The animal kingdom is a curiosity and for most, regarding relationships between off spring and parents… these beasts, both domestic and wild, are often enchanting to watch. I say enchanting not to affirm these bonds are always sweet and tender, but with the notion that they are captivating. And as we contemplate these relationships, it is equally curious to acknowledge how the elders know what to do with their off-spring. After all, they have no self- help books, no pediatrician to call when their baby koala comes down with a fever … so what is it that allows such animals the wisdom to care for their brood? Some say it is instinct, a trait that they are born with…thus passing down the knowledge from generation to generation … a sort of watch me and learn method…
And as humans, we like to personify these animals making some species seemingly more like us in their delivery of affection. A mother lion is known to be quite protective of her cubs, while the male secures the territory; a mother bear too will fight to defend her children, but like many other parents, she is strict disciplinarian, holding back the soft touch so that these cubs learn to survive in the harsh world without her. The father penguin is the modern day stay- at- home dad, taking on egg-sitting duties for weeks while the mother heads out to sea to hunt fish for her soon-to-hatch offspring.
But not all the parents of the animal kingdoms take on the devotional attributes at first blush; to our dismay that sweet little rabbit we all find so cute is actually an “absentee mother” leaving the baby bunnies right after birth and only returning for a few minutes to feed them in the first twenty -five days. And though we are ready to call in the authorities, in her defense she does not want her “tasty children” to be found by predators and so to keep these fiends at bay she stays away; not calling attention to her new family and allowing the secrecy of the burrow to remain intact.
And tough as the Black Eagle mom is portrayed by not intervening during sibling fights that are often to the death…she is really planning for the bigger picture…protecting the species by shielding and conserving the limited food source for the heartiest offspring.
So it seems that the upbringing rituals in the animal kingdoms have remained the same even though the physical world, their habitats, have been defaced by a myriad of reasons; thus making us wonder if their instincts, theses inborn pattern of behaviors, will slowly evolve and their method of ‘child-rearing’ will change too.
We humans are not driven by those instinctive, automatic, irresistible, and unmodifiable actions … but rather we are motivationally driven, able to overcome situations and change willfully. Child rearing is a behavior that is as different in ideals as from neighbor to neighbor. And while the centuries have slipped by, so have the philosophy of generations of parent- child relationships taken twists and turns, summoning societal and individual retrospection.
Allow me now to turn our attention to the introduction of a most esteemed thinker: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902); writer, political reformer, and courageous 19th century woman. Born in Johnston, New York, she worked tirelessly throughout her life for the emancipation of slavery and the rights of women. During the American Civil War Stanton and her friend Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) created the National Woman’s Loyal League to build support for what became the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery in the United States. Once the slaves were free, Stanton and Anthony worked to ensure that women would be given the vote along with former male slaves.
I now give you the words of one of the most prominent suffragette’s and feminist in American history; from her book, Eighty Years or More, here is a parcel of thoughts from Elizabeth Cady Stanton….
“The psychical growth of a child is not influenced by days and years, but by the impressions passing events make on its mind. What may prove a sudden awakening to one, giving an impulse in a certain direction that may last for years, may make no impression on another. People wonder why the children of the same family differ so widely, though they have had the same domestic discipline, the same school and church teaching, and have grown up under the same influences and with the same environments. As well wonder why lilies and lilacs in the same latitude are not all alike in color and equally fragrant. Children differ as widely as these in the primal elements of their physical and psychical life.
Who can estimate the power of antenatal influences, or the child’s surroundings in its earliest years, the effect of some passing word or sight on one, that makes no impression on another? The unhappiness of one child under a certain home discipline is not inconsistent with the content of another under this same discipline. One, yearning for broader freedom, is in a chronic condition of rebellion; the other, more easily satisfied, quietly accepts the situation. Everything is seen from a different standpoint; everything takes its color from the mind of the beholder…”