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Andrée Seu Peterson: Low-stress parenting


WORLD Radio - Andrée Seu Peterson: Low-stress parenting

Life in the 1950s was more closely aligned with God’s order for the family

H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile RF via Getty Images

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday April 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Up next: 1950s-style parenting. Here’s WORLD commentator Andrée Seu Peterson on parenting lessons we can learn from an earlier generation.

ANDREE SEU PETERSON: A stand-up comic said something like, “People in the ’50s had a bunch of kids and weren’t stressed about it. You know why? They didn’t care.”

I laughed out loud because even though that’s not precisely true, I sort of knew what the guy was talking about, being a child of ’50s parents.

Let us state up front that it would be defamatory to say that ’50s parents didn’t care, full stop. By and large, kids were fed, clothed, and somehow made it to adulthood. Once, my brother and sister and I crawled out through the upstairs bathroom window onto the roof in our pajamas. A neighbor phoned the house, and my parents responded quite promptly. That’s prima-­facie proof of care right there.

The mystery remains: Why were Ward and June less anxious than their modern counterparts? Why does having two kids seem like having 10 for young parents today?

For one thing, it was almost a given in the ’50s that you would get married and have children. Mommy would stay home and look after the children while Daddy would go off to work. For another thing, there was no birth control pill, so you took what God gave you. You can already see, I hope, that our 21st-century burden of a surfeit of choices didn’t exist.

The family was such an ingenious creation that if God had not devised it, I can imagine somebody eventually inventing it and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. As Charles Murray wrote in his meticulously documented book Coming Apart, “The family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remained married.”

Of course society is always bent on improving on perfection, with mixed results. Murray says, “The new-upper-class parents tend to overdo it. The children in elite families sometimes have schedules so full of ballet classes, swimming lessons, special tutoring, and visits to the therapist that they have no time to be children.”

In the ’50s there was diffused the almost unconscious comfort of what Murray calls “neighborliness.” Remember the roof caper I told you about earlier? People also went to church on Sundays. Murray writes, “People who don’t go to church can be just as morally upright as those who do, but as a group they do not generate the social capital that the churchgoing population generates.”

Richard Tessier, one of my childhood friends, was the second oldest of 16 siblings by the same mother and father. They lived in a duplex with the wall between taken down. They were not rich people unless you count what God calls rich in Psalm 127—a “quiver full” of kids.

As for me, I had my last child at age 42, and panicked at the news—echoing Matthew 6, I worried, “what shall we eat, what shall we drink, what shall we wear?!” My husband said the sweetest thing: “Don’t worry, Andrée, God will take care of this one too.”

And He did.

I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.

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