Thursday, September 3, 2009

Good News Alert: You're Not Screwing Up Your Kids

Someone wrote: "We spend so much time worrying about who our children will become that we forget to spend time with who they are."

I stand accused.

I am forever worrying about which action or inaction on my part will destabilize, traumatize or otherwise royally screw up the Little One and her chance at future happiness. This thinking is so ingrained in me--and, to a less irrational degree, many Mamas I know-- that I find myself imagining in vivid, accusatory detail future therapy sessions in which she enumerates every injustice she has ever suffered at my hand. (Just think of all the times I say "no," or the times I lose my patience with her, or the times that she wakes up at 5:15 AM and I, with one eye open, snap that it isn't time to get up yet. Surely I am sowing the seeds of her undoing!)

As it turns out, maybe not. Nell Casey examines this 21st century anxiety-producing, hyper-aware parenting philosophy in an article for Cookie Magazine. Casey reviews new research and theories by psychology professor, childhood cognitive expert and author Alison Gopnik. Gopnik's ideas are of great comfort to parents, especially those of us who live in mortal fear of proving ourselves woefully inadequate on a daily basis. Basically, Gopnik believes that we parents have to try awfully hard to screw up our kids as badly as we already fear we are doing.

Of course, Gopnik doesn't discount parenting (or the lack thereof) and its effect on childhood development. She does, however, dispute the fragility so many of us ascribe to our children's psyches.

The article is worth a read. And so are Gopnik's books, from the sound of it. I'm going to get started right away. Then maybe I'll be able to spend more time with the Little One now, and less time with the spectre of who I'm afraid she'll become. After all, she's a pretty wonderful kid. And that's something to think about.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Nice post, Meaghan. No parent does everything right. Parents are people, too.