Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

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mathiverse
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Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by mathiverse »

In order not to derail the ERE Wheaton thread, I created this thread to ask about the following comment (bold added by me).
Frita wrote:
Mon Mar 29, 2021 10:41 am
What about those of us who were raised by alternative adults? I grew up on a farm, eating what we raised (veg, fruit, minimal animal products, no grains) and harvested protein (game and fish), fixing everything, wearing/using mostly used items, lots of outdoor time/activity, no TV, lots of library books, saved most of our earned income. We owned everything, purchased in cash. My dad was raised this way too. So many things people think are weird, I considered normal from a young age. Of course, there are some other challenges with that and then how to raise one’s own children (perhaps more later).
I am someone who plans to have kids and raise them as an alternative adult. Would you be willing to elaborate on what challenges you saw being raised this way?

I'm also curious about the experiences/thoughts of other people who were raised by alternative adults or have already raised children as an alternative adult. What pitfalls did you see? How could you or your parents have done better? What was good? What was bad? Or answer a question I didn't ask, but that you think is pertinent.

ertyu
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by ertyu »

This arises every time a child grew up in one culture but needs to adapt to another, mainstream one. It happened to me as someone from eastern europe who went on to study in the west. It happens to immigrant kids whose household functions in one language/according to one set of social rules, but who need to go to mainstream school in their host country. It happens to homeschooled kids. It happens to Amish who choose to leave. It's all a variation on the same theme.

The main pitfall imo is to focus only on your alternative lifestyle and disregard the skills your child needs in order to function in mainstream environments. A further pitfall is to aim to breed intolerance or scorn for those who live in mainstream ways. Both of these would be isolating for a child and would limit the choices they have available. Ideally, you want to expand the choices that your child has. You want them to know how to plant tomatoes but not to the exclusion of being able to function in an office if that's what they decide they need to do. You want them to be tolerant of all sorts of people and lifestyles rather than enter the world with an attitude of scorning all "infidels" and isolating themselves. You want them to be able to come to you with problems - if your kid comes to you and says, "how do I make friends with the other kids" and you tell them, "well those people suck, you shouldn't want to be friends with them anyway" you failed to solve your kids problem and your kid will now know that coming to you will result in lack of validation and lack of help, so they will try to solve their problems in secret. This will leave them vulnerable to others. Ditto if you are the sort of person who habitually expresses negative opinions about "wastrels" etc - when your kid wants a PS-whatever, they aren't likely to come to you for advice on how to save up to get it if they know you think that wanting to have one makes them like all those people you disapprove of.

In short, the answer to how to raise a healthy child in alternative conditions is, "teach both."

7Wannabe5
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I didn’t raise my kids in extremely alternative lifestyle, but one odd thing I’ve noted is that my kids sometimes assign me the role of more culturally conventional adult against all evidence. For example, one of my kids might hesitate to tell me that he wants to drop out of grad school to go backpacking for a year, because a parent is stereotypically likely to caution against such behavior, even though I offered him the option to be homeschooled as a child.

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Sclass
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by Sclass »

I was trying to figure out what alternative adult means. There are so many ways to live. I like how @ertyu describes it as outside the mainstream. There are a lot of lifestyles that are outliers.

My folks were outliers. I didn’t copy their lifestyle but I took a few aspects with me. Frugality and efficiency being the top two. An appreciation of knowledge. They were the kind of bohemian intellectuals you find slumming in college towns...forever. You know the people who never outgrow the university and settle there becoming faculty staff because they like the people and place so much. Weirdos in other words.

Acceptance is bought with intellectual content rather than money alone. The invitation to the party is open to those with something interesting to talk about.

The good thing is we were surrounded by people who believed money isn’t the only currency. They valued the power of the mind. It was good.

I don’t live by that system. That was my parents thing. I actually dislike university communities and the adults that insist on living in them forever. But the behavior and personality left its impression on me.

Frita
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by Frita »

Part of being a child is one’s family being the whole universe. As a preadolescent, one wants to differentiate and individualize (while fitting in). During the early teen years, one wants to peer norm more. In later teen years, one transitions to norming to one’s culture. And as we’ve discussed on other threads, often one just treads water here but other possibilities exist. ;) Then there is the big factor of temperament and personality!

Also, dovetailing on what @ertyu wrote, there are layers of microcultures to navigate. This includes the heritage of parents and other close relatives, ethnicities, organization communities, the town, the state, the region, the country, pre-geopolitical boundaries, etc. One’s attachment type certainly comes into play here. It’s not as simple as teaching two cultures, rather raising awareness of and discussing different cultures. There is never an absence of cultures to learn. We approach it has him also teaching us about subcultures and sometimes learning together as a family.

