Monday, May 04, 2009

Michelle Obama on the parent's challenge

I came across an interview with Michelle Obama, dating from the election campaign. Inter alia, she says (with the emphasis added by me):

"[amidst the maelstrom of the campaign] we're always measuring our progress by how our kids are doing. And I think, in that way, we're probably not unlike most parents. We're as good as our kids are. If they're happy and whole, they're feeling confident and loved, and they're doing well in school and they have friends, and, you know, they have a sense of centredness about themselves, then I feel like whatever else is happening, it doesn't really matter."

I have to admit that until I became a parent, words such as that were just truisms. I think they would remain so for most people until they are cemented by personal experience.

The emphasised words could be construed two ways. On one reading, the parent is feeling good if the children are feeling good. Another interpretation, my preferred, is that the outcomes for the children reflect how successful the parents are at parenting.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. Children are not interchangeable, malleable material. They all come with their own challenges, and some are clearly far more challenging than others.

Still, it's immensely rewarding to witness positive outcomes that you can, at least in part, take some credit for. Or that, in your absence, outcomes could have been notably worse.

Parenting calls for a great amount of time, effort and personal engagement. But the returns - affirmations of one's efforts - can be commensurately great.

8-May-09 Afterthought: I am also reminded of the Roberto Benigni film Life Is Beautiful where, during the second world war, a father manages to shield his son from the external ravages for as long as possible, by making it seem like a game. That shelter is very meaningful to younger children, and while children need to be brought gently into the world, childhood is best when it's a happy, secure treasure.

No comments: