Q: My buddy's wife walks their 11-year-old into the classroom each day. Then she takes out his assignments and helps him get ready. We're talking about a very capable kid who has no "issues" at all. My buddy says other mothers at his son's school are also doing the same thing. My wife has heard about this and wants to start walking our very capable son into his 4th grade room. What are your thoughts?
A: I think there may be children who because of some developmental problem or medical issue might need a parent to walk them into school, but that practice is unnecessary otherwise, and not just unnecessary but something Shakespeare might have had lots of fun with.
My first thought is that this is a symptom of what is and has been happening in American mother culture for some time now.
One mother ups the ante on the other mothers by taking enabling to a new level and it spreads like wildfire by some psychic transmission force that men have no aptitude for.
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My second thought is that today's moms generally seem to think that raising a child is all about nurturing; therefore, the more a mother nurtures, the better a mother she must be.
This was not the case 60-plus years ago, when mothers could strike fear into the hearts of their kids with no more than a sideways glance. Now children strike fear into their mothers, who do not have a firm grasp of the fact that unless nurturing is balanced by an equal portion of authority, it turns into a toxic thing called enabling.
My third thought is that when I say stuff like this, some women think I'm -- as one put it recently -- "ragging" on women. No, I'm trying to help women understand what they have allowed themselves to become caught up in and swept along by.
This is not about women, obviously, because women of my mother's generation and before did not come close to fitting this description. Since then, we have gone from men demeaning women to women demeaning themselves.
My fourth thought is that we seem to have misplaced a sense of purpose when it comes to raising children.
The purpose is to help them become adults, and it should be self-evident that the more quickly they become adults and take on adult responsibilities, the better off they are. Walking a competent 11-year-old into class every day and helping him get situated significantly raises the likelihood that this child, 20 years from now, will still be living at home, being waited on hand and foot by his mother. But perhaps this will be normative by then and no one will give it a second thought. People may even regard the successfully emancipated child as an oddity and wonder what went wrong.
My fifth thought is that these mothers have too much time on their hands. Lacking modern conveniences, having to wash clothes and dishes by hand and sweep and mop rather than fire up a vacuum cleaner, my mother and her peers did not have time to bring perfection to every aspect of their children's lives.
In fact, their callous disregard of our fragile psyches included making us wash, sweep, and mop along with them. A mom who has the time to walk her 11-year-old into school every day and arrange his work for him needs to get out and volunteer with people who really and truly need her help. She's eminently qualified, obviously.
My last and hopefully most sobering thought is that these moms are going a long way toward ensuring that their male children grow up with no respect whatsoever for women. Respecting and expecting are incompatible.
John Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers parents' questions at rosemond.com.