Since I wrote my piece on The Invisible Suffering of Children, I have received a fair amount of commentary, both on the blog and off it. I am not surprised, as I knew I was walking into charged territory. In this response, I want to address some of the threads of what came.
I want to reflect, in particular, about three comments I got from father, mother, and late teen son from the same family, Rick, Sarah, and Leo, all of whom I know personally and love. What a treasure that has been. What most surprised me is that it was Leo, the son, who is the oldest of three, not his parents, who raised the issue of boundaries and the question of children’s need for security. Rick and Sarah, on the other hand, were speaking, in different ways, for the excruciating struggle of what it’s like to want to parent in the ways I describe and to run against obstacles – both external and internal. The external obstacles take the form of inability to manage it all alone in a society that leaves parents without clear support structures and makes their children their own problems. This is contrasted with societies in which the village that it proverbially takes to raise a child is actually there, and children are tended to by everyone. How can one parent, even two, handle three or more children with challenges, and provide the level of presence, engagement, creative thinking, and flexibility that are required for living a collaborative life? This echoes, also, the comment by another person that invited me to think and reflect more prominently about the role of the systems and structures within which parents raise their children. It’s a pioneering act to parent children in the ways I allude to in our kind of culture. Pioneering anything means, by necessity, not having sufficient support structures, and therefore being called to task more than is sometimes humanly possible.