The Kids Will Be All Right

After finally hearing and reading all the hand-wringing about Lori Gottlieb’s article “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” in the Atlantic Monthly, I went and had a read for myself.

And I was relieved. Because you know what? She’s not talking about me. Whew. I am so not one of those “well meaning” (read: helicopter) parents.

Do I want to raise happy kids?

You bet.

Do I think I can *make* my kids happy?

Hell, no.

I can give them the tools to help them make good choices. Good choices, and being self-sufficient can lead to moments of happiness. Will my kids — even with the tools I give, and my love, and my blessings, and good choices, be happy, happy, happy all the fucking time?

Hell no.

No one is happy all the fucking time. (And if they are, check the medicine cabinet.)

To sum up: Gottlieb’s article, on the surface, is about how modern parenting still lands kids in therapy. The fact that the kids of helicopter parents are ending up in therapy full of anxiety or/and depression should shock just about nobody.

If you raise your kid by protecting him or her from EVERY hurt or failure, intervening in his or her interactions with peers and authority figures, guess what? That kid is going to have zero confidence in his or her ability to navigate the world on his/her own.

I’m not saying you should let your kid be bullied by his peers. You shouldn’t let a person in authority over your child (teacher, coach, priest) abuse his or her power.

But geez louise: let the kids go a little bit.

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Here’s my favorite quote of the article: “…happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” — Barry Schwartz, professor of social theory at Swarthmore College. Emphasis mine.

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Here’s my favorite take on the babble about this article — and helicopter parenting in general — so far, plus a take on the Go The F*ck To Sleep book that engendered everything from insecurity to rage. I mean, people: it was supposed to be funny.

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I had great parents. They didn’t hover, and they put their marriage first and foremost. They didn’t protect me from failure. When I came home with my very first D (high school calculus), my dad took one look at the scarlet letter on my test and said, “You better work to pull that grade up.”

They weren’t neglectful and they weren’t helicopter parents. They set boundaries, and they disciplined us. We were expected to do our own homework, although they helped if we asked. (We didn’t ask often.)

When I was in my 20s, I suffered a pretty bad break up. Although I had the support of my family and many of my friends, I had terrible anxiety about my life. I started having nightmares, most of them about being consumed. Literally eaten alive.

So I went to therapy. It helped immensely. We examined my anxiety and where it came from. We talked about my reaction to being in a relationship, my propensity to “settle” instead of getting the love I deserved. We talked about religion, poetry, and life in general.

I always say if it weren’t for therapy, I wouldn’t have married Dan. I wouldn’t have been in the place I needed to be — an open place, a place of security and knowing not just want I wanted, but what I deserved — I would have totally whiffed on my relationship with him.

Could some of this stuff that came up in therapy be pinned on Mom & Dad? Sure, why not. Was it their *fault* that I needed therapy?

No. It’s no one’s fault. Even these earnest, “well meaning” helicopter parents didn’t plan for their kids to be in therapy. (Although my husband and I thank them!) It’s not their fault.

This quest for the perfectly well-adjusted child — or parent or mother for that matter — is futile. People, we are imperfect. We act imperfectly. We aren’t Stepford mothers or children.

And that’s okay.

And if you need therapy to help you figure out that not being perfect is okay, I’ve got a contact name for you.

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3 thoughts on “The Kids Will Be All Right

  1. Not that this should surprise you, but I agree with you here completely. Kids need to be allowed to learn the value of decision-making and subsequent consequences. Parents can be The Boss, without managing every iota of their children’s lives.

  2. Bravo!! I was just having a conversation with my aunt about something related to this yesterday…how kids are so over-scheduled and externally directed by school, etc., that they don’t know how to PLAY. Like make up a game and the rules as they go. So many decisions are made for kids these days that when the time comes for them to make a decision or solve a problem on their own, they have no idea where to start or what to do. I just remember spending summers as a kid being pushed out of the house, TV off limits, with the directive “GO PLAY.” that was all we needed. eventually we always figured something out. I mean, how can you ever figure out what you are good at and what you really LIKE to do if you are never given the opportunity to make your own choices? And make your own mistakes?

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