Friday, July 07, 2017

Pet Peeves?

Written by  Rev. Kelly Crenshaw
Bonding across age barriers Bonding across age barriers

Do you have any pet peeves? One of my friends hates it when people turn off their cars without allowing the windshield wipers to return to the rest position. Another loses her mind when her kids leave towels on the bathroom floor. Some folks’ peeves are health related – people drinking from a common container, for example. Others are merely an annoyance factor – wearing colors that don’t exactly match.

I have to admit that I used to have a number of them. I’d get frustrated about all kinds of things. Now, I’m a lot more easygoing. After 19 kids, I have to be. But, there is still one thing that I just can’t wrap my brain around. I can’t understand why our schools separate our children simply because of age.

I’m a trained educator. I get the developmental component of it. Children tend to hit developmental milestones at a certain age. Babies start to walk around one year. Most six-to-eight year olds start to think about the people around them and how they fit into the larger picture. Attention spans increase between nine and 11. Twelve to 14 brings the hormonal rampage that can make the average young person into a moody, cranky soul. Which brings them into the latter teen years where parents’ rules were made to be broken.

However, as most parents know, not all kids hit their milestones at the same time and in the same way. When I was a child, for example, my teachers tried to encourage my parents to let me skip a grade. I was a smart little girl, so it seemed obvious. But, my birthday is late in the year and my parents were afraid that I wouldn’t fit in socially with the older kids. So, I stayed where I was and ended up hanging out with the older kids anyway.

Some kids never really fit in with those of their exact age, and that’s okay. Kids who have experienced significant childhood trauma may be even more out of sync with their age groups. And, believe it or not, there are a lot of those kinds of kids out there.

My kids grew up in a school where everyone blended together, kind of like a one-room school. Plus, our family always had toddlers to teens. So, my kids learned, very early on, that forming good relationships with all ages was beneficial. The older ones could share in the simple successes of the younger ones. The little ones learned to team up with the older kids to get more opportunities. Yes, there are times when teens need to be teens and toddlers need to be toddlers, but I can tell you that our experience has taught some valuable lessons.

Our kids have learned to be some of the most compassionate kids on the playground. They are quick to respond whenever a little kid cries. Our little kids have learned to play big kid games at a much younger age, which allows them to mature in thinking skills. And, our teens have found that hanging out with a toddler can be really rewarding.

But, there are other benefits, too. One of our daughters, who is now 30 with kids of her own, came to us at ten. She had a list of diagnoses and was a difficult child. Eventually we realized that she’d never really had a childhood. However, as she played with our one-year-old, she reverted back in time herself. She was able to be immature and silly, without worrying about people complaining. After all, she was playing with a baby. Everyone acts silly when playing with a baby.

She kind of grew up along with the baby. Here we are, 20 years later, and she is a mature, capable adult. She didn’t mature in the classroom with other ten-year-olds, she matured by hanging out with the baby. That was what she needed.

So, I’ve said all of that to say this: don’t push your kids to mature at a certain rate. They will grow and change as they are able. These childhood years pass by so quickly anyway, don’t be focused on growth that is mentally and emotionally out of hand for some kids. Let them enjoy being kids.

Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, two biological kids, guardian of one baby girl and foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She is co-owner of a counseling agency that works with children and their families. Send your parenting questions to her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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