My sister Becky is a developmental psychologist and a college teacher in Arizona. Wendy and I Skyped with her class of young adults last week. We stacked our family on our couch with laptop on our cedar chest, and Becky with her laptop and classroom of Psych 101 students. The Jeubs were ready to answer questions, prepared to be “psychoanalyzed” by her class.
The purpose of the questioning was to ask us (parents of children in every age group at the same time) about developmental stages and challenges. They were honest questions from people very unfamiliar with families like ours. There was an interesting thread of curiosity in most of the questions that struck me as peculiar. These aren’t verbatim, but here is how many of the questions were posed:
- How do you encourage individuality in such a large family?
- How do you make sure everyone’s individuality is respected?
- Do you allow the kids to be individuals (via dating, socializing, activities, etc.)?
I found it interesting how everyone was so concerned about “individuality,” as if individuality was threatened in a large family. We talked about how our social networks are strong, that we travel the country, how we don’t know many big families who would fit the stereotype they thought we might fit, one whose children are threatened by a lack of “individuality.”
Why the great concern over “individuality”?
Not that an individual isn’t important, we just don’t have to squeeze it out of our kids. My goodness, their is so much personality in every one of them that we can barely stand it sometimes. And their personalities build on one another, they are encouraged by one another, they are loved and respected and encouraged to express their “individuality.” It’s just one of those natural things in a large family.
Perhaps a better question: Does a large family deter “individuality”?
Isn’t this what they were asking? Presuming? They were concerned that growing up in a large family — other “individuals” all over the place — that a child would seldom have time to develop their personality. The child would, as they saw it, never have the opportunity to be alone, to discover himself or herself, never be separated from others in order to develop their “individuality.”
Boy, what a contrast between two worlds, two extremes. (1) Smaller is better, gives “individuals” more time to themselves, builds better “individuality” and self-esteem and love for self. (2) Bigger is better, forces “individuals” to relate to others, builds family and relationships and love for others.
Perhaps I’m analyzing this too much. It was very interesting. By the end of the class, we were psychoanalyzing them.