Monday, March 15, 2010

Thoughtful Parenting

A friend recently commented that Z and I were thoughtful parents. She was paying us a kind compliment, but it really got me thinking. We do indulge in thoughtful parenting, in fact I think a lot of our peers do as well and I don’t think it is always a good thing.

So many of us have been in therapy or dissected all the terrible things that happened in our upbringings and we are hell bent on making sure none of those things happen to our children. I now know it is utterly impossible to look at your child without seeing your own childhood. And it is a very short leap from seeing your childhood to seeing an opportunity to fix the wrongs visited upon you when you were little.

Suddenly I’m going wait, wait, wait! First of all, the crap I was upset about? Most of it was nothing! I mean, there were real issues and I am still working through them but I think my anxiety and self esteem problems would have developed no matter what. It is just who I am. But most importantly being over protective of T is not going to fix my problems. It will probably make a bunch for him, though.

And about the whole “You have never know what love is until you have a child” shit…Yep, the love you have for your kid is new and overwhelming and indescribable. And selfish. Really really selfish. This kid is half you, if you are the mom you actually grew him or her inside you, he or she is your key to immortality, the vessel through which you will fulfill your unrealized dreams, everything.

I look at him and feel all those things and think holy shit put on the breaks! This love is actually going to smother him! This love is going to turn me into the exact kind of mother I don’t want to be. If I indulge in this love I’m on a path to screwing him up even more. It is the beginning of me not being able ever say no to him or not letting him get hurt in any way. He is gonna think he is the center of the universe if I don’t stop myself.

I’ve written about some of this stuff before on good old facebook and I have a feeling I’ll write about it again. Because I desperately want to be a good mother to him and at this point I think it entails reminding myself to do what is best for him rather than what feels best for me.


  1. This seems to be a phenomenon largely limited to our own generation and the one slightly preceding it (see also ). I think there is an important distinction to be made between being "thoughtful parents", in the sense of making parenting choices by examining possible outcomes in a rational manner, and being "overprotective parents" who think about parenting decisions only as far as is necessary to avert risk or avoid potential blame for whatever goes amiss. The former is absolutely fine I think: beneficial even. But there is so much pressure from our peers and ourselves to turn out a perfect child that the overprotective route beckons with its "At least this way he/she won't get hurt".

    Sometimes it can be hard to tell the two approaches apart - I'm talking about myself here. Am I worried about my daughter facing adolescence because I want her to be a well-adjusted adult, or because I want her to forever remain my little girl? It's not really as easy to discern as I want it to be. Are my actions different in either case? I think spending time examining one's own motives as a parent, as you're doing here, can be constructive, but again, overanalysis leads to paralysis. Like everything else about this new role, it's tricky.

  2. Dave,
    The story of my life is overanalysis leads to paralysis. But I am trying my damndest not to let that happen right now. The last thing T needs is for my agoraphobia to rear its ugly head again.
    And I completely agree it is a generational problem.
    The email about girlhood adolescence is coming. I was actually thinking about you and Hilde as I wrote this...

  3. "I now know it is utterly impossible to look at your child without seeing your own childhood. And it is a very short leap from seeing your childhood to seeing an opportunity to fix the wrongs visited upon you when you were little."
    totally huge, right there. i think the simple reality of *knowing* this is a good 3/4 of the battle. and, as dave said, examining one's own intentions and motivations for choices concerning parenting (or, really, concerning anything) is key. and that examination takes bravery and committment.
    i see that bravery and committment here.
    on another note, i beong to the school of thought that says, "i will treat my child the way i wish the world treated me. with dignity, respect and *kindness*." sometimes this translates into doing what feels best and good to me. sometimes this translates into gritting my teeth and remembering, for goodness sake, the child is TWO and is only trying to get his needs met, not trying to make me COMPLETELY INSANE.
    and on and on.
    and, ya know, just in my little, own self opinion - 7 month olds are *supposed* to be the center of the universe, so love love love away, mama.