Last week Ariel sent me a link to Lori Gottlieb’s recent piece from The Atlantic: How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. I immediately clicked over — of course I want (my two-year-old son) Jasper to avoid therapy! I want him to be happy, happy forever and ever, happy into oblivion… doing the things I want him to do. After all, he’s my kid, my friend, “my little masterpiece,” a representative of me… right?
… Underlying all this parental angst is the hopeful belief that if we just make the right choices, that if we just do things a certain way, our kids will turn out to be not just happy adults, but adults that make us happy. This is a misguided notion, because while nurture certainly matters, it doesn’t completely trump nature, and different kinds of nurture work for different kinds of kids (which explains why siblings can have very different experiences of their childhoods under the same roof). We can expose our kids to art, but we can’t teach them creativity. We can try to protect them from nasty classmates and bad grades and all kinds of rejection and their own limitations, but eventually they will bump up against these things anyway. In fact, by trying so hard to provide the perfectly happy childhood, we’re just making it harder for our kids to actually grow up. Maybe we parents are the ones who have some growing up to do — and some letting go.
To be totally blunt, I absolutely fucking love this piece of journalism. The behavior of the parents described in it mirror things I’ve both seen and that I’ve done — catching my child right after he falls? Yep. Watching with eagle eyes while a kid acts like he’s about to snatch my kid’s favorite train from him? Totally guilty.
I’m not saying that this behavior is something to avoid or abhor, but that perhaps we, as parents, need to take it back a step or two. The point of the article seems to be something like this: is your kid really blowing your mind every single time he strums his toy guitar — especially when he strums it more or less in the same way as he always does? Probably not, and it’s ok to not react as if he is. Let your kid fall down and figure out what happened. Watch as another child takes a toy and see how your kid reacts before stepping in. In short, let your child learn how to interact with other people and cope with stress from actually experiencing it, and not by creating a sugar-coated fairy-tale land in which everything he or she does is always the best, and he or she is always right.
What do you guys think — is this piece on target or way off?