Some general thoughts about my upbringing:
• I internalized that working is fun, being responsible matters, and confidence to be my own person.
• My palate was set to not liking sweet things and preferring natural foods. I never liked meat much but carbs are a different story.
• My set pattern with approaching a challenge was to think what could I do differently, how can I alter/make what I need. Buying something as a solution was not internalized.
• Other people, especially in school, we’re not used to independent-minded kids. That created some clash. It wasn’t much of an issue with other kids though. Peering is harder the older I get. Even as an adult, I feel it because I won’t go along to get along on principle. Do I understand the game? F-ya. Do I play? Hell, no.
• I am very direct and get along better with men.
• Saving, being frugal, and mindful of resources were not skills I had to learn.
• I have basic homesteading skills.
• Walking and biking for transport are fun.
• I would never want to be tied down with such a lifestyle again, though I’d like some goats and a less expensive source of water to grow more veg (if someone else outside of my family could care for them).

Teentime: When I was a pre-teen, I babysat and earned money. I did buy some makeup, clothes, a Walkman, etc. And I was so boy crazy, alternating between having a following of suitors attracted to the outside package (jock DBs, and later frat boys, seemed to like me the most...ugh) and obsessing about a long term boyfriend DB.

College: full-ride + (Academic, my family had plenty of money. I had no real idea until my mid-20s.) I saved a lot but tried to budget some for fun purchases. After I got my own backpacking gear, I realized I just didn’t need much more. My option was to lower my budget or blow it on shit. Unlike many others, I ate really great food from the health food store. I usually worked a job but would travel in the summer. I spent 3 years in the dorms, 1/2 year in an apartment, 1/2 year with roommates, and then married in the married student housing ghetto for several years.

Marriage: My spouse’s culture is more working class to white trash. (Some nephews have escaped via college job training to jump on the careerism-materialism treadmill.) He has struggled with materialism more and has always been behind me a bit. He knows how to fix many things and hunt/fish/home brew etc., likes sugar and processed foods, and views savvy spending as a more viable second-attempt solution. It can create some conflict at times. We both compromise. I suspect many long-term unions work this way.

Raising kids: Our son has my independence and his dad’s love of sugar. As a teen; buying some electronics, junk food/candy, clothes, and fancy toiletries are on his radar. He will bargain and thrift shop but has no issues with treating himself. He has a job and saves 90% of his check. (His share of tips, several bucks per shift, are his mad money.) He takes AP, has a 4.0, and is involved with school activities. We do not micromanage. (He’s been using an alarm clock since kindergarten. We stopped monitoring grades around tied grade.) He is outspoken, has a value-system, and understands/plays the game. We spent a lot of time with him and discussed everything starting from a young age. This is so important. Now he spends more time with friends but always eats dinner with us at 6 PM, when we catch up. On the surface, it looks like we’re middle-class people who don’t work. Behind the scenes our life is much different. We talk about how his friends are raised. He expresses how micromanaging things like grades and just giving large amounts of money is handicapping. Gradual release of responsibility, based on specific kid, is important. (Note that he has some basic domestic skills but not all the homesteading stuff.)

Funny story related to him and no insurance: He told me that we could probably have any hospital bills written off. I explained that we are self-insured due to high ACA prices and not wanting to work at shit-job just for insurance, not because we’re in a non-Medicaid state. He wouldn’t understand living on so little at this point as wasting seems a little fun to him.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by Western Red Cedar »

mathiverse wrote:
Mon Mar 29, 2021 11:09 am
I'm also curious about the experiences/thoughts of other people who were raised by alternative adults or have already raised children as an alternative adult. What pitfalls did you see? How could you or your parents have done better? What was good? What was bad? Or answer a question I didn't ask, but that you think is pertinent.
Good topic. I think I qualify as someone raised by "alternative adults" as I was born and raised in a log cabin that my dad built from trees on the land over the course of a spring/summer. They were "back to the land" hippie types and moved there with a strong dose of idealism and self-reliance. I am the youngest in the family and my siblings experience and memories are different than mine. We moved to a city after they lived there for about 17 years, but I was only eight.

In hindsight, the experience was overwhelmingly positive and it likely benefited us all as children. We're all successful in our relationships and professions (for those of us still working), and have a deep love and respect for nature. We are all also naturally frugal, and probably the more frugal partners.

