Step 1 of 10. Newborns' cries tell people they have needs. They will soon know words and be able to identify and ask for what they need or want.
Step 2 of 10. Kid's brains are developing and by about two they use the word "No" to say they are becoming individuals. It's much like voting.
Step 3 of 10. Three year olds ask questions. Endlessly, it may seem. Informed, they become more powerful.
Step 4 of 10. Five year olds want rights no one has given them, saying they want to button their own coats or tie their own shoes. With new abilities, they become more powerful.
Enough mystery. I was eleven when a baby sister started these steps. Three years later a baby brother started them. Ma and Pa Nature put the two on this path and as their brains developed they made democracy where they were. Decades passed and I was up my ears in politics before I realized what they were doing.
No one knows when early humans stopped obeying the alpha males in their tribes and started making decisions in groups. It was millennia ago and their only model was what children and young people did.
The ancient Sumerians did it. The alpha males in their city-states went to councils and asked permission to go to war. The councils sometimes refused the alpha males' requests.
In another thusand years the ancient Greeks did it and made decisions their armies obeyed. The ancient Persians did it, and to avoid groupthink they got drunk and and reconsidered what they had decided.
Step 5 of 10. Six year olds have begun negotiating with their friends for what they want.
Step 6 0f 10. Seven year olds have begun making agreements on what they will or won't allow in their relationships.
I didn't know the depths to which a seven-year-old brother would go. At 21 I came home from the Navy with a jar of coins from the countries I'd been to. I right away started in the nearby two-year college and one night he found the coins. He came to me and asked about them. I was studying for an exam and told him to stop bothering me. He stopped only when I told him, "Don't bother me for a year you can have them!" He left and I forgot.
Step 7 of 10. Eight year olds insist that their friends do what they’d agreed to do. My brother insisted that I keep my promise to give him the coins and was not in a mood to renegotiate.
Step 8 of 10. What preteens do as they learn their abilities may frighten their parents, who might set limits the kids won’t like. Kids who protest with “But my friends are all doing it!” may seem to be gathering allies for a vote. It’s democracy. Will their parents cave without a vote? Will they say “Your friends don’t live here and may not vote here? Will they negotiate the limits?
I found #1 - #8. Is there a #9 and #10?
Yes; here's #9.
Step 9 of 10. Caution, a metaphor follows.
Pretend for a moment there are but two people, in their teens or older, and one of them either lacks interest or wants some dialog.
"Not tonight. I have a headache", or a 'member' is not cooperating.
This is the motion to table the business at hand. Later, with a motion to take from the table, they can resume deliberations.
Tom, thanks for #9; is there a #10?
My parents didn’t do democracy but my much younger brother’s part in the above Step 8 illustrated the point of order well so I put him in the story. After my wife and I divorced I joined and became active in a large singles club. In a few weeks at a party I saw a woman who was also active in the club. Her smile attracted my attention. We talked and I remained interested. She told me of her four children and their family council meetings.
I knew she was checking my attitude toward children. I had years earlier resolved that I would have no children but left open the option that I might marry a woman with children. Their family council stirred my interest and I passed her test.
Don't keep us dangling; how did the relationship turn out?
Joan, I'm wanting to tell how the relationship turned out but you haven't told me you're okay with our not having been two blank slates.
I am itching to know so don't leave me dangling either....
Thank you, Thomas.
In Phoenix, Ruth tells me how her children, two boys 7 and 11 and two girls 9 and 13, recently raised their weekly allowances. They agreed to do more chores and settled on a 20-cent raise (that’s 1972 money) for the three oldest and a 10-cent raise for the youngest. She chuckles as she tells me their reason for giving him less. "They told him he's not finishing his work, but he’s a good kid and should get something."
"Do they ever get tired and want to quit?"
"When they get restless we do something else for a while. When I ask if they want me to make the decision they usually come back."
"Do you go along with everything they decide?"
"I veto a decision now and then but always tell them my reason."
I like what she and her children are doing. At 42 I’m learning that families don’t have to be occasionally violent tyrannies.
Maybe two years earlier, before my wife and I divorced, I had thought back to when my brother and I were little and wondered why my dad hadn't just talked with us and told us the behavior he wanted. He hadn't; he'd taken off his leather belt and used it. I grew up fearing him, until the day I saw hair growing on my body where it hadn't grown before. I knew I was becoming a man and suddenly wanted to fight my dad and beat him up. But he was playing basketball and was stronger and faster than me. I decided to not start a fight.
In Phoenix, the weather in the mountains north of the city warms and I ask Ruth to go camping. She says okay and the next time the children go to their father for a weekend, she and I set out in my camper van for a weekend in the wild.
Several weeks later I spend Saturday night at her house and the next morning have breakfast with her and the children. The children finish and leave to do what they do on Sunday mornings. Ruth surprises me; she tells me that if the children had objected I wouldn’t have stayed the night.
I’m amazed. Most pleasantly so. I want these people in my life.
[more in a few hours.]
Circumstances require me to greatly shorten my account of how the relationship turned out.
Five months after Ruth and I met, I joined a political campaign to stop the building of a system of canals and dams that would destroy a recreation area I used. Urban taxpayers like myself would pay for the canals and dams; a few landowning old families would sell their land at prices far higher than its value without the canals and dams.
The politicians who in effect told me to shut up and pay my taxes stirred memories of my dad's using a leather belt to silence me. My anger surfaced and I became hyper-active in the campaign.
Ruth told me I wasn't with her and her children enough. She was right.
There are two truisms in the lives of people who have ended marriages. They go as follows:
1) If you get involved with someone else too soon, he/she will be much like your former spouse.
2) No one else can make you happy; it's something only you can do.
I had met Ruth six weeks after my wife and I separated and three weeks after our divorce became final. Ruth had been single about three weeks longer.
We parted without drama but both remained active in the singles club. She eventually met another man and left the club. I quit my job and moved to San Francisco intending to go to law school or become a commercial property realtor. I retired instead. I learned later that my efforts and those of many others stopped the part of the project we had opposed. In short, we won.
Ruth and her children and their family council changed my life for the better. Now, 45 years later, I still occasionally think of them and hope they are happy.