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Friday, December 19, 2014


Tis the season to procrastinate all useful endeavors to reflect on the joys of holidays past and the shimmery ghosts of holidays future. But I'm not in the mood. Instead I shall tell you this little story: 
At a recent party a young father, having learned that I was in the kid-biz, explained to me that he was not a great dancer, writer, singer, poet, (memory fails) because his (evil / negligent) parents failed to encourage him as a wee lad. He however as a father himself, makes a point of telling his own kid how amazingly fabulous she is at absolutely everything all the time.

The young dad rocked back on his heels to await my praise, so I shoved another handful of chips into my face and replied, "Hmm," (because I am always polite in my stories, and do not tell people they are full of shit unless it is absolutely necessary.)

But here and now in these private pages, just between you, dear reader, and me, I'd like to say these things:
1. It's what you do, not what you say.
2. I don't believe encouragement does squat for the kid who knows you're lying.
and 3. Although it is kinder to be kind than unkind, kindness alone is not necessarily kind. If you're (kindly) heaping false encouragement and phony praise on your kid, you're just adding to the already deafening noise-pollution of childhood. 

When I was a kid, my dad -- who was perfect in every way except for having died this year -- never told me my art was good. To say a poem was good would imply that it was possible to write a poem that was not good. That it could be bad, that it could fail and disappoint and be wrong. That art was to be judged like math homework and spelling tests. 

My dad, who was superior to that smug young father in every way, didn't tell me it was important to read or to make art or play music. These were obviously the things that gave life joy and meaning because they were what he chose to spend his own time on Earth doing. He patterned behavior like a mama duck, although I'm pretty sure it was by accident and it never occurred to him that I was watching.

Wait. I was making some pithy point about something here. But I guess it's really just that I miss my dad.

xo Amy 


Dotti said...

I so agree! Lead by example!

Carol Snow said...

Years ago, when I announced to my parents that I had landed a literary agent, my father's immediate thought was that I had been taken in by some kind of scam. He was highly imperfect, but mostly good ways, and I miss him terribly.

Betty Birney said...

Amy, I love that you dare to say what most people don't. Many children are now over-praised, which makes them a) crave praise and b)not know how to value genuine accomplishment. Thanks. I love your dad, by the way! Not that I ever met him, but you've captured him so well, I don't need to.