I'm closest in age to my brother, and I know my sisters had completely different experiences. In terms of the positives, my brother and I would have acres of forest to run through and play in every day. We grew up in a toxic-free environment, drinking well water from a fresh spring and eating lots of fresh, locally grown vegetables. The limited amount of meat we ate was typically bartered from local farmers for my dads labor. We also had neighbors within a 15-20 minute walk on adjacent properties who we played with and had strong friendships. There are loads of other positives, but I'll leave it there.

The major negative was that we were living pretty close to the poverty line for 15 years. That caused strain in my parents relationship and the stress could reverberate through the family. My dad was highly sufficient and probably at a WL 7+ for many of those years, but life is hard when you have no reliable income and are trying to raise a family. Deer hop the fence and eat your garden vegetables, vehicles break down, kids have accidents and need to see a doctor, etc... I think my parents had to barter for medical service at one point, which was probably closer to medical charity.

Perhaps the best gift they gave us was an amazing education. They are both avid readers, and we would all regularly sit in a room reading our own books. They raised me on PBS and an eclectic record collection of my dads. We went to public school, and learned how to operate in a social environment there. I think that is really important. We all went to college, and a couple of us have Masters degrees.

I think my parents did the best they could at the time. We are all drawn to the land, and grandkids love to hear stories about their parents growing up there. My upbringing provides me with a strong sense of self and a really interesting "story" for the first chapters of my life.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by Western Red Cedar »

The film Captain Fantastic touches on a lot of these issues. I'd highly recommend it for anyone on the ERE boards - very funny and unique. Not really reflective of my experience, but it certainly resonates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1kH4OMIOMc

AxelHeyst
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by AxelHeyst »

+1 Captain Fantastic.
Western Red Cedar wrote:
Wed Mar 31, 2021 8:41 pm
...we would all regularly sit in a room reading our own books.
Heh, same. Sort of related, early on in my first "real" relationship, in college, I spent the night with my new girlfriend. We were in bed, just hanging out, the conversation kinda petered off, it was close to "go to sleep" time, so I just pulled my book out and started reading, like I'd done every single night since I learned to read. She burst into tears. Haha I was so clueless, but also I consider that my first red flag (which I ignored, of course).

My brother and I were homeschooled k-12. When I was 13, we moved to a chunk of desert 2.5 valleys over from Death Valley and started developing it. We lived in a fifth wheel for a year (traveled around the US for 4 months of that). We weren't homesteaders, no garden or animals, just lived out there. I was raised evangelical Creationist (aka the Bible is literally true, all of it, the world is 6,000yo, et cetera), and moved away from Christianity in my late teens. My parents are awesome, they aren't nutso fundies, they just happened to be in to a literal interpretation of the bible back then.

Positives of my alt. upbringing:
Reading is about as natural as breathing.
I don't let lack of a teacher get in the way of learning whatever I want.
I left high school knowing how to do some useful things like change oil, frame a house, buck hay, work hard, and not complain about stuff.
I learned what it's like to go from being 100% certain I Knew The Truth, to being 100% certain that my certainty was completely misplaced. My experience of the bottom falling out of my entire worldview was pretty foundational, and I'm able to have some level of sympathy/compassion/understanding for people who think crazy things, particularly if they were born in to it. I'm also able, if I think it's my place to do so, to have a conversation with those sorts of folks, meet them where they're at, and possibly have a productive conversation. At least we won't end up yelling at each other.

Negatives:
I left high school pretty socially inept, mostly with respect to peers. I was comfortable around "adults" - people older than me. My cohort was mostly alien to me. I had to teach myself remedial social skills - luckily I had that "reading" and "you can learn anything you want without a teacher" thing going on, so I was capable of bootstrapping myself out of my low social skills. A few stubborn friends definitely helped though.
The aforementioned worldview implosion was hard. That combined with low social skills made the time from 17yo - 22 yo pretty rough. I wish I'd gotten through it sooner so I could have enjoyed "the college experience" a little more.

Takeaways/If I could give advice to give to my parents when I was born:
Actually, I honestly don't know how they could have done much different with respect to socialization. They enrolled us in varsity sports, we went to youth group twice a week, they did about as much socializing as is reasonable considering we lived so far outside of town.
The biggest thing probably is that we weren't exposed to a variety of different worldviews, we had no exposure to real human diversity. Our town was small, white (I'm white), and christian. I'd never met a real liberal until I got to college, much less a radical. All the people out there who didn't think the way we did were purely theoretical constructs. I didn't know how to interact with them. More effort could have been expended on getting us to have actual real interactions with a diversity of people.

ertyu
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by ertyu »

AxelHeyst wrote:
Wed Mar 31, 2021 9:47 pm

The biggest thing probably is that we weren't exposed to a variety of different worldviews, we had no exposure to real human diversity. ... All the people out there who didn't think the way we did were purely theoretical constructs. I didn't know how to interact with them. More effort could have been expended on getting us to have actual real interactions with a diversity of people.
I shared this as a hurdle I needed to overcome as well, and it was tough. In many ways, still is. Add choices for your kid, do not take choices away, even if you think that by raising them in an insular environment you're helping them "become the right way."

