“Most parents would kill for children like yours” a social worker once congratulated me on our first six children.
Which puzzled me immensely because if I had to sum up my own approach to parenting, it would be that I simply surveyed, cleared and a built a house on a piece of
forested land up on Shawangunk for the children my wife and I had coming along and after filling the place with books, food and making certain they had a dog, medical care, got to church and attended an elementary school which demanded English skills, manners and clean fingernails, pretty much watched things go by in a blur.
Too much of a blur and in the quietest moments today I often wish myself back on that mountain with my wife and children once again, because at the time I thought it would never, ever end.
And for a long, long time I always thought I was a lousy parent, principally because I never had time for them. I never worried too much about their report cards, or whether they had an psychological problems or were progressing too slow. I never worried about any of that.
But today looking back, much more experienced after having been forced through a couple of keyholes, I can see why things turned out as well as they did. Whether by accident of design we put those six children in way of certain roles and values, certain very special storytellers and stories and made certain by keeping the family going year after year that when their windows opened, the stories and lessons and models could enter.
Kept it going long enough so that when they were at the proper point in their life they could walk through the woods and absorb the stories of their grandparents or sit down in the house down and soak up the lessons from books and meals and an endless succession of birthday parties when they were ready or listen to the stories of the friends who visited us up there or my aunt Alice or the teachers at their wonderful, wonderful school. And maybe I like to think that the example of two parents who were always working and always home at night with them from the time they were born until they left for college also had something to do with the way they turned out too.
And so I’ve realized that meticulously examining the pathology of aberrant behavior and then trying to devise an individual counter-strategy, a treatment, is almost always useless. Realized that you can’t look to psychology for cure but only to anthropology for prevention. To the culture a child is raised in for the answer to why they behave the way they do, to what Robert McKee calls “the equipment for life”, the stories and models and roles and values they’ve absorbed at the right time in their life.
And when you do that you see the origin of behavior like the fiery ball of sun overhead.
Richard F. Miniter is the author of The Things I Want Most, Random House, BDD, Five Stars on Amazon “The remarkable story of a couple who risked everything …” Easily one of the most compelling reads you will ever experience See it Here.