I noticed on the previous post that little fires of wisdom and experience popped up as soon as a question was posed about childrearing. Today I read a great article in the New Yorker called “The Child Trap: The Rise of Overparenting” (I’ll include a link at the end). In addition to her deft dispatch of the cultural implications of one current parenting style, Joan Acocella offers a summary of the new books on the subject. I highly recommend the article.
Heaven knows I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past 24 years thinking about how one goes about rearing an infant, a toddler . . . all the way up to that beloved 24-year-old. I’ve only come to a few definite conclusions:
- If you make a plan for being a mother or father before you’re face to face with an actual human being, um. Well. Good luck with that.
- What works brilliantly with one child will most certainly not with another.
- Play every moment by ear. Allow yourself to be inspired by a guiding spirit greater than your own ego or your own needs. Reinvent yourself, if necessary.
- There can only be one adult in an exchange between you and your child, and if it’s not you, um. Good luck with that.
- They’ve got enough stuff.
- Good outside and play. As Delonda said, “I’m going to take a nap. If you need me, try not to need me.”
- Never, ever do their homework for them. My guess is that you already passed the third grade once.
- Never, ever do their homework for them. Never complete any task that reasonably, ethically, fundamentally or otherwise is theirs to complete, or there are years and a world of hurt ahead.
- Empathize, empathize, empathize. If you find yourself repeating some trope shouted at you in your past, you’re probably doing it wrong.
- Just ask them. It’s really easy. If you’re scared, I’ll give you some handy examples:
Why are you sad?
Why do you think my decision is unfair?
What are you eating?
No, it isn’t food, it doesn’t even LOOK LIKE food.
Where is the rest of your hair?
If that’s a hickey on your neck, you’re going to see the walls come down around you, child.
Why are your feelings hurt?
Tell me who you would like me to kill.
Have you been smoking cigarettes?
Have I told you what my dad did when he caught my brother smoking?
Oh ho! Yes, you CAN be forced to eat them.
I gave you life, I can take it back.
- Allowing them to play on the dirty floor is cheaper in the long run than asthma.
- Your children were not born to solve your problems, fulfill your ambitions, make you happy, love you unconditionally, behave as you would wish, share your opinions, love your God, or dance to your tune. Of this I’m certain. You’re brilliant people – you know why those children are here. By the same token, you do not owe them a shuttle service, an ATM card in your name, or endless patience if they are acting the fool. You owe them your deep and abiding interest. Pretend every dialogue is holy. Vegetables and shoes are necessary; everything else is a bonus. Encourage reading – it’s quiet.
Now I’d really love to hear from you.