Since announcing that I’m pregnant about a week ago, anyone I know who has ever had a child or been a parent has taken it upon herself or himself to offer advice, whether of the philosophical or practical variety.
Some of this advice is really helpful, like that of my friend Lau, who maintains a blog that is devoted to the conscious, continuous examination of birth and parenthood. Without her blog and encouraging messages, as well as those of my friend, Susan, I’d have probably checked out What to Expect When You’re Expecting and been scared out of my mind.
But some of the advice is worrisome because I’m pretty sure it’s just plain wrong.
This week, a woman I don’t really know said: “Look. Being a parent isn’t rocket science: you just have to make sure they survive.”
Sure- women have been having babies forever and in the mechanics of it all, it’s not rocket science.
But the second part of her statement struck me as flippant and flat-out wrong. I don’t agree that the parent’s only responsibility is to make sure their kid survives.
“You’re going to fuck them up,” she told me. “So don’t even worry about it. They’ll live.”
True. All parents make mistakes, and I don’t have any illusions of grandeur with respect to infallibility. But I do think that I need to be conscious about making constant efforts to parent in a way that doesn’t leave our child with permanent psychological scars.
As a former psychotherapist, I’ve worked with dozens of people whose lives have been irrevocably screwed up by their parents. And I’ve always been attracted to Erik Erikson’s conceptualization of the developmental framework that he referred to as the eight ages of man– the notion that, simply put, parents need to do more than make sure their kids’ basic physical needs are being met; they must also ensure that their kids’ psychological, social, and mental needs are being met, that the parent must make a positive imprint upon the child in order for the child to resolve one stage of development successfully and move on to the next.
There’s some advice worth listening to, and some that just needs to be discarded.