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Are We "Parenting" or Raising a Child in a Family?

July 12, 2016 - Jen Zbozny
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece from Alison Gopnick entitled "A Manifesto Against Parenting." Gopnick questions the word "parenting" and some ideas around it. I have to say even though I'm guilty of having used the word "parenting" I've never been comfortable with it. Eve isn't "childing" and comic-irony aside, I do not "adult." Each of us is developing and growing in the world and I am raising her in a family. Gopnick expresses it this way.

People sometimes use “parenting” just to describe what parents actually do, but more often, especially now, “parenting” means something that parents should do. “To parent” is a goal-directed verb; it describes a job, a kind of work. The goal is to somehow turn your child into a better or happier or more successful adult—better than they would be otherwise, or (though we whisper this) better than the children next door. The right kind of “parenting” will produce the right kind of child, who in turn will become the right kind of adult.

She uses the metaphor that "parenting" tends to mean acting more like a carpenter than a gardener. When we do carpentry (we don't carpent, by the way) we create a finished product in a proscribed amount of time and it remains a static object. Raising a child in a family is more like gardening, according to Gopnick. You watch and see what the landscape is like, you add needed nutrients and observe how your plants grow, making adjustments along the way for their specific needs. Over years you learn the growing tendencies of your plants and you work hard to be there for them, give them what they need and help them flourish. Sometimes you have to weed things out. Sometimes your plants get sick. Sometimes you have to do it when you're dead tired and its hot or raining outside. Sometimes your plants won't just do what you want them to do, because they have lives of their own.

I tend to agree with Gopnick. I'll also admit I think the word "parenting" is somewhat self-centered. As though it reflects more on me than the natural focus of the thing, which is our children and families. I think I'm more of a gardener than a carpenter. I think I'll never entirely know what's all the way down deep beneath the surface but over time I've learned to read the signs fairly well and make room for growth. I hope I've allowed for Eve to put down solid roots.

What about you? How do you feel about the word and concept of "parenting" versus the idea of raising a family?

(image by Jill111 on pixabay by CCO)

And here's the link to the article if you'd like to read the whole thing: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-manifesto-against-parenting-1467991745

 
 

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