Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Perfect Madness and "On the Job Straining"...

Two pieces that jumped out at me over the last few days...one, the cover review for this Sunday's 2/20 NYTBR, which we get at home early in the week in paper, but apparently is not online yet (go figure), titled "The Mommy Trap," a review of Judith Warner's Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, and two, a column in the Chronicle's Review section this week by the pediatrician Mel Levine, (grrrr, subscription only for now, sorry) on how woefully unprepared...for LIFE!...he believes many college students are these days.

The review of the Warner book stresses what an untenable position the vast majority of women, even upper middle class women, are in these days in modern industrialized countries, to work, to raise a family in many cases, and to even have a life. I learned a new word from this review...overparenting...which is so apt for what I observe around me, and in our own behavior in childraising. As a friend of mine quipped, when we grew up, aging boomers that we are, we ran outside and built a fort in the backyard...now kids take a Saturday class in fort-building, led by a cheering mom or dad!

Levine, well known for his work on the importance of individualized and tailored learning and teaching, gives a glimpse of his new book, Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, due out this month. He too gives overparenting as part of the problem for many college students today not developing a strong sense of self, initiative, and problem solving, and then floundering, or at least being shocked, by their early career years.

But if many of us are guilty of overparenting, unlike our own parents (example: I attended all but one of my daughter's athletic contests in two sports throughout JHS, HS, and freshman year of college; my parents, though not academics with flexy schedules, attended perhaps one of my JHS and HS athletic contests), why do we do this?

What are the root causes of this anxiety? I have some ideas, as do others who have thought more deeply on this than I, but I will save them for now. Here is a snippet from the Levine article to end...:

"Meanwhile, many college students carry with them an extensive history of being overprogrammed by their parents and their middle schools and high schools -- soccer practice Monday through Saturday, bassoon lessons on Tuesday evening, square dancing on Wednesday, kung fu on Saturday afternoon, on and on. That may make it hard for them to work independently, engage in original thought processes, and show initiative."

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