June 27, 2011

'Not To Mention Fathers'

psychotherapist/author Lori Gottlieb's article in The Atlantic about how your overparenting's gonna send your kid straight into therapy when they grow up is fascinating and compelling reading. Go read it right now if you haven't already.

BUT. As insightful as it is, Gottlieb still falls prey to a couple of annoyances of the Helicopter Parenting Trend Piece genre. Her anecdotes move fluidly from her fragile therapy patients in their 20s to early 30s, to memories of parents rushing to pick up tumbling toddlers before they realize they've fallen, to tween soccer leagues where they don't keep score. So we have a trend across the parenting board? A swing in the parenting pendulum? The anxiety-plagued result of Boomer overparenting in the 80s and 90s? What are we looking at here, exactly, and what's a new parent to do about it?

Obviously, generational lines aren't so easily drawn, and the people who had kids a few years ahead of us have a significant impact on the parenting culture our kids are conceived into. But why should I worry about the University of Chicago having to figure out a whole new ceremony to chase incoming parents off campus when my kid isn't even going to be in college for another 16 years? Or flip it around, shouldn't teaching my kid self-sufficiency and how to deal with challenges and failure now help her to beat out the fragile, self-esteemy competition for an Ivy League spot? [Or maybe the Ivies are going to be so full of delicate flowers who got extra time to get their perfect SAT scores, no actually talented kids'll even want to go there in 2025. Who knows?

The other annoyance, and really, it's 2011, people. WTF? is the almost total non-presence of dads in the parenting culture Gottlieb describes. To be fair, she is pretty careful throughout to talk about "parenting" and "parents," which, good. But. with passages like this one early in the story, and off-hand Tiger Mom references in the middle, I can't help wondering just what dads' roles are--for better or worse--in this decidedly maternal analysis:

The good news, at least according to Donald Winnicott, the influential English pediatrician and child psychiatrist, was that you didn't have to be a perfect mother to raise a well-adjusted kid. You just had to be, to use the term Winnicott coined, a "good-enough mother." I was also relieved to learn that we'd moved beyond the concept of the "schizophrenogenic mother," who's solely responsible for making her kid crazy. (The modern literature acknowledges that genetics--not to mention fathers--play a role in determining mental health.)

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy [theatlantic.com]

6 Comments

I'm just going to go on strike until I get some trend-piece love- no more doing the grocery shopping or bath night for the kids. I'm just going to sit in my recliner and drink beer and watch the Mets.

I just watched "Tree of Life" so I will be off in some corner pondering the Father/Son/Dinosaur relationship for awhile. I don't need any studies to further confuse me.

Well no dad's ever going to be the "perfect mother" but maybe some of us could pull off "good-enough mother."

Zweig: You know, Marge, we've really just begun to scratch the surface. There's still the far more serious problem of your husband...

Homer: That's OK, you don't have to make her into some kind of superwoman. She can get on a plane, that's plenty.
[rushes Marge out]

Now I'm supposed to fret about causing existential angst in my 24 year old because I kissed their childhood boo-boos too readily? Please.

Will we next be blamed for their inability to be reconciled to their own mortality because we gave them too many home baked cookies?

Some things aren't your parents responsibility.

You'd think the psychotherapy industry would say thank you for parents maintaining the tradition of screwing up kids and sending them to therapy.

And so assuming that therapy's a bad thing, maybe the better trend analysis would be to see how many 20-35yos are in therapy, and how that changes over time. And then isolate out drivers like insurance or whatever. Are we sending fewer kids to therapy than the Boomers did?

But then if you're not in the therapy business, why should you care? It's just so much blogfodder [d'oh!]

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