Fostering Dependence vs. Independence

I have not read the book, but I am fascinated by the concept. How often do we baby our kids? How do strategically set them up for success?

A friend shared this article: “If Your Kid Left His Term Paper at Home, Don’t Bring It to Him” and it hit home. The article refers to the book: The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey. I have added it to my reading list. Of course I have yet to birth this baby, but that does not mean I do not think about how we want to raise him and how dependence can happen so early, and often without parents really knowing it is happening. The author mentions parents who go back home because the kid forgot their homework assignment or lacrosse stick — teaching kids what?

“Over-parenting or fostering dependence, as she describes bailout behavior, has the potential to undermine children’s personal confidence and robs them of the grit they’ll need to succeed in the real world, after they’ve left the safe bubble of home.”

I will tell you, I never remember my parents bringing something I forgot to school. They were at work, at one point in elementary school my mom was teaching at my very school. She was not going to leave to bring something I forgot. As my dad would have told me: “Tough luck.” He was not going to go out of his way to take care of things that were mine to remember. That was my responsibility. He never thought of it as “letting me fail.” He just knew I would learn the hard way to remember — whatever the consequences of my choices.

Food for thought.

Motherless

Sometimes you read a book or an idea in a book and you feel that the author has taken the words out of your head, put them on paper, and made sense of the gibberish of your thoughts. Recently I blogged about the book: “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed. While it is a book of quotes, there are a few sections where she goes deep into her past. It is as though she took the words out of my mouth (much more eloquent than I would have shared).

“It was wrong. It was so relentlessly awful that my mother had been taken from me. I couldn’t even hate her properly. I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she did the best she could and realize that what she did was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.” Page 68

I do not know whether I ever took the time to forgive my mom for her every motherly fault, I think I just moved on and did not wallow in that — there was enough pain to go around. It did force me to grow up fast (even before she died) and has meant that I am forever trying to bring back the childlike time. My relentlessness, extreme dedication, and persistence has meant that I sometimes have a hard time taking a step back to “play.”

It means I will hold you further away from my core until I can determine if you are going to go deep or stay on the surface. If you stay on the surface, I am not going to waste my time. If we meet in the middle and find that common ground — well the rest it history in the making. My mother leaving me at such an early age means that I will only fill that empty bowl with fruit worth my time, and make sure I constantly remove the rotten versions. I do not want to have to fill it again and again. Instead, I would rather fill it with the best of the best and not waste my time with anything else.

You are so much more than that…

Oh man, sometimes you read something and it is a home run. You wonder how did the author or poet put the words together in a way that makes you feel like each word choice is perfect. It speaks to you in ways you have not been spoken to before that moment.

Thank you, Emily Parkinson Perry – for your post and introducing me to Rupi Kaur. I now want to read Kaur’s book “milk and honey.” This poem shared on Perry’s blog makes me think about all the times I might have told a little girl how pretty she was, or how I liked her dress. Or, to the adult women who I might have envied.

I want to apologize to all the women
I have called pretty;
before I have called them intelligent or brave.
I am sorry that I made it sound as though something as simple as what you were born with is the most you have to be proud of…
when your spirit has crushed mountains.
From now on, I will say things like, ‘you are resilient, or ‘you are extraordinary.’
Not because I don’t think that you are pretty,
but because you are so much more than that.

–Rupi Kaur

We are so much more than our bodies, our face, or our ass. We keep our families going, our work world alive, and have the adventure and drive to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together into the masterpiece called life. I only want to be seen in a meeting for what I bring to the table, not the size of my waist or the shirt on my back. I want to be seen for me.

We are so much more. We are so much more. We are so much more.

I am my history.

Just like a great movie, there are books that suck you in because the story line is so intriguing you are curious how it is going to end. It might be a novel, and it might be a memoir that showcases all the shit that happened to someone throughout their life. I am a fan of memoirs. While I read about the author, I learn about myself in the process.

