Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seduced by the idealized image

Have you heard of today's "helicopter parents" -- so called because they hover?

I want to call your attention to an article in Slate Magazine about a subject that concerns me very much. The title of the article is Modern Parenting and here's the subtitle:

"If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable?"

I'm not really worried about them being unbearable as much as I'm concerned that they will end up too fragile to cope with ordinary life.

Take a look:

You know the child I am talking about: precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs, from, in short, the everyday banging-up of the universe? The wooden toys that tastefully surround him, the all-sacrificing, well-meaning parents, with a library of books on how to make him turn out correctly— is all of it actually harming or denaturing him?
One sometimes sees these exhausted, devoted, slightly drab parents, piling out of the car, and thinks, is all of this high-level watching and steering and analysing really making anyone happier? One wonders if family life is somehow overweighted in the children's direction—which is not to say that we should love them less, but that the concept of adulthood has somehow transmogrified into parenthood. What one wonders, more specifically, is whether this intense, admirable focus is good for the child? Is there something reassuring in parental selfishness, in the idea that your parents have busy, mysterious lives of their own, in which they sometimes do things that are not entirely dedicated to your entertainment or improvement?
Built into this model of the perfectible child is, of course, an inevitable failure. You can't control everything, the universe offers up rogue moments that will make your child unhappy or sick or ­broken-hearted, there will be faithless friends and failed auditions and bad teachers.

If you have time, please click through and read the whole article. And I'd love to know what people think about this. Yes, I know. I don't have children of my own. But I truly paid my dues in the classroom teaching children of a number of different age groups. I know a little something about kids, about parents and about how they interact.

I'm also inexpressibly thankful that I had enough freedom as a child to develop a reasonable degree of self-confidence and to find my own way in life - at least to an extent. If I had been constantly monitored and micro-managed I really don't know how I would have survived!

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