Is there a typical childhood? 

While there are typical childhood experiences, there are infinite variations in human experience.  A child is born, learns to crawl, then walk, then play and so on.  Every, single thing is a learning experience for a long, long time.  Mom and dad do typical mom and dad things: hold, scold, feed, play, bathe, getweary, lose their patience, hold again.  Parents learn too, but mostly they are reacting to their child in their idiosyncratic way.  Parents are the parents they learned to be during their own upbringings.

The parent-child interaction is like a point of intersection between two spheres. You see, where the parent touches the child is just one small part of all that makes up this parent.  There’s a whole lot more (what the parent brings to the interaction) behind this point of connection.

The child too brings to the interaction her temperament from birth which can include tactile sensitivities, other “built-in” reactions to sensory input (for example, sensitivity to sounds), her preferred level of activity (is she calm or squirmy?), hispredisposition to seek out interaction with others.  These are a few of many possible examples of what a newborn may add to the environment in which the parent/child interaction occurs.  We can learn more about both people from this small point of interaction.

father-baby.phpAt the point of contact, the moment when the parent is changing a diaper or when the toddler tugs on mom’s skirt, there are many ways this could go: engaging, playful, perfunctory, businesslike, teasing, patient, expectant, fussyOver thousand of interactions a child learns how to be.  This is what is normal.  This becomes her template for future interactions with others.  This becomes what seems reasonable to expect.

Now, imagine two adults coming together, both expecting their “normal.”  It is as if they are speaking different languages.  And this is what can lead to conflict in relationships.  Perspective comes when you can understand that your normal may be incomprehensible to your partner.