I recently finished reading: “Pieces of My Mother” by Melissa Cistaro. A story about an adult woman who takes you through her childhood years while staying at her mother’s bedside as she dies. A mother who was not present in her life, and yet Cistaro has hope that in her mother’s final hours she will finally grab a glimpse of what she was missing all those years.

“A sitter, who is not our mom, comes to live at our house so our dad can go back to work. And when that sitter gets tired of us, a new one arrives. Everyone says that I am too young to remember what’s happened and that children my age simply don’t remember the details. I can’t blame them for saying that. But I am as quiet as a cat, watching everyone and everything.” Page 5-6

That last line was the kicker for me. I am nowhere near quiet now, but as a kid I would hide and listen. I was quiet when I needed to be. Invisible even. In my house you did not even have to be quiet, there was already a lot of noise. I could sit in my bedroom and through the heat vents hear the fighting and yelling coming from my parents room. They thought by having their door shut, we were not privy to their arguments. While I have never had the best hearing it was not hard to find out what words were passed between them. I knew at those moments when to hide and nestle up with a book. No good was ever going to come from being around after those fights.

My mom would often leave the house and get in the car angry. I was always scared that she would never come home. There was some sort of intuition that grew in me in a young age that her anger made her reckless, not enough to hurt someone else, but just enough to maybe not make the best choice. That never happened, but it did not make me feel any less scared. We knew to just leave my dad alone, or else be the next one that got yelled at that day.

I have at times been teased for being a “starer” but I think that happened because I spent so much of my time watching the world. I watched anything and everything. Trying to make sense of a world that often my parents did not know how to explain to me, either because they were just trying to survive and keep food in the house and the lights and heat on, or because they themselves did not have the answers for me. As with Cistaro, writing was my way of processing the world, and I am still doing it today.

“Like my mom, I write to understand myself and lure the voice inside me out of hiding…I want to set the words free, unearth what has been buried for so long…I had to get the memories and stories down on paper, and if I didn’t this history would be lost or—an even worse thought—repeated. Sometimes all I have is instinctual, obsessive need to put pen to paper—to set fire to something inside me that may or may not save me.” Page 285-286

I too feel that fire. To lure my voice, to find it when it feels lost, to document the memories I sometimes do not know were inside me. I am my history. Without my parents around, my writing is what helps me retrace it.

Lessons come when we are open

There are a few authors that I have read every book they have written, and a few of them I have had the pleasure of seeing in person. Ann Patchett is one of those authors. Her new book: “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” is a book that is not in the usual realm of her writing. It is a compilation of articles she has written over the years, many that were published in magazines. While they are each stories that were written years apart, her writing, story, and life are weaved so well together that they flow so beautifully, you would have thought they were written together on purpose.

You learn about her younger years and the oddity of her childhood, about taking care of her grandma, about her early years of writing, her dogs, her marriages, and the ups and downs of a writer’s life. Her other books are novels, ones that once you open and get into the story, you are a goner. You might as well know that after the first few pages, you’ll be snuggling on the couch for the long haul. Cancel any plans that you have made, you will not want to put any of her novels down.

Patchett does have a memoir “Truth and Beauty” that is about her life with her best friend and author, Lucy Grealy, yet “This is a Story of a Happy Marriage” goes deeper in many more aspects of her life and she communicates many ideas that resonate on marriage, family, and the writing life. This idea particularly stood out to me about openness:

“It’s a wonderful thing to find a great teacher, but we also have to find him or her at a time in life when we’re able to listen to and trust and implement the lessons we are given. The same is true of the books we read. I think that what influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments when we are especially open.” Page 33

This happens so often for me. I gravitate towards a book and I am not sure why, and then as I begin to read and absorb the ideas shared, I gradually, page by page learn a bit more about myself. You know the books that do that for you. The ones with a plethora of highlighted, dog-eared, or post-it note adorned pages all with ideas that you want to remember, cherish, or share with another individual. This book did that for me. Her story and life experience made me think about my life experience and story and I found myself jotting down notes of special moments from my life that I want to put on paper.

I encourage you to read “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” It is slow in the beginning and takes a bit more to get into than her novels, but once you get to know her a bit more I know you will find a few morsels to take away.