childhood

I don’t usually write much about childhood. My own was so difficult, that it is a subject I try to stay away from. But lately, I’ve discovered the works of Margaret Atwood, and right now I’m reading ‘Cat’s Eye’, and this has lead me to thoughts on children, and a visit with some of my grandchildren, amplified these thoughts. So I thought I’d share them with you, accompanied by a few photos of my visit to the country, and time spent with family.

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the home of my youngest son

When the Chinese instituted their program of only one child to a family, most westerners were stunned by the disregard for basic freedoms in that distant, mythical, gigantic land. And yet, strangely, without a dictatorship to impose a new order on a helpless population, more and more people in the west have limited child bearing of their own volition. Whether because of economic pressures, or choices of life style, children often find themselves unwanted, or a bother to the adults around them, and without the company of other children to give them support and a perspective on life and the world around them. Even though it is common to think that an only child enjoys much more attention from his or her parents, the parents are two great imposing figures in the life of the child. And with increasing frequency, only one parent remains in the child’s immediate vicinity, and that parent is besieged by other obligations and interests.

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If an adult suffers from alienation and frustration in today’s highly stylized and regimented life, where a call to a public service often means being answered by a robot, and waiting on the line while listening to muzak, how much more a child must suffer, trying to adjust to continuously changing conditions and authorities.

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And though one might think that the school environment provides both adult teachers, and children with whom to learn and play, a child who is a little different (and aren’t we all a little different from others) might feel constant tension, inadequacies, inferiorities, pressure, and even cruelty. And somewhere, in the midst of all this, is alienation. Today it is common to let the TV and the computer do the work of a babysitter. Any game is good, so long as it distracts the child, and keeps him or her out of our hair.

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In the traditional society, older brothers and sisters watched out for their younger siblings. And the occupations of parents, uncles and aunts were an example to the young of what one could do in life. Grandparents and other older members of the family or the tribe would provide the advantages of experience and the comfort of understanding. It is said that can choose one’s friends, but not one’s family. That was always true, and some children feel as if they were dropped into a family that just doesn’t fit right. But usually there is a basic loyalty and care for family members, if only because of the greater intimacy afforded by family life. A child that lives down the block may be mean to me, but my brothers will stand by me and protect me.

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But there have been drastic changes in the last century. Many families are split and separated, living in far away places. And in many cases, the parents are no longer part of the same functioning family by the time the child reaches his teens and is in need of parental support. And even when the parents have stayed together, they often both go to work away from the home, leaving the children to cope for themselves.

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And when the parents are away at work, in an office or factory, far from home, how do the children learn a work ethic, or learn about overcoming failures and difficulties? What examples do they have? Can they learn the nature of life, the value of life, from watching movies or programs on the TV, or playing games on the computer? Do they trust their school environment? Or are they struggling to play by the rules, and feel trapped there?

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Watching my youngest grandchildren, I realized that almost every one has individual characteristics that make him or her different from all the rest. Yet, because they live in a more traditional environment, there are many sources of education and enlightenment, and there are always compassionate people around to give comfort and support.

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Thinking about the future, it seems necessary that we develop a social environment for our young, in which many of the characteristics of the tribe or the extended family will be provided for children at all stages of their development.

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82 responses to “childhood

  1. cyclingrandma

    Beautiful family; astute commentary.

  2. Wise observations, Shimon. and pictures that tell a thousand tales. Although I understand the way some social scientists think, that family size should be limited because the earth’s resources are limited, I believe there is a great deal to be said for the larger, or at least the extended family. I speak from experience as I realise that, through the many difficulties we’ve had in our family over the past few years, what has kept us all going is the way we support each other even though we live some distance apart. A supportive family is a blessing indeed and can pour oil and .wine into our wounds.

    • Yes, I agree with you Gillyk. I have seen both small families and large ones, and it seems to me that there is a blessing in a house full of children. Though for me and for many others in our country, there is another consideration as well. After half of our people were murdered within the lifetime of my generation, there is a longing to bring back the faces that always seem to be missing. Thank you very much for your comment.

