A deep desire to raise hopeful children

I really enjoyed this article/book review from the New Yorker (thank you Kara!). The discussion of the perils of overparenting resonates with me. I am so opposed to doing this that sometimes I think I overcorrect, to Grace and Whit’s detriment. I especially like the reality check at the end of the article, where the author’s call to arms is calibrated against the much more real urgency (in my view) of one in six children in America growing up below the poverty line.

I love this line: “It may be that robbing children of a positive sense of the future is the worst form of violence that parents can do to them.” Many of my instincts about parenting strive from the deep desire to raise children who are hopeful and not afraid of the world (to me these two things are inextricably linked). This is precisely why the allergy diagnosis in Whit bothered me so much (well this and my tremendous guilt that my lackluster nursing performance visited this onerous responsibility on him): to carry an epipen, to read labels, to know you are one bite away from a 911 call and the ER is to live in a world that seems scary. Anybody who knows my aversion to vacuuming (I do not own a vacuum cleaner and never have) will know that the hygiene hypothesis is not at work in my son’s case. My Lord that child ate more dirt and boogers (he often, to this day, tells me how yummy his boogers are) than most – and somehow he’s still allergic.

Feeling safe is something I crave profoundly, so I am not surprised that this desire to help my children feel at ease and not at risk is a priority for me. It is the reason I put Grace on that airplane by herself (the parenting decision that has caused me the most insecurity, bar none). Of course if she had not wanted to go I would never have done that. I think one can only support and promote qualities and inclinations that are already there; I think pushing a child to do something that he or she is uncomfortable with is by far the wost offense.

As I drove this morning I thought more granularly about my parenting, about where I am strict and where I am lax. I believe in the notion of a few, firm rules. This is my current thinking:

Things I am strict (rigid, inflexible, Nazi-like … pick your adjective) about:

– sleep
– manners (please, thank you, look adults in the eye)
– treating all other people with respect
– not behaving in a spoiled or entitled way
– safety (hold hands crossing the street, in parking lots, etc)

Things I am loosey-goosey (cavalier?) about:

– food (you want string cheese for dinner? breakfast as bag of Kix in the car? fine)
– baths (routinely skipped bc I am lazy)
– cold (you want to take your gloves off? fine by me)
– television
– being away from G&W for work travel (more than fine, awesome by me)
– germs (share toothbrushes? cool. bring 4 week old into the MGH ICU? sure.)


Hadley and I named my future book tonight. It’s called …

Please take your heathens and go

(and I did)

Running for those fabulous countries

“George Orwell once said something about how childhood necessarily creates a false map of the world but it’s the only map we’ve got … and no matter how old we are, at the first sign of trouble, we take off running for those fabulous countries. It’s like that for me.”

Preface to The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan

Four Families

Growing up, Labor Day was always about the Four Families. Before we moved to Marion, our family had a house on Point Connett in Mattapoisett that we shared with the Young family (Maja, blonde, and Nella, bride, above). For at least a week at the end of August the other members of the Four Family tribe would arrive and we’d pile into bedrooms and spend our days together. There were Ethan and Tyler Vogt (Ethan the token male above, my oldest friend, one of Whit’s godfathers) and Ann and Matt Moss (Ann in black and white dress). We windsurfed and swam and went for walks and created elaborate song-and-dance shows for our parents. We slept wall-to-wall in the back part of the house and snoozed in the big hammock in the front yard during the day.
These other six children were the extended family of my childhood. They have remained dear to me, though we’ve scattered to the winds as we grew up. The picture above was taken at Nella’s wedding in late June this year. We have seven children of our own now (Andrew, Oliver, and Emma Vogt, Hannah Mead Gilheany, Eden Young, and Gracie and Whit) and the weddings come fast and furious. We grew up in the loose embrace of communal parenting, shared responsibility, and vast and varied experiences.


That’s my baby sister, Hilary – we are going to attend the blessing of her daughter, Hannah, this weekend. A friend told me something recently that I was astonished I didn’t already know: Hannah means Grace in Hebrew. How extraordinary that we were drawn to the same idea in naming our daughters. It is so powerful to me that my sister and I both have daughters. It has been such a joy to watch her come into her own as a mother; she’s (obviously) such a natural and her little girl is just delicious. My children are both wildly in love with Hannah (see below). This weekend will be terrific fun. I’m also very impressed by Hilary’s delivery of Hannah in a birthing center in Delaware, and her return home with an hours-old newborn. I really do think it says something about our mother that both her daughters chose to have drug-free childbirths. It tells me a lot about the role model she was; clearly we both picked up great confidence in our own strength, physical and otherwise. I am deeply indebted to this example, and think on a daily basis about how to replicate it for my own daughter. I want to raise a girl who feels powerful, brave, comfortable with her place in the world. I want Gracie to be unwilling to settle for grey but to seek out a life of color, challenge, excitement, contribution.