Sendak in the Age of the Overprotective Parent
In The Atlantic, Joe Fassler describes Sendak’s “long history of scaring kids and their parents,” contrasting this to the penchant of today’s “insidiously overprotective parent culture”:
The evidence does suggest we adults sometimes take our good-natured desire to protect children from unpleasantness to perverse depths. I see it in the phenomenon of “helicopter parenting,” for instance—the misguided attempt to thwart all potential pitfalls through hovering omnipresence. We seek to foil internal darkness, too, by plying young people with antidepressants and anxiety medication. And we’re highly sensitive about showing children any sort of “challenging” material, even in cases when censorship verges on absurd. The new documentary Bully, which depicts the brutal realities of life in the hallway and playground, was initially deemed “too violent” for children, the very audience it portrays, and attempts to reach.
Do parents today try to make the world too safe for their children?
Consider the controversy about vaccines and autism. The suspicion that there could be a link between them (a notion that has been widely refuted) has created all the more outrage in parents of autistic children. Many parents have been tormented beyond belief that the very thing — a vaccine — they thought would assure their child’s health could be the cause of a child being autistic.
As Fass suggests, might a parent’s loving ardor to protect a child 100-percent plus from the discomforts of life, lead to said parent insufficiently preparing a beloved child from the realities of the world, from pain to failure to sadness? From not only experiencing these; from learning that they can be navigated and survived?
From knowing that mothers can get mad at you, and tell you go to your room, and still leave you a piping hot meal after you’ve been wild?
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