  3. so much care in this post Shimon, and so much truth/common sense if only it were adopted widely..for our children.
    (beautiful grandchildren by the way 🙂 – sorry to hear your own experience of childhood was not so positive)

    • I believe all of humanity is going through some very big widespread changes now, and that we’ll have to find new arrangements for the raising and educating of children. The young represent our collective future, and it is so important that they have roots and stability, and of course, happiness in life. Thanks for your comment, Annie.

  4. What a beautiful post, and so true! As a teacher I can see the almost irrepairable damage that lack of good parenting can do to a child, even those who have eventually been adopted by more loving and caring parents.
    It breaks my heart to witness how lost, clueless, resentful and bitter some of our students are even at a very young age and, although I’m lucky enought to work in a small family-like atmosphere boarding school, even us are in some cases unable to turn them around. Often, these neglected children end up in prison and that is the saddest thing of all, as they were born without a chance of success because their parents simply didn’t have the time of day for them. Truly tragic.

    • It is a great blessing that teachers such as yourself reach out to those children who started on the wrong foot as they began their lives. I know that sometimes the scars are so terrible that it is very hard to right the wrongs that were done. But I believe that every human being has that opportunity of choice, and at some point can remake his or her life, based on what they learn outside of the home. Thank you very much for your beautiful comment, Fatima. It is always very good to hear from you.

  5. Great post Shimon and you have a beautiful family.

  6. Wisely shared… And wonderful photographs… Blessing and Happiness to you all dear Shimon. Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • Thank you very much for your blessing, Nia, and I send you mine too, for peace and freedom, and good news soon. It was a beautiful weekend here, and I am enjoying the summer. Every morning the birds wake me from my sleep.

  7. Such a beautiful post and the photos speak greater volumes about children being held in light and welcomed for who they have come to be, nurtured in their becoming, loved into their gifts…thank you, Shimon…When you speak of your own painful childhood, I always send blessing back to that boy. He became such a fruitful and loving man…

    • Your comment has touched me deeply, Kitty. I almost never think of that boy. I was forced to become an adult at a very early age because of circumstances beyond my control. And your blessing certainly will have reached that tormented soul. Thank you.

  8. Another compelling post, Shimon…fitting, appropriate, resonating….

    Amid life’s twists and turns, it has come to be that my second son and his family, and my wife and I and our youngest son all share a home, by choice…we have three generations living under one roof…and I have had the pleasure of watching my youngest grandchild grow daily since she was born, my youngest son gets to participate in her life, as well…and that same younger son has the opportunity to see his older brother and his wife, and his parents interact within the dynamics of parents/children, friends, and housemates…he sees us as co-parents of our grandchildren, and learns to respect his older brother and his wife as parent figures and siblings at once.

    So your words echo here, too, my friend…reminders…encouragement…. Thank you.

    • How wonderful it is to hear of the closeness you share with your offspring in your home. Sometimes those twists and turns of life seem like great challenges, and added difficulties, but from the little I know of you, Scott, I am sure that all members of the family enjoy the support and wisdom of the ol’ man. My best wishes to you and your family. May you enjoy the pleasure of seeing children and grandchildren continuing the good life past where you have gotten. For that is my greatest joy; to see my offspring fulfill some of my dreams.

      • Thank you for those well-wishes, Shimon…for my children and grandchildren….and that is a great joy, too…one that I have already been able to share to a degree.

  9. the house: seems to be in a desert; but inside: a paradise with love and music!
    Shalom Shimon!

    • Actually, it’s not a desert Frizz, but the land lay uncultivated for hundreds of years, and is finally getting the loving care it deserves. And yes, there is a lot of love and music there. I am sure you would enjoy it. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Dear Shimon, when I visit my grandchildren in Berlin or Munich I always have to play guitar as well. And my wife reads out of children-books for those who cannot read yet. And we eat together – and they are really longing for the advice by grandparents, need a different point of view. Yes, you are right, Shimon, the Chinese one child per family is a sad order…

    • I am so glad to hear of your visits with your children and grandchildren. I know what a joy it is to share with the young generations. And I also know that you too suffered in childhood, so it’s moving to me, to hear that life has improved so much, and that you and you’re dear wife are able to pass on your wisdom and appreciation of life. It is always very good to hear from you, Frizz.

