15 April 2010

you're doing a great job!

I think I said I don't read parenting books.

Okay so I read this one.

Ayano brought it home for me from the library and I have to say I really like it. I think everyone should read it.

It doesn't make you feel like you're doing anything wrong, it doesn't provide some proscription for miraculously becoming a better, more effective parent overnight. It simply holds up a mirror to what you may or may not currently be doing, to the goals you may or may not have for yourself, your child, and your relationship with your child, and it presents another (as in, "in addition" not "instead of") way of doing things. You're not a bad person or a bad mom/dad. You're doing the best you can with the information you have. And it's okay to do it differently. It doesn't make you a hippie or a pushover, your children will not grow up to manipulate you or join the Moonies. He actually discusses how overpraised children are, and how the saturation of directionless praise (like all of the "good job!"s we smother them with) is more confusing and counterproductive than it is an actual self-esteem booster. Anyone can see parents and children in isolated incidents and pass some judgment on them about how "If I was that kid's mom, I would do ___ in that situation." The fact is, you don't know.

That said, I am appalled in my day-to-day life at the level to which parents have completely paralyzed their children when it comes to independence and decision-making. The first-hand experience I have with this recently has been twofold: first with my students at BU, second with the young people I am working with in the Operation Frontline cooking class I'm teaching. My students at BU, both current and prospective, cannot make decisions for themselves. Many of them, anyway. Most of them. One student admitted to me (she's a senior, gainfully employed upon graduation) that her mother never permitted her to make her own decisions and neither did her teachers, so when she got to college and we expected her to choose her classes or her major or a sector for an internship, she couldn't. Could not. It's not a generalization to say that: many students are here doing exactly what their parents are telling them to do, not just in general (management) but in specific (taking a specific science course in the fall); they are terrified (terrified!) to make a "mistake" or "fail" because this could jeopardize their chances of getting a "good" job, because their choices might not look "good." I always ask them "look good to whom?"

This is nothing new, unfortunately, and they keep getting younger and younger. There is an article in today's Globe about Frankenstudents. It is not a phenomenon, it's becoming all too common. It still phases me, because I wonder what these people will be like as adults. Still cripplingly dependent on their parents? Still terrified to decide?

An offshoot of that is parents not permitting their children to do anything alone or for themselves. Yesterday in our cooking class the children were learning to cut vegetables. Aside from a couple of 10-year olds pointing across the table with their knives, they were perfectly safe cutting their mushrooms and tomatoes. I could not count the times, however, that I witnessed someone's mother (in this case) taking the knife and the vegetable away from the child to do the job either faster or the "right" way. You're standing right next to him. Let the kid cut. Talk him through it.

Let the kid walk one block down the street in his own neighborhood. Two, even. There is a Free Range Kids movement, maybe you've heard of it. How are they going to learn how to get anywhere, how are they going to learn responsibility, if they're not given some from time to time? Please do everyone a favor and LOOSEN THE GRIP. At least a little! It might make you uncomfortable! If you're a good parent it's supposed to. There is a huge gap between letting your children be themselves while you're paying attention and neglect. You're not letting them flounder and suffer. You're teaching them how to make their way and be responsible, intellectually curious, capable adults.

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Marianna, Kahlil's Sister


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jhopfabQ6o

  2. Nice babe. Glad to be on a team with you as my partner. Ashe. Give thanks, I love yuh