You know the child I am talking about: precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs, from, in short, the everyday banging-up of the universe? The wooden toys that tastefully surround him, the all-sacrificing, well-meaning parents, with a library of books on how to make him turn out correctly— is all of it actually harming or denaturing him?
Someone I know tells me that in the mornings, while making breakfast, packing lunches and laying out clothes, she organises an art project for her children. An art project! This sounds impossibly idyllic – imaginative, engaged, laudable. And yet, is it just the slightest bit mad as well? Will the world, with its long lines in the passport office and traffic jams, be able to live up to quite this standard of exquisite stimulation?
It is more than slightly mad. It’s nuts.
It’s good for children to know “that your parents have busy, mysterious lives of their own, in which they sometimes do things that are not entirely dedicated to your entertainment or improvement,” Roiphe writes.
I decided when my child was very young that the greatest gift I could give her was a sane mother. So I didn’t let her do things likely to drive me crazy. It worked for both of us.