  11. The love and light shared in these photos speaks volumes along with your wise observations. Thank you, Shimon.

  12. orlando gustilo

    The difficult is often the spice that makes individual lives memorable feasts of the human struggle for impossible perfection. I should be more worried but I am not: our children are like the children we once were and look at what we’ve done with our difficulties! Not always true but enough true to make me trust a difficult but hopeful future.

    • What you say is quite true, Orlando. And let me add, that sometimes a poisonous plant can be used as a medicine, or even a spice. Unfortunately, the poisons I had to face nearly did me in. But having survived them, I went on to enjoy the life I once cursed, and today in my old age, I am a happy man. And like yourself, I have hope for the future, and know that it is hard to understand where we’re going at every turn in the road. Thank you very much for your comment.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing. The glimpse into your life and corner of the world, a world that is so different from the United States, reinforces that we are all different, yet very much the same.

    • I’m very glad you came by Robin, and that you enjoyed the visit. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know you a bit. I remember reading about the vast similarity in all mammals when the DNA was first discovered and identified. And I do believe that there are great similarities between people everywhere. Though the closer we get to a different culture, the more we are aware of the differences. Thank you for your comment.

  14. Beautiful post, Shimon. I also have a hard time revisiting my childhood, but it’s also helped me understand why I react certain ways as an adult. I’m glad to hear you’ve discovered Margaret Atwood. She’s one of my favorite writers. Have you discovered her Circe/Mud Poems yet?

    • Unfortunately, I haven’t read much foreign literature for many years, and so it was a very happy circumstance that lead me to Atwood. I have peeked at her poetry on the internet, but haven’t yet gotten into it seriously. I am now reading the third by her… this time in translation to Hebrew. And I realize, that especially when it comes to poetry, I will have to read her in English. She is a powerful writer. Thanks so much, Jordan.

  15. My family is split as well, the little I have left … my brothers are suspicious of that I’m not “their” blood … since I’m a s blond as they come … I love your words, Shimon … wish I could explain … but I love your words … tears of joy …
    Always, cat.

    • This isn’t a perfect world, my dear cat. I have learned that too. And as early as the bible we hear of conflicts between brothers, and unnecessary cruelty even in the best of families. But those of us who are lucky have been able to get past some of the cruelties we faced, and I send you my best wishes and hopes that your life now will be filled with joy and peace and happiness. It is always good to hear from you.

  16. Shimon – thank you for sharing the photos, and for sharing some of your thoughts on family, and children, and how our changing world is shaping the children of tomorrow. So much could be said about environment, and how that has a significant influence on how children become adults, and especially how parenting and sibling interaction affects children as they mature into adults.

    In my own family bubble, as fractured and broken as it was, at least one of my siblings has remained the one constant in my life; a shelter from the storm. Even though it has taken us both fifty-plus years for our relationship to evolve to a healthy place, it is a bond that is very strong, and provides both of us with a safe haven. I’m very grateful that I have had a chance to explore a healthy relationship with my sibling. It’s never too late to learn what a healthy relationship looks like, and how sharing such a relationship can add value and a sense of contentment to your life.

    All that aside, the one thing about this post that struck me right between the eyes was the last photo. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, (and I’ve learned with you that your choice of photos is precise), but that last photo sort of broke my heart. Darkness and light, and such a wide expanse of experience between the two. Interesting post, and beautiful photos.

    Your artistry is such a beautiful thing to witness.

    • Yes, many times when people are hurt, they can’t work together… can’t really comfort each other, and certainly can’t strengthen one another. So we find these bad situations where a number of people have been hurt in different ways, and go on to hurt other people and to make things difficult for each other. But those who can wrest themselves from disaster… from slavery sometimes… and from all the other misfortunes that befall human beings all too often, can begin to heal themselves, to find strength and purpose in life, and eventually to love and help others… and in those noble actions, we find renewed strength. It’s a hard road. I’ve know people who suffered and never were completely healed. But it is possible. And I agree with you, it’s never too late. As long as we are alive, things can improve. Thank you very much for the your words on my art. When I was young, and on my first steps out of hell, I had a wonderful teacher, and he once taught me that intention is a key to power. To say only what you mean, and to direct your path with complete intention. This has stayed with me, and as you guessed, my pictures which I use to illustrate my articles and stories, are chosen with that same intention. I always enjoy hearing from you, N. And truly appreciate what you have to say.

