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Archive for the ‘The Girl’ Category


In The Girl on March 17, 2009 at 8:38 pm


I’ve read—and am constantly rereading—books about parenting. I’m a tad obsessed with the topic as I was raised by a strict father who had zero tolerance for “foolishness” and even less for challenges to authority. I’ve long ago come to terms with this, as I know he was doing the best he could given his own upbringing and raising me and my brother (basically) as a single parent. I don’t want to raise my daughter in the same way, but as she gets older, more verbal, and more mischievous, I find myself at times feeling a little bit of Charlie Scholes bubbling up under the surface and I know that by the time she’s old enough to ask the “why not?” question (i.e. “Don’t bang the door, please.” “Why not?”), I know it will be hard to suppress the Charlie Scholes’ standby answer: “Because I told you not to.” Modern parenting has much better answers to “Why not?” than he did, so I’m trying to learn how to burn them onto my brain’s hard drive so the more evolved answer to my daughter’s question comes out as easily as “Because I told you not to.”

One book that has a permanent spot on my desk is called The Magic Years by Selma Fraiberg. It was given to me by Bernadette Kramer, my dear friend Susie’s mom, and it is not only full of wisdom, but it is gloriously written as well, a book you want to savor (which is quite different from the more modern parenting books full of bullet points and sidebars to help speed you through the material, which, with a baby or toddler, definitely has its place, too). Here’s something I read from the book recently that resonated with my newly talking toddler:

“Words substitute for human acts, and the uniquely human achievement of control of body urges, delay, postponement, and even renunciation of gratification are very largely due to the higher mental processes that are made possible by language….In fact, the moral achievement of man, the whole complex of factors that go into the organization of conscience is very largely based on language.”

She uses the example of a toddler who, before being able to speak, could not resist picking the flowers in a neighbor’s yard when on her daily walk. Once the toddler starts to be able to put words with objects, she no longer insists on picking the flowers, but instead stops in front of the flower, points to it and says to her mother, “Fars! Pitty!” (Flowers! Pretty!) and then continues on her walk, satisfied.

I’m watching to see if this theory translates to my newly chatty daughter so I can relax a little. Stop worrying about turning into my (much loved, sorely missed) hard-ass father.