“Child, Please” Argues That Mama Really Did Know Best

Image source: Thinkstock
Image source: Thinkstock

Back when my son was small enough for me to carry strapped to my chest, a mom in the neighborhood asked if I’d considered pre-school programs yet.

“No,” I said. Then I gestured to Felix, just in case she had somehow missed the fact that he was, you know, a baby. “He’s not even one-year-old yet!”

That was my introduction to the intense culture of upper-middle-class parenting in Brooklyn. It’s a parenting culture built around putting every aspect of kids’ lives under a microscope in a fruitless quest for perfection, and where each decision becomes a heated debate.

Well, one mom has some great advice for parents: just relax.

Ylonda Gault Caviness, author of the book Child, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself, says to worry less, enjoy more. Just like your mom probably did.

“I think it’s very destructive when we build our world around our kids,” she told the Chicago Tribune. She says that she became so obsessed with raising perfect kids, that she lost touch with herself. Worse, spending time with her children became kind of like a terrible job. They became sources of stress instead of wonder and love.

Caviness re-discovered her bliss when she began kicking it old school like her mom. She pumped her favorite jams instead of just playing kid tunes all the time. She made sure her social calendar didn’t just consist of playdates. And she stopped over-scheduling and hyper-analyzing her kids’ lives. She gave them some space, and took some space for herself!

When we were kids, “there was no cheering our descent down the slide,” Caviness writes in her book. “[My Mama] didn’t hang with clusters of moms at the playground like infatuated groupie spectators squealing from the stands. Nor did she gush over our every stick figure drawing and plaster them all over the house… she wasn’t hanging on our words and asking ‘You OK?’ all the time.”

Caviness blames the parenting advice industry for turning “mothering into a hot mess of guilt, confusion and hard labor.” I certainly see this among some of the dads I know too. The more we tune in, the more we have to worry about, and suddenly we’re obsessed with getting it right, with creating the ideal childhood for our kids, one in which they are well-adjusted, happy, and on their way to success.

Sadly, some of these things are just out of our control, and we only drive ourselves crazy worrying about it all. Ask any grandparent, and they’ll tell you the same: our children’s childhood is short, enjoy it while it lasts. And don’t worry so much! The kids are gonna be alright. We turned out OK, didn’t we?

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