  17. Since I am of a generation where grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins played a large role in our lives, it seems the children of today are missing some of those special bonds that last through the years. Being an only child, my family connections were and still are important. Even though the older generation is gone now, we still have “Cousins Night” once a month just to keep those family bonds.

    • I am smiling as I read about “Cousins Night”. It sounds so good. And in learning to live with and love our relatives, we learn to accept that not all people are the same, and that the stronger have to help the weaker, and that everyone has some unique quality which adds to the strength of the group. It helps us learn to be human beings, and to work together. That’s why it’s so important to me that we find some way to offer children a very positive framework if they haven’t had the luck to be raised in a healthy family.

  18. Such a beautiful and insightful post, as always. Even though my family was poor by American standards, I’m thankful to have grown up in a big family with older and younger siblings and a mother who stayed home to raise us. Now I am separated from my family in distance but I know growing up the way I did profoundly impacted who I am today. I look forward to the day when I am able to start a family and stay home to raise them. It is disappointing that so many westerners value material things more than family and choose not to have very many children because of this. I know a big family is not for everyone but having brothers and sisters is such a gift to a child and such an excellent teacher for life after childhood. The pictures in this post are absolutely beautiful.

    • I agree with you completely, that the family experience teaches us a lot about life and how to relate to our fellow human beings, and how to love, and more. I understand that it’s harder these days for a woman to raise her children personally. A lot of the conditions have changed in the last century. And given that there are more and more single parents out there, the problem is not going to go away. But in response to what you said about being poor, we believe that a rich man is one who is satisfied with what he has. I’ve known people who had much more than they needed, and were never satisfied. The common attitude to money and possessions is also something we have to work with, and try to change. Thank you very much for your comment, Kari Ann.

  19. we should never forget to look at the world through the eyes of children who try to hide inside of us…. And I’m sure even if you say you try to stay away from this topic, it’s deep inside you, dispite of the feelings. For me, is about the same… but I grow up in a quite different environement…
    Since my beloved dad died, something changed, very deep inside, and my vision started to be more compassionate. I love to see this big family on your pictures, which shows a lot of tenderness and high values. I try to raise my own kids with awareness and gratitude for what we have and
    with respect for every life form.
    But most of all, it’s inevitable to discuss with them the pain produced by the man and his greed, that always leads to wars and death…
    Wish you a nice shabbat :-)claudine

    • I hear what you’re saying, Claudine. And many people have told me of that child within us, so I do know it’s a common feeling. I have even discussed it with my own daughter who is close to fifty years old. But it seems to me that in my case, that child died long ago. And it is very seldom that I even remember him. Thankfully, I have had a pretty good life as an adult, and the older I got, the better it was. And I have seen my children and grandchildren do what I was unable to do, and it’s brought me happiness. I am sure that you are a very good mother, and I wish you great happiness from your children. Thank you for your Shabbat wishes, and may this be a good week for us all.

  20. How lovely to see your family, I did like the pics of the kids all playing instruments, I would have enjoyed joining in with my guitar….and I love that drum.

    I think it is becoming harder for children in the modern world, TV has replaced parenting in many families and communities are being broken and becoming fragmented. We all need our tribe around us for support, even it’s animal members.

    A most interesting post, I’m glad you’re having such a good time.xxxx

    • As you might imagine, I agree completely, and am very glad you included the animal members. How important it is to raise animals and to care for them. For the child learns that there are other priorities aside from ME, and other values aside from success and money and strength and intelligence and wit. Even if the cat doesn’t smile, we can learn to love it, and responsibility for animals is a great first step to learning how to love the world. Though music is an important part of fun in our family, I would get suspicious if all the children loved it. But fortunately, we are blessed with individualists too. Thank you so much for your comment, Dina. I feel that though we live worlds apart, in a certain way, we’re part of the same tribe too. xxx

  21. I grew up in just such a family with extended family in a community of children and adults who all belonged to the “tribe”. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I went off to college and never returned as did many of the others. “Tribe” is a concept that is both good and bad.

    From my experience, I believe that nurturing exists both in isolated, rural families and in urban, fast-paced families. Children in the urban areas of the US live in a far different society than children in more homogeneous societies. Good parenting and bad parenting exist in both.

