The Amish love and welcome babies; each child is considered a gift from God. Most are born at home, delivered by a midwife, and fit easily and naturally into the established rhythm of family life. Girls and boys are equally desired and cherished, and until a child begins to walk, they are difficult to tell apart because both sexes are dressed alike in long loose gowns and close-fitting infant caps.
Amish infants are fed when they are hungry, cuddled when they cry, are constantly watched over, and rarely corrected, even if they get into mischief. While the Amish don’t have health insurance, infants receive regular immunizations and modern medical care. Babies remain close to their mothers at all times, accompanying her to meals, to worship, visiting neighbors, and on errands in the English world. Although fathers don’t spend as many hours a day with a baby, he is considered vital to the child’s well-being. It isn’t unusual to see a dat holding or cuddling an infant while visiting friends or shopping at the local Amish market.
Amish parents shelter young children from the outside world. Deitsch is spoken in the home, and most children don’t learn English until they enter school. A big sister or brother, even one just a year older, is expected to treat baby with kindness and patience, and that means handing the favorite toy over to the youngest without a fuss.
Once a child begins to walk, he or she graduates from infant gowns into clothing identical to that of Amish adults. Now, instruction of Amish children begins in earnest. Parents believe that children learn by imitation, and one sees toddlers engaged in activities that would turn a non-Amish observer’s hair white. Two-year-olds take regular part in family chores such as carrying wood for the kitchen stove and gathering eggs from the henhouse. No one worries over a broken egg or a trail of sawdust across the kitchen floor. Preschoolers stand on chairs to wash dishes and help to set the table. They play in and out of the house in all weather, scrambling beneath the feet of livestock, climbing ladders to haylofts, and learning to use hammers and hatchets with only minimal supervision. School begins at the age of six or seven, but that’s a subject left for another day!
Emma Miller lives quietly in her old farmhouse in rural Delaware amid fertile fields and lush woodlands. Fortunate enough to be born into a family of strong faith, she grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by loving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Emma was educated in local schools, and once taught in an Amish schoolhouse.
When she’s not caring for her large family, reading and writing are her favorite pastimes. She’s the author of the Hannah’s Daughter’s series and The Amish Matchmaker series, which includes her latest release, A Match for Addy.
Connect with Emma: Facebook