In Bulgaria, every child of my generation had to go to kindergarten after turning three years – the law required mothers to work. My mother could not disobey. She worked far from home and traveled by public transport. This meant I spent 8-9 hours in kindergarten every week-day
I was often sick as a toddler and this meant I went to be looked after by my grandma in the village which was – by far – the place I preferred to be. I was very close to my grandma and she was my main source of unconditional love and encouragement. She was always busy wth house-keeping and working in the garden but I was her little helper.
After kindergarten I went to school and during those years I carried the key for our apartment on a string around my neck. This was followed by university in Sofia which is a very long way from my native Ruse. It’s difficult to imagine but – in a very real sense – I grew up separated from my parents on the basis of social norms.
Today, kindergarten and school continaue to be regarded as places where children spend the day while we work.
We may occasionally help with difficult homework and we encourage our children to take music lessons or tuition in a foreign language. Maybe sport. We hope that our teenagers will go to university and gain a diploma to help get a good job. Education is very much a formal process guided by specialists and we tend not to get involved.
But when does the family come together? In the evenings when mums and dads are tired and irritable? During holidays when mums and dads recharge their batteries? I think the forced atomization of families is an issue that needs to be taken very seriously.
Probably the largest issue that EQ faces is the separation of the worlds of childhood and adulthood and the significant wedge that the practical rigours of adult life drive between parents and their children. When family bonds are weak and family members scattered, the equilibrium is far too easily jeopardized by loss of income or health issues.
I was lucky. I had grandma.