“Only later,” Joan Didion wrote of her daughter, “did I see that I had been raising her as a doll.” Grieving, heart broken over the sudden and tragic loss of her family (detailed in the moving books A Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights), she was almost certainly being too hard on herself, yet…
Aren’t we all a little guilty of this?
The way we try to dress up our little boys as cute gentlemen. The way we dress our daughters up as princesses. The way we try to shape them to fit into fantasies as athletes or Ivy Leaguers from the time they are born. The way we try to pick their major, set them up in a career or business, try to get them to follow in our footsteps. Also the way we hover over them, the way we pose them for pictures that we can post online, the way we try to protect them from everything that could damage or break them in life. As if they are not their own people. As if they are incapable of resilience. As if they are here for our happiness and validation, as if they are reflections of us. As if they need a puppet master.
Later, the cringe of all this will be clearer. It may well be clear because they’ll tell us–and not happily so. It’ll be clear because we’ll see them later as independent, self-sufficient adults (if we didn’t screw them up too badly) and regret how we were. It’ll be clear because we’ll see them with their own children, hopefully learning from our mistakes–and we’ll wonder, why couldn’t we have understood this sooner?
Well you can. You’re being told about it now.