in disbelief as her mother grilled her over the phone about how long it was going to take to go to the store, and that she expected a phone call once we had gotten back from the store so she knew we were safe. Oh my goodness! I never had that level of worry inflicted on me, I never had any restrictions. As long as I was home for dinner, my mom didn’t worry about where I was, or what I was doing. It wasn’t wrong or right – just a different style of parenting.
What we learned in our childhood and how we were raised certainly affects how we act when we finally grow up. Some behaviors learned were good, others not so great. At my house, we were taught how to do our own laundry at age 12. My mom wrote out a list of what to do, how to use the settings on the washer and dryer, and we were responsible for doing our own laundry.
BEING TAUGHT HOW TO COOK
My mother also taught us how to cook at age 13, and we had to be responsible for one meal a week. We could pick anything we wanted, she would make sure she had the ingredients on hand, and we would make it. She would give us help, but eventually after a while we didn’t need help anymore. We also had to wash our bedding once a week, and clean our rooms, especially the window ledges. I remember cleaning with a Q-tip trying to get the dirt out of the corners, I hated that black mildew stuff. Yuck!
We also had a job jar, and we had to do chores on Saturday mornings too. I had two sisters and we were allowed to trade jobs with each other if we wanted. I loved to weed the garden, my two sisters didn’t, so we always traded. I didn’t mind vacuuming, but I hated cleaning the bathroom.
Every night we had to rotate who set the table, who cleared the table, and who emptied the dishwasher. There were three of us, so we got one job each, and finally settled on a 3 week rotation. It worked.
Now, why am I mentioning all that? I am so glad that my mother taught us how to cook and clean. We worked together on chores, and shared the work. I know many kids who were never allowed in the kitchen, or allowed to cook. I know friends whose parents cleaned their rooms for them. Wow.
BE A ROLE MODEL
Children need good role models growing up, but it doesn’t always happen. As an early childhood educator, I could easily pick out the kids who had a loving, stable home, and those who didn’t. Children who were respected and valued, and those who were neglected and abused.
You can make a positive impact in your family with just a small change in your attitude: focus on the positive instead of the negative.
No matter how different our upbringings are, we can choose to help others, pray for others, and encourage one another. We are all the same, but yet we are all different. We have the same struggles, but in different circumstances.
We need to show love, and support one another, no matter how different we act or parent, because underneath, we all need love and acceptance.
Remember: families are different! Let them be!