I remember well what parenting felt like when my older daughter was in preschool. Every activity she undertook, every precious word out of her mouth, every behavior, every clothing choice seemed incredibly important. Her life, the preschool world, our life together formed a warm little bubble, a totalizing reality drenched in high drama and deep meaning. How shocking it was to find, a year after she “graduated,” that she barely remembered her teachers and classmates at all! How incredible to think that the drawings, hand prints and yes, shoes, that summed up her whole being could so quickly turn into mere relics.
Looking back at both my daughters, there are many aspects of their early childhood experiences that have turned out to have lasting truth: their social and emotional styles and general temperaments, their physical and early learning strengths and weaknesses. The hard-wired, inborn stuff, in other words. The stuff that — despite all my best efforts — I couldn’t fully discern then, much less control.
It’s the very human drama at the heart of what we typically refer to, coldly and dismissively, as “helicopter parenting”: this attempt to use our own powers of control to keep our children happy and safe, which, these days, tends to mean making them successful, socially as well as academically, at school. But the magical bubble of very early childhood doesn’t last. Life happens to us all.