no mean happiness

Lori Gottlieb's article "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy," in The Atlantic Monthly (which had nothing new to say but got lots of press because it's on a subject people love to flog on an on (I wonder if Gottlieb is any relation to a reporter named Gottlieb who writes "stories" for my hometown rag that combine a remarkable lack of content with blatant small-town sensationalism, like "Sequim model shown on Playboy website")) had this one rather interesting paragraph:

“We want our kids to be happy living the life we envision for them—the banker who’s happy, the surgeon who’s happy,” Barry Schwartz, the Swarthmore social scientist, told me, even though those professions “might not actually make them happy.” At least for parents of a certain demographic (and if you’re reading this article, you’re likely among them), “we’re not so happy if our kids work at Walmart but show up each day with a smile on their faces,” Schwartz says. “They’re happy, but we’re not. Even though we say what we want most for our kids is their happiness, and we’ll do everything we can to help them achieve that, it’s unclear where parental happiness ends and our children’s happiness begins.”

(Btw, if you found Gottlieb's article depressing, here's a good antidote from Dr. Laura Markham. (Not that Dr. Laura. This one's an attachment parenting proponent, which I don't altogether agree with, but I find her blog is really useful to keep my parenting focused on my son's needs rather than my own baggage.))

It strikes me that with all the energy this generation is putting into child-rearing, we are missing the obvious.Someone should conduct a study of the childhoods of the world's most successful people, and write a parenting manual based on it. I think it would go something like this:

Chapter 1: Give your child very little attention so that s/he will go to great lengths to earn your love and approval.
Chapter 2: Raise your child in poverty so that s/he will be hungry enough to stay manically focused on amassing wealth.
Chapter 3: Expose your child to violent oppression so that s/he will become passionately dedicated to eradicating it.

Et cetera.

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