Recently I started observing my family’s dynamics. I compared my youngest sister’s childhood to my own. I came to the conclusion they were very different.
This is actually fairly typical of families with multiple children and especially if the children have large age gaps. I am ten years my sister’s senior.
My upbringing was vastly different from my youngest sister’s for two reasons.
1) My parents attitudes and parenting styles have changed.
2) My sister is growing up with technologies that no generation has ever had at such a young age.
The first reason is not unique to any family unit. The simple truth is most parents are far different when parenting their last child than they are when parenting their first. They tend to be less of a “helicopter parent” with the last child. The youngest may get away with more things simply because he/she is the “baby”. One of the negative side effects of being the youngest is that some traditions or rituals are never completed with the youngest child.
What sparked my thoughts on the subject is the fact my family is very busy.
While growing up eating dinner as a family was mandatory. We all would sit around the table and tell each other about our day. It was family bonding time and no the TV was never on. We did this until I started working as a teenager at the age of sixteen.
This is when things started to become disrupted. I worked. I had a brother who was involved in high school sports. Those once important nightly rituals became eroded. When I started college it became even more of a rarity to have all of us at home at one time. My first sister then started high school and had her own extracurricular activities.
Now my youngest sister is about to start high school. She is even playing two high school sports. I fear she did not have those sacred rituals as long as I did.
Admittedly, this is a normal thing. All families that have similar situations as mine go through this. Also, I wouldn’t say my youngest sister is worse off than I am because she didn’t have the exact childhood as I did. I just wished we could have shared the same type of childhood longer.
The second reason my sister’s childhood is immensely different from my own is technology. This could perhaps be the most important reason.
As an early adolescent social media had not really become a “thing” yet. Youtube had just started, Tom was your first Myspace friend, and picking your top friends could end friendships. Facebook wasn’t even available to everyone until I was a senior in high school. If you didn’t know Facebook was originally developed for college students and you had to be invited into the network you definitely are from my youngest sister’s generation.
Many of the technological problems that plagues teenagers wasn’t really an issue when I was a teen. We possibly had two “sexting” scandals while I was in high school and now its very common place among teens.
Now there are so many social media apps that parents shouldn’t be concerned with their child’s Facebook activity. Research indicates the younger you are the less likely you are to use Facebook specifically. Teens are opting for Twitter, Snapchat, Omelge (a truly dangerous app), and Instagram. These children are gaining access to these apps at younger and younger ages.
These teenagers do not understand once something is on the internet it is on there forever. It cannot come off.
Also, they lack the understanding that something can go “viral” very quickly and millions of people can see something private that wasn’t meant to be shared.
I say all of this because I did not have those worries when I was in high school. However, my youngest sister will when she starts her high school career in a couple weeks. She is a great kid that doesn’t care much about what other’s think. She is friendly to everyone and sticks up for others. Those are admirable qualities and I am very proud of her.
Her formative years will be very different from mine. However, I believe she will do well with what she is given. She developed new rituals with our parents that I didn’t. She will be able to take advantage of their wealth of parenting knowledge as she gets to be older. And of course she will get away with more than I could have ever gotten away with.
As I stated earlier none of this is new. Any family that has children with large age gaps between them can relate to this. I suppose with my sister starting high school I reflected upon my own experiences.
I have no doubt she will do fine while in high school . I hope she has tons of fun, works hard, and doesn’t give up. Also, if she ever needs advise she knows where to go.
This in itself is humbling.