In the April/May 2011 issue of Bust magazine, Liv Tyler said this when asked about the job of mothering as a creative endeavor:
Well, [kids] just come out who they are! You’re so quick to judge parents. To judge humans on how they were raised, to judge parents for what they did. But you see when you become a parent yourself, children are really born with this innate sense of themselves. They come out that way from day one. It’s interesting to figure that out: how to nurture and guide them but also to allow them to be who they are. To see in them what they are naturally good at and interested in and encourage them in those ways.
I’ve always thought of writers as the mothers in the doula analogy, but reading this interview made me think to myself, “Hmm, cultivating existing talents? Sounds like an editor. Maybe I can be a good mom after all.”
I love this perspective on parenting because it isn’t the narcissistic brand of trying to turn your children into stars of something of your choosing. Everyone has seen the parent trying to live vicariously through their children, and rarely is it something we’d like to replicate.
My parents allowed me to express my own interests, then worked to help open doors for me in that direction. For example, I loved playing sports as a kid. So they signed me up for gymnastics, swimming, soccer, softball, taekwondo – anything I’d go for, which was usually something that included physical contact. (What can I say? I was a rough tomboy.)
The heart of Liv Tyler’s parenting perspective is great: “nurture and guide them but also allow them to be who they are.”
My two and a half year old nephew AJ has a Mom that understands this idea. One day when we were having a picnic lunch at the park, he was fascinated by the volleyball pit and squatted down to feel the warm sand. He picked up a handful and we both knew where this was going: his hair.
He happily continued to drop sand in his hair, and his Mom just let him have at it. Why not? Nothing a bath wouldn’t fix, and he was having a great time playing Sand Man. This is not a life-shaping experience, but it’s an attitude that’s reflected in the general parenting mindset of AJ’s Mom.
Over controlling parents end up with children that resent them just like over controlling editors end up with writers that shut them out. Does that mean all hands off? Of course not.
The best parents – from the viewpoint of someone who’s only ever been a child, not had them – are partners with their kids. They are there to support, give advice, console, defend, engage, correct. They can see the world from their child’s point of view, but also have the bigger picture perspective to help guide them.