Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The AP Backlash

I keep hearing in various media outlets a certain resentment of parental attention to kids. There are lots of pundits who say that we're "way too focused on our kids," "coddling their every need," etc. etc. So that every time you hear anything about someone doing something with their kids, someone immediately invokes phrases like "helicopter moms."

And yet, on the other hand, I hear from the AP folks who look around and see nothing but massive parental neglect: kids parked in front of TV and videogames, infants dumped in daycare, family meals a long-forgotten tradition.

So who's right? Are we a culture that's spending way too much attention on our kids, or a culture that's not paying enough attention?

Wait, kids, you're both right: it's a floor wax, AND a dessert topping. Lots of parents are neglecting their kids . . . and, in their guilt, anxiety, and/or ambition, they put too much of the wrong kind of attention on their kids. They schedule their kids into leagues and tournaments . . . instead of just letting them go outside and play. They hire mentors and coaches . . . instead of just reading to them at night. The buy them tons of games and toys . . . when all they really want is just to play with Mom and Dad. They don't do things with their kids, the do things to their kids. And (worst of all) what they think is being "supportive" is really just a thinly-veiled form of vicarious ambition: "I just want little Joey to have every opportunity to be great."

And why is all of this happening? Ultimately, I think it's because we've lost our patience. In our busy, hard-working, ambitious American adult world, we define ourselves by what we do . . . and listening to a five-year-old natter on about Little Gibbon's adventures doesn't feel like doing something. We don't want to wait 18 years to rejoice in their worldly success: we want to see them "getting ahead" now. Our culture has forgotten the proper way to parent because, frankly, it's boring. In that sense, parenting is akin to meditation: it might look like doing nothing, but it's the most strenuous doing-nothing you've ever not-done. All that is required is attention, presence, perseverence . . . and yet our bouncy little monkey minds can't stand it.


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