Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

The Remade Parent

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

 (Bob Dylan)

 

 

Having now stated the reasons why we need to look closely again at modern parenting, we must face the fact that it will not be enough to somehow ‘put it back together again’ as it once might have been in a mythical, bygone golden era. As Bob Dylan suggested, the parent’s old road is rapidly aging. We will need to not only build new roads and bridges between us, but to construct entirely new human infrastructures – starting with those we have brought into being. 

 

To save the institutions of motherhood and fatherhood, and to stop us losing our kids, there is an urgent need for a new kind of parent. A parent who takes the best attributes of old-style, traditional child rearing and combines it with all the most progressive ideas of today’s parent: a parent who ultimately finds their own way to re-make what a parent can be – The Remade Parent.

 

In my mind I have a picture the person I want to be when I’m with my son. Regularly I fall short of this ideal but I nevertheless continue to aspire to it. Just as I advocate the re-making of parenting, I don’t believe that we must be more selfless or that it is necessary to greatly sacrifice our wants. This can lead to resentful stoicism: the self-appointed martyr mother or the begrudging father, quietly grinding his gums. 

 

What I offer-up as a model is an empathetic but gently authoritative parent – one of substance, courage, honesty and self-belief. Someone who sees that a philosophy formed from these qualities can be put into practice in the daily grind, so that lasting and loving relationships with kin can be formed. I propose a form of parent who is ultimately indifferent to the insidious pressures from a world that is all too often lacking basic humanity.

 

Our remade mothers and fathers will not care that they are just a parent who may not be in paid employment. They won’t unduly fret about being poorer as a result of this choice. They will not concern themselves with other parents who can afford a second car, a new kitchen, a trip to Euro Disney, or the latest version of a computer game for their kids. The remade parent is aware of the importance of rewards and sanctions for our young, but ultimately appreciates, as Professor David Elkind does, that “symbolic rewards, like a pat on the head or a loving word or look, are much more potent than objects in reinforcing [their children’s] behaviour." 1

New mum Ky, says:

 

“As I have recently become a parent myself, I am finding out about a lot for the first time, as my Mum was nothing like how I am towards my little one. She was a parent: she fed & clothed me, but as far as love goes, I can honestly say there was none. She was paid maintenance and benefits to provide this but felt that she was not paid to love me, so why bother? Now I am a parent I know what it is like, but I cannot sympathise with her. I love my little girl and can’t understand why or how you can bring up a child with no interest in their feelings or future, not wanting to influence their life, not teaching your child how to survive, or not teaching them about the basics of life. I am happy to say that I am a mother and that is all I need. The woman who was feeding me and clothing me was my mum, not my mother, and for this, I feel very sorry for her. She will never know the overwhelming feeling that takes over you when you look into your baby's eyes, that feeling of complete love and the instincts that come into play in your day-to-day life, taking over your every move.”

 

Unlike Ky’s mother, who appears to have wished she had never given birth, even before becoming a mother or a father, parents must want desperately to be a parent. There is not a child alive who deserves to not be wanted – before or after they come into existence. On this crucial point, lawyer David Archard questions whether the ‘right to bear’ a child is “constrained by the requirement that parents bring into existence only those children that they can be reasonably sure will enjoy a minimally decent life …” 2 This seems difficult to argue against, especially in the developed world where contraception and abortion are relatively easily available.

 



1 Elkind, op. cit, p143.

 

2 Archard, op. cit., p140.