    I love seeing the pictures of your grandchildren. I am delighted to think of your visiting with them in the country. This is an enjoyable post. Thank you for sharing your family and your philosophy with us. 🙂

    • I know, George, that there’s no one rule that fits all, and that many of us have to struggle to find the right life for us, or to search till we find the right brothers and sisters that we can feel at home with. I believe foremost in freedom and choice. The individual has to make his own decisions. I could tell you true stories that influenced my thoughts on this matter. When things are going well, a tough person can surely make a life even when struck by tragedy. But for the weaker, for the disabled, for the handicapped, it can make the difference between life and death. And sometimes those weaker ones are those we love. I appreciate your straight forward comment. I sometimes miss that style in the politically correct blogland. Thank you very much.

  22. Beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing.

  23. Wonderful dissertation Shimon. I bet you and I could talk at length on this subject. Trying to predict the future of the children at this time in our society is proving to be incredibly frustrating. I fear for their safety. So many variables. Fortunately, my childhood was very good, and that made me sorry to read yours was otherwise.

    • Well, it really makes me happy to hear that your childhood was good. And as for mine, it’s long gone by now. My feeling is that we could talk at length on any subject, just about. Being a student of history, I remember the terrible times that children suffered during the industrial revolution. And it seems to me that in certain ways, this period might even be worse. We rejoice with progress, and the new technology, but a lot of children are being left behind, and have trouble with reading and writing. But I still have hope. Thank you for your comment, Bob.

  24. Those children with the extended families are the lucky ones, they will find love and understanding there somewhere amongst the family members. Right now I am reveling in being a grandmother and showering love on our three grandchildren (with one more on the way), to let them know that besides their loving parents, they have us as well to protect them and show them the way. Lovely photos here, Shimon.

    • Congratulations on being a grandmother, and I’m so happy for them. I’m sure you’re a wonderful grandmother. Glad you liked the photos, Angeline. Always good to hear from you.

  25. I really like this; it’s really thought provoking. My childhood sucked. I felt alone. I learned from absolutely everything, though, or as much as a child can comprehend and absorb in those times. And yet, most of my best memories are from that time – I am still at the point where most of the years of my life I’ve spent not in adulthood. I wanted to look out for my sisters, and as much I can I still try to, though I live in a different state to them now, so I really can’t do a lot. But they wanted their own independence and identity, so we drifted apart as necessary anyway. I’ve studied children and families from a sociological perspective as part of my degree. I don’t felt like I learned a lot, though. There was something restrictive about it; even though we were encouraged to always think outside the box, most of the answers that are provided are well contained within that box. It will be difficult to find an answer when people aren’t brave enough to honestly search for it. Perhaps there is no big answer, or at least no blanket solution, only napkin ones, as to how to look out for children.

    • I am sorry that you suffered in childhood, Jess. For a long time, I thought I had it the worst. And then I got to know others that suffered too. It seems that there are as many ways to suffer as there are to be happy… maybe more. I had a lot of thoughts about education before I even had children. And then I tried to do my best, but life offers us a lot of tests and surprises. It doesn’t always go our way. One of the great lessons I learned though, was when I was already a grandfather, and I met a very wonderful man, who had a number of children. He and his wife faced a terrible tragedy when one of their children was abducted by terrorists, and later killed. That is how I got to know him. But once I did get to know him, I discovered that they also had twins. And one of the twins was a gifted child, and the other was an idiot. And he raised them both at home, and I watched the way the family related to those two children. Many would have chosen to put the idiot in an institution, but that family protected that boy, and brought him up with love. It was inspiring. Thanks for your comment.

      • Thankyou. I know there are a lot others who have had it worse than I have but it somehow doesn’t make it any easier until it is time for hindsight. That is a really full-on lesson. I don’t know what terrorism is really like. But the fact that they raised their children like that makes me smile so much 😀 I wish more people were like that. People seem to get exasperated all too soon these days. I’d like to think it wasn’t always like that.

        • I know there is no comfort in knowing that others have had it worse. Actually, it’s often aggravating to hear such a thing from a friend. But at a later stage, thinking about it looking back, it was an important thing for me to realize, and it helped me see human struggles from a better perspective. Now, looking back, I’m happy that I survived it all.

