A Parent's Plight

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What Women Really Think
May 6 2010 1:32 PM

A Parent's Plight

Here’s a sobering tale just in time for Mother’s Day. Katie Granju is the author of Attachment Parenting , a mother’s-eye-view of a parenting style conceived by Dr. William Sears that encourages parents to trust their own instincts and to see their children not as to-do lists, but real people who thrive with attention and compassion. She’s got four kids, a blog , a full-time job, and judging by her picture on Babble.com, looks like the kind of woman you see on the street and say, "Damn, I wish I was that cool."

She has a piece on Babble this week headlined " A parenting secret I am no longer willing to keep ": It turns out that her oldest son is a drug addict who’s currently in the hospital recovering from a near-fatal overdose. It’s a story that gives me the utmost sympathy for Granju, and also huge pause. Of course, just because someone writes a book about parenting is no guarantee that they’re the perfect parent, though you have to think they’ve put more thought and research into it than the average person. And I’m not trying to hold Granju to an unfair standard just because she’s considered an "parenting expert" (a title she eschewed in this funny and relatable Salon column ). I’m not picking on Granju at all. I share her story because it makes me wonder, if she has such a struggle in her family, what hope is there for the rest of us?

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It’s one my greatest fears as a parent: What if you do all the right things and one of your kids still ends up with huge problems? How do you ever sort out whether there was something you could have done differently or whether your child is just wired differently or susceptible to peer pressure? God knows my parents did all the right things, and I turned out OK-straight As, a pile of varsity letters, and a patchwork of scholarships that got me through college on the cheap-but even they couldn’t protect me from making bad decisions like underage drinking (and driving!) and sometimes hanging out with the wrong people.

As parents we struggle with the right balance: to be involved with our children (but not too involved), to help them and teach (but not do their work for them), to give them confidence (but not turn them into jerks or bullies), to protect them (but not smother them). And at the end of the day, it might still be not enough (or it might be too much).

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

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