I guess this comes back to, work on being a tolerant person with a wide worldview yourself.

guitarplayer
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by guitarplayer »

I was raised in a pretty conventional household for the local culture, but turned out to be a pretty alternative adult so one lesson is that things can go sideways to what's planned.

Something to keep in mind: IIRC from uni, it is quite an established fact that parents' role in shaping child's outlook on life, attitudes, things like preferring fruit and veggies to junk food or water to soda decreases dramatically around the age of 7 when it is significant adults that take over (Mrs. ... the teacher) and later peer group.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Trivial point, but I think you guys may be overworking nurture vs nature re the love for sugar link. I cooked semi-vegetarian from scratch almost exclusively when my kids were growing up, but because I am a sugar fiend, I also baked lots of cookies, crunchy top muffins, butterscotch puddings etc and like their father neither of my kids are very fond of sweets. In fact, it became a running joke that I was using them as a cover for my own cookie love by the time they were tweens.They both would have preferred more meat. There were some fights when the number of loss leader family pack chicken thighs prepared were not evenly divisible.They’re both very tall and healthy weight as adults, so I think they got enough protein :lol:

I might also mention that during her brief, mild phase of focusing on everything I did wrong, my daughter accused me of not taking her to the doctor often enough. They both also griped that I didn’t pay them enough when they worked for my business, but they both currently use skills they learned working for me. Also, they’re both long past the age of griping and they both think the frugal things I came up with to make their childhoods fun were great because unique.

Frita
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by Frita »

@guitarplayer
I think the parents’ role ends up being what they model eating and foods that are available. Developmentally children start to transition from concrete to abstract thinking around age 9 +/-. Agreed, that once entering school there is an opportunity to learn to please the teacher(s). The system likes to train cogs young.
If self-efficacy isn’t learned at home, it seems even less likely to occur at school.

@7W5
As you point out, people are going to be who they are. (When I was pregnant with the twins, they behaved differently from feeling them move around five month. One was a mover and a shaker 24/7; the other was active only when hungry. The differences continued and increased with age.) At least one the US, it seems common to mold kids into what adults want.

Ha, I think grumbling over parents is a way to self-differentiate and detach. A long-time friend commented that parents teach their offspring until about age 12 and then watch them flounder a bit until age 30 to see what they actually learned. I see some truth in that.

What role does epigenetics play in food preferences and body types?

7Wannabe5
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

My recent reading on epigenetics is that it has been over-hyped, but in a realm as core obvious as diet, it does seem like it could have some effects.

I was also thinking that, as with other things, rejection of parental diet can stick or cycle generationally. My childhood diet was super bland. Typical dinner was steak, baked potato, iceberg salad, and we weren’t allowed to even use ketchup or any condiment besides butter. Neither of my parents were very good cooks, and my mother was constantly on a diet, so sweets were an intermittent treat. At a very young age, my sisters and I would come up with schemes to grub up some money and we would trudge for a couple miles through suburbia to the five and dime to buy candy sold by the pound or spend whole summer afternoons lying in wait on the grass for the ice cream truck and we taught ourselves how to bake from books before we were 10. One of the meanest things I did as a child was to tell my third sister that somebody had given us all giant Hershey bars while she was taking her nap and now they were all gone. She immediately burst into tears.

guitarplayer
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Re: Experiences being raised by alternative adults (or raising children as an alt-adult)

Post by guitarplayer »

Caveat: No children here, all I know is book knowledge only so to be taken with a pinch of salt.

@Frita agreed that before abstract thinking a child will not grasp abstract stuff like values, attitudes etc. but I still think that a parent could model these via their manifestations in the parent's actions. Then explaining reasons for actions would be akin to talking to an infant who is way before speech but grasps periferic aspects of speech like make sound (speak) / don't (listen) and learns these as a foundation. Yup modelling food and other concrete stuff and providing nurturing environment is the way to go.

@7W5 I think more probabilistically rather than causally, trying to make it more likely for the kid eat those veggies. I wouldn't be surprised if there were situations where children demoralise their parents into eating junk food.

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