This is When It Matters

The Europeans pioneered some weird parenting practices. Montaigne’s parents sent him to live with villagers as an infant. Jane Austen’s parents did something similar—her mother breastfed each of her kids for the first month, then handed them off entirely to someone else. Today something like that would seem fringe or unconventional, but for centuries aristocratic parents in Britain had little involvement in the development of their children. They handed them over to nannies and tutors and governesses until the kids were old enough to participate in adult conversations.

What most of us understand now, either culturally or intuitively, is that every minute you have with your kids matters…but the younger they are the more those minutes matter. There’s an old expression: “Give me the first six years of a child’s life and you can have the rest.”

Imagine generations of parents who did the exact opposite of this. No wonder the past was so horrible…and people did such horrible things to each other. The first thing their parents did to them was horrible! They severed the first, most important bond a child has—the familial bond.

While we would never do such a thing, and to even suggest it as a form of productive parenting is a kind of crime, it is strange how busy we allow ourselves to become while our children are young. We work extra long hours because we’re in the prime of our career. We try to have it all—cramming in all the old things we used to do before we had kids while we ask our parents to watch our children for us. We tell ourselves that when our kids are old we’ll make more time for them, we’ll have more freedom—and besides, they’ll appreciate it more when they’re older.

No! Now is when it matters most! Now is when it counts! The earlier the better!

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