Thursday, February 21, 2013

Overcompensating

This article about A.A Milne's estrangement from his son is a cautionary note on the perils of being too perfect a parent. The simple beauty of Milne's stories revolving around Christopher Robin would suggest incredible harmony between father and child - the kind we may all aspire to have with our children. While the reason for the drift between the two is Christopher Robin turning "bitterly resentful" of his father's fame and living under his giant shadow, may not apply to most people, there may be lessons from Milne for the rest of us.

We could overcompensate for our failings by doing our equivalent of writing entire books with our child's stuffed animals as the cast of characters, placing them at the center of this created universe. Sometimes in our misguided quest for perfection we may make them deeply uncomfortable - maybe it is possible that they expect and accept us imperfect as we are. Maybe our flaws do not scar them as much as our overzealous efforts to do right by them.

In trying so desperately to rid ourselves of our flaws, we may pressure our children into following our own example - and hence the incredible burden of parental expectation. A good warning sign might be a child who like Christopher displays "no signs of any normal adolescent rebellion" . That may way well be the last chance a parent has to correct course - give up the quixotic quest for perfection, fail often and let the child breathe too.

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