  26. Those children looks happy and blessed – mazel tov for them and their parents.

    • Yes, they get their knocks and their falls too, but I do believe they are blessed, and it does seem that on the whole they are happy. Thanks for your comment, Yosef.

  27. You express the viewpoint of the child so tenderly, Shimon, and show great respect for the humanity of the child. The world is changing so rapidly. Along with the loss of larger families and staying connected with an extended family, I feel sorrow that children here in the U.S. have such little freedom to run around, free from the watchful eyes of adults. Children need time to wander and discover, but the world or our perception of it, seems more dangerous than before. In spite of that, I hope for a better future.

    • In fact, I was denied a childhood, yearstricken. What I had was very short, and very painful. So I only got to know about childhood when my own children were growing up. And watching them, and then my grandchildren, some of whom are already grownups… I started appreciating childhood in a different way. What I see now, these days, is a very regimented society, and since children are our future, I worry a bit. I always appreciate your writing, and a comment from you is a sweet pleasure.

  28. Very sweet, straight pictures!

  29. This was a very well thought out essay on having larger families and community support for the rearing of children. I find myself in agreement with you. For many years here the thought has been that it was irresponsible to have multiple children, and this seemed sensible, but as I grow older I see that single children often do not grow up as well balanced and integrated in group life, and my own two children have expressed on more than one occasion their wish that they would have had more siblings to grow up with and to share their adult lives with now. Your pictures were wonderful, I think you have a very good understanding of family dynamics and of what children need, and the love for your own children and grandchildren comes through clearly in your words. I am most certain that your children will feel better about their childhood than what you had to experience, so you have blessed them with that gift!

    • I am very grateful that I have seen children and grandchildren growing up normally, and accomplishing many beautiful things in life. It makes up for a lot of suffering I had to endure. But at the same time, I worry about the future. I can understand a person who doesn’t wish to add to the population explosion, and decides not to have children altogether. But I think that if we do bring children into this world, we should give them the sort of upbringing that will help them integrate into the world, and add a little sweetness or good. Thank you very much for your comment, Josie.

  30. Well conveyed. I often consider the ramifications of segregated families and the lack of quality time and investment we have because we are always busy being busy and trying to ‘provide’ for our children.

    With my own children we will often have discussions about the definitions of what it means to be a successful – they already start using those concepts in school. I want my own children to grow up understanding that their journey is just as important, if not more so than the end result.

    I often say to them, what good is winning the game, if no one is happy and you did not have any fun? They are so smart and they catch on quickly. We were recently playing a card game called Skip Bo (Numerical sequencing) and I observed Dakotah (9) intentionally not playing one of her cards to allow her brother (7) to experience a winning play. I couldn’t help by smile!

    This is so well stated, thanks so much for sharing. You’ve stated everything I would love to say, but can rarely get the right words out!

    • I completely agree with you as to the importance of the journey in contrast to reaching the end results. Dakotah sounds like a very sweet girl. I think that children can give great happiness. It makes me happy to hear that this post spoke to you. One of the wonderful things about blogging is that we get to meet friends that otherwise we would never have encountered. I am reminded again and again of the tremendous possibilities. Thank you so much for coming by.

  31. Character is the most important part of a person, and that is something else I try to instill in my children. Material things come and go!

    • You know, Miss Lou, I have been wondering about that all my life. When I was young, I encountered the idea that nurturing could overcome some of the disadvantages of nature. But through the years, I have become more convinced that character is something very personal, and that it determines how we’re going to understand everything we’ve learned along the way. Still I wish you luck. I agree with you about material things, though.

  32. Yes, it would be wonderful to surround children with people of different generations who cared for them, and set examples by living their lives fully rather than being away most of the time, in body or in spirit…

    • One of my daughters, Rivka, has founded a Montessori kindergarten here in Israel, and it is a place I really like to visit… though I don’t visit that often. One of the things she’s said to me, is that teaching by example makes the biggest impression on the kids. That it works better than anything we tell them. Thanks for your comment, bluebrightly.

  33. Shalom, Shimon,

    Beautiful post and lovely pictures, as always. Good to see you!

