I spend considerable amounts of time around my nieces and nephew. Partly because they are home with my folks. Partly because COVID-19 has restricted my movements. Partly because they are the most adorable beings I have come across. They are nine (eldest niece) and twenty months (twins) respectively. 

Bar sickness, once they are fed, bathed and their diapers changed, they are the most stress-free children. Ergo, a lot of my baby sitting duty involves just sitting and observing. I have observed that when my eldest niece is dealing with her siblings she shadows a lot of the things we do. 

For example, when my nephew tries his hand at being spider man, she’ll simply get him off the couch and onto her shoulders for a spin. That’s what my Dad does. I have also heard her sing the same lullaby songs to her sister that my Mum sung to her when she was their age. When she commandeers the TV and condemns her cats to endless hours of SpongeBob, I see her pull out a stool and put her feet on it. That’s what I do when I am watching TV. 

Interestingly, I have also seen the twins, at just twenty months, shadow us. Whenever one of them is crying (the sound of rain on the roof scares them), the other dashes off to where they are and gives them a gentle rub on the back. It’s what we have been doing to them all along. 

Which brings me to the reason for this post. The environment in which children grow in significantly influences their general disposition in life. The things we do, the words we use, our routine. Children internalize all these things and accept them as the norm. 

More often than not, we simply pass on to the children around us the same values that were passed on to us whether deliberately or fortuitously. If you had unavailable parents, chances are that you are not one for commitment. Almost instinctively, you will shadow that unavailability. It could take the form of parental remiss or you could find yourself with emotionally unavailable romantic partners. 

In her book All About Love, bell hooks writes of her childhood and growing up in a dysfunctional family:

Had I been given a clear definition of love earlier in my life it would not have taken me so long to become a more loving person.”

As most parts of the world learn to adapt to the new normal occasioned by the Corona virus, we find ourselves spending more time around children. Whether biological, nieces and nephews, cousins, siblings or neighbors.

There are two ways we can emerge from this pandemic. Either having raised a generation of kinder, more empathetic, more loving children. Or having midwifed a generation of senseless, selfish and meaner children. The one thing that will make the difference is the power of our example.

As bell hooks writes in the aforementioned book:

We learn about love in childhood. Whether our homes are happy or troubled, our families functional and dysfunctional, it’s the original school of love.”

Indulge me.

What (values/routines/ traditions etc), in retrospect, did you pick from your childhood environment?

Which of those do you see the children around you picking up?

What would you like to pass forward by the power of your example?


    1. Hey Nengi 👋

      Can’t agree more with this. Looking back, I used to be embarrassed about my judgemental mindset as a child. It wasn’t who I was. I was only immatating people around me. It is crazy to think people especially loved ones have the same perspective of you regardless of whether you have grown and learnt to think for yourself.

  1. My father grew up in an orphanage. So what he was adamant to teach us, my sister and I, was to be independent.

    I learnt the lesson well. To the point where I would feel guilty for the smallest thing I asked of others.

    One day, I fell down the subway stairs and broke my arm. It happened on the day I had decided to start working on a book, so of course I thought it was a sign I am not a good enough writer and I should stop. :)))

    Joking aside, later that day, wearing a cast and all, I had this piercing, pure, clear thought (which I have since come to recognize as my intuition) that said to me: “You broke your arm because you need to learn to accept other people”s help. That is a love and humanity connection you have completely cut off.”

    I looked into it deeply. Learned a lot about myself in the process. I also learned the people I loved felt useless, not free, around me.

    So, I started, slowly, walking it back. And I formulated this: One can go too far in EVERY right direction.

  2. Wow, what a fine example in the form of the twins comforting each other. Thank you for bringing up this very important thought. I have been hoping the pandemic teaches us how to be kinder to ourselves and express empathy with boundaries more and better. This is a valuable reminder to also lead by example for the next generation.

    1. Hey Idea Smith 😃

      It’s my pleasure 😊. Thank you for your kind words.

      You are absolutely right. We need to be kinder to ourselves first, so that we can pass that kindness onto the next person.

      Thank you for making time 😊

  3. I can’t help but think that this is why some people choose to be child-free, like me. If I did have children, I would have been worried about the dysfunctions I would have passed on. It’s so easy to overlook the small things that kids pick up on and take with them into adulthood. Thanks for your post.

    1. Hey 😃

      I could not agree more. It really is easy to overlook those small slights that we endured as children. The mind keeps score.

      We need to make deliberate efforts to change that narrative. It starts with being kind to ourselves. Forgiving ourselves and more importantly, loving ourselves.

      Thank you for making time 😊

      Stay safe.

