Another Way It’s Tough To Be Your Kid

Maybe you and your spouse are brilliant. Maybe you’re extremely successful. Maybe you’re two of the nicest people who have ever lived.

This is great. It provides so many advantages and privileges to your children. But you know what? It’s still tough to be your kid. Not just tough to be a kid—which it always is—but tough to be your kid specifically.

“It can’t have been easy to be a child named Quintana Roo, the daughter of two famous parents, growing up with reporters and photographers and celebrities always around,” Evelyn McDonnell writes in her fascinating book The World According To Joan Didion (can’t recommend it enough, we have signed copies at the Painted Porch). It’s not that they were neglectful, irresponsible showbiz people. On the contrary, McDonnell quotes Julia Armstrong-Totten saying that, “They adored her. They absolutely adored her, and she adored them. I don’t think any of that is in question. But it must not have been easy, in certain ways, to be their child, because they were so intellectual.”

Her parents’ strength—their sharp minds, their brilliant way with words—was likely intimidating and stressful for a child. And if we can stipulate that oftentimes strengths come with corresponding weaknesses, perhaps their intellect made Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne less in touch with their emotions than some people.

We’re all like that. We have strengths, things that serve us well professionally, even personally. But as parents, these things can be tough on children, they can make it tough to be our children. We have to understand, appreciate, and empathize with this. Didion’s haunting book Blue Nights is seen as a book about grief (her daughter Quintana died at age 39) but really it’s a book about regret. It’s Didion wrestling with events too late, coming to understand certain truths about her adopted daughter she wished she would have realized earlier.

Every parent has that. We can’t avoid it. But we can do our best to minimize it, to repair it, while we still have time. And while we’re still here, we always have that time.

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