  34. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Shimon, as you know I have one child. To be honest, after the experience of how Chris treated Daniel, abandoned his welfare, I had my tubes tied with a sense of “No-one is doing this to me and a child I love ever again – not through my body”. It was an extreme thought in the action. So it happens, I have only one child.

    Daniel has said he wanted a brother so much, and it happens Chris has three other children by three other mothers (none the partner he is with). So Daniel has half siblings but only knows them a little via Facebook – and they are culturally not on his wavelength.

    It’s sad, I never meant it to be like that. Yet when I see beautiful, beautiful together family pictures like this, I feel warm inside. I never managed to do this, but it’s good to see it exists.

    Yes, we don’t hear much of your childhood, but I really enjoyed this thank you.

    • I have seen many difficult family situations, unfortunately. Children who were orphaned early in life, and mistreated, or left to fend for themselves… children who were abused terribly. And I have known single parents who raised one or many children alone. There is no insurance against the cruelty of fate. I knew a man who gave a lot to his fellows and to the society, and used to tell that the only reason he was born at all, was that his mother couldn’t find the money to have an abortion. So I would never say that one sort of life style is the right way, or the only way that’s good for children. But I do believe that it’s a lot easier for children to be nurtured in a family background that includes siblings, and adults of different ages who all contribute to the ‘family’ spirit. This could be a cooperative of parents, who pool their resources together. But sometimes we also adopt family, at all ages. We can adopt uncles and aunts, and grandparents too. I’ve seen that work too. Thank you very much for your kind words about my family. As I have mentioned, I saw hell in childhood. But I lived to see my descendents enjoy a better life. Thank you Noeleen.

  35. Wonderful, insightful commentary, ShimonZ. I think your culture must lean more towards a traditional, family orientation – what tremendous benefits and comforts there are for the children who are raised in a culture where family is the center of the universe for each family member. Unfortunately, our country has fully embraced every element that fractures families. It feels almost like a conspiracy, the way commercialism, profit, and “moral agendas” from political parties drive family members away from each other. We are a nation whose culture is coarsening, whose appetite must be gratified instantly, that chases personal peace and comfort above every other value on earth. I appreciate any modern family that can withstand the cultural assault that threatens to tear us all apart.

    • As in the case of a micro biological culture, human culture too builds upon itself. It gathers meaningful habits and behavior over time… over generations. What we are seeing in the west, is a break down of older forms, and their replacement with new standards. Some of the new may prove to be positive and valuable. But like yourself, I fear that there’s increasing alienation, and a lack of community spirit. And I do believe that we’ll have to start building new social structures. Commercialism is definitely a threat to the welfare of society. Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment, Rick.

  36. Dear Shimon,
    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this post. The photographs of your family made me smile. I am so sorry for your unfortunate childhood–I don’t know what your childhood circumstances were, but you have created for your own children what is clearly a loving, nurturing environment and they have done the same, extending that loving circle even further.
    I think I could have accomplished much more in my life professionally, but my primary focus was on my children and my family, and that is still what gives me the greatest sense of joy.
    Thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

    • It makes me very happy that you enjoyed this post, Naomi. And you’re right; fortunately for me, though I started out in hell, my life got better as the years went by, and it gives me great pleasure to see children and grandchildren living the good life today. And I agree with you too, on the subject of the importance of family versus career. I think career is important, but that it shouldn’t be at the expense of a good healthy family. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment.

  37. Dear Shimon, I really enjoy reading your insights about children, family, and sociality. There are enough worries about how modern parents raise their kids and how our education works for kids in US… Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful photos of your grandkids.

    • And thank you for your comment, Amy. I worry too. For I see a tendency in the west to discount all that has been learned about family and longtime mutual support between friends and relatives. I doubt that ‘support groups’ can take the place of enduring friendship. And I worry even more, because I see in my society a continuous desire to be more like the Americans. I believe that there is a lot we can learn from the US society… but not necessarily in the area of raising children.

  38. I agree. People are connected (and they think they do) through social media, etc. But, there is no relationship between or among them.
    A friend of mine who has been a teacher for more than 20 years told me a story that her seven years old student said to her, ” If you… I’ll tell my mother, and she will sue you!” She also told me that teachers are asked to document students… I think this says a lot about US society.

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