  4. Thanks for this post. Sadly, I was one of those wounded children that grew up in an environment of detachment and the feeling that “love” came with strings attached. Today, having learned this about myself, I pay if forward with my grandchildren by being loving, kind, available and always eager to listen.

    1. Hey Megan!

      I am so happy to hear that you are paying it forward with love.

      Your grandkids must be a lucky bunch😊

      Thank you for making time 😊

  5. Beautiful article, thanks for sharing! We do learn what love means in our childhood! I feel like my family dynamics have shifted over time to adapt to circumstances. Through it all, I feel like my parents modeled the strength of moral character. Although, there are some emotionally unavailable patterns that take awareness to heal. <3

    1. Hey Fantasia!

      Thank you 😊

      A strong case for moral character will always go a long way 💪🏿

      Awareness, that’s the word of operation. Being aware of these patterns is the most important step.

      Thank you for your insight.

      Thank you for making time 😊

      Stay safe.

  6. It’s very hard for me talk about my feelings so I’m a rather tightly closed book. It’s also hard for me to depend or rely on people so I’d rather do things o my own. I don’t know if it’s something I acquired due to my environment while growing up or just my personality.

    If I’m ever in the space of raising other people’s children or my own I’d want to teach them to talk freely about what makes them sad or happy or ambivalent… And to be trusting to others… Things I’ve always envied in others.

    Thank you for this piece. Now I’m self reflecting.

    1. Hey Angie 😃

      Thank you for sharing your experience 😊

      That you are aware of this, and are consciously thinking of making a difference especially in the next generation, espouses hope and significant progress at an individual level😃

      Thank you for making time 😊

      Stay safe.

  7. A.B.Osogo, this post has put into words what I have been observing for several years in my own family. Unfortunately, the negative is happening though.

    Do you like babysitting your sibling’s children?

    1. Hey Jolly 😃

      Happy to put into words what we’ve been observing for a while!

      We have the opportunity to right that wrong. This period is that opportunity.

      I love spending time with these beautiful creatures. It’s refreshing to be around people with genuine emotions, a hunger for love and laughter and unmitigated innocence 😍

  8. What a meaningful conversation in these comments. 🙂 As I grew up, I was rarely listened to by my parents. In turn, I do my best to listen to our child. I want them to feel heard and loved.

  9. My family doesn’t know how to show love or be kind to each other. I was raised in such an environment where I got anger issues. I am unromantic and don’t know how to love other person. I see the same in nephews/nieces around me. They are just like what me and siblings were while growing up.

    I hate to see the person I have become emotionally and mentally. I wish I could stop the vicious cycle passing onto the younger generation but looks like we can’t. Because they absorb our behaviour and it doesn’t take a single day to change what you have become.

    Probably this is the reason why I don’t want to raise a family. Hoping someday I become better version of self which are worth passing over.

    1. Hey Praveenkr!

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

      That hope remains alive in you is the most encouraging thing. I wish you well on this journey of awareness and intentional change.

      When you get time, you may want to read “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” by Dr. Bruce Perry.

      You shall find some relatable and insightful nuggets there that would prove helpful.

      Thank you for making time 😊.

      Stay safe.

  10. I completely agree. However, we live in strange times. People use modern norms to raise their children thinking they are doing good things for their children. Unfortunately, these very same behaviours destroy the planet and bring competitiveness into our lives – and then children start imitating these destructive behaviours. Strange, strange strange! Have a look at my post on my blog called blogoath on WordPress about caring for children – it covers the same topic as you, but in a different way.
    Thanks for the post

    1. Hey Blogoath!

      I agree. We need to be intentional about changing the narrative.

      I shall check out your post.

      Thank you for making time 😊

  11. That is adorable. Honestly I struggle to be a present and positive parent to my son. I was raised in a dysfunctional home where I was physically abused and emotionally neglected. I have made peace with my parents as an adult but I struggle to be assertive with my son without being passive or aggressive. I wrote about my childhood in my book “Growing up between USA and Lebanon” on Amazon. I believe childhood impacts us a lot and it’s very difficult to break the cycle of abuse but it can be done.

    1. Hey 😃

      Thank you for sharing your story 😊

      Awareness, is an indispensable element in pursuit of healing. Hang in there!

      I am so excited you have a book out!

      I shall look it up.

      Thank you for making time 😊

      Stay safe.

  12. This is a great piece. We can learn so much from children, almost as much, if not more, than they can learn from us.

    I hope to pass on a curiosity about the world. A desire to learn by communicating effectively and constructively with those around them.

    But the one thing I hope to show and see shadowed, is sharing kindness with the world, with family and friends, and strangers – also known as friends we haven’t met yet. 😊

    1. Hey Hamish 😃

      “A curiosity about the world.”

      That’s the way to go 👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿

      Thank you for making time 😊

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