MEDIEVAL CHILDHOOD

The child was born through the women's ritual of childbirth. Immediately following, the child was prepared for baptism by being washed in warm water or oil, salt, and rose petals. The umbilical cord was tied and its' limbs were straightened. During the actual baptism ceremony, the mother was not present because she was thought of as "unclean" until six weeks after giving birth. If the child was not wanted, it was sometimes drowned or suffocated although the church strongly opposed the practice.

Childhood during the middle ages was a much different from how it is today. Childhood as we know it did not exist. Childhood was recognized as a different stage in a person's life as it is today, although it was only like this because of the many different physical changes that occurred while growing up. Children were often neglected while growing up. Parents left their children at home while they went to work even at very young ages. When children were first born until they were old enough to crawl, they were wrapped tightly with a blanket and left in the cradle. Once they were old enough to crawl, they were tied to the cradle to prevent crawling around the house. Accidental deaths occurred very often. Deaths due to scalding from boiling pots tipping and cradle fires were the most large spread.

Even though there were dangers, parents did love their children. They often sang them lullabies, although they were not the same types of lullabies that are thought of today. They were full of the harsh realities of life. They had two purposes. The Mother had mixed feelings about her child. The first was to express that, and the second was to express the frustration of raising a child that may not reach adulthood. Traditionally, lullabies are supposed to reassure the child, but this was not so in the middle ages. Medieval children first learned of the cruelties of life in the lullabies their mothers sang them as well as the gratitude that the child should feel for the mother.

An example of a childhood lullaby:
"Child, thou art nart a pilgrim byt and uncouth gest
Child, if bitide thou shalt thrive and thee (prosper),
Think thou was a-fostred upon thy modres knee;
Ever have synde in they hetre of tho thynges three-
Wan thou comest, whan thou art, and what shall come of thee"

Although childhood was hard, parents did the best that they could to raise children. They taught them to talk and work. They fed them, and disciplined them the best they could. As they children grew up, the parents arranged marriages, purchased pieces of land, and tried to help them raise their own households and families.