How to protect your child’s imagination

I’m still thinking about blue milk’s post and those damn bananas. What is fascinating to me, as blue milk posted, is that the act of covering up reality to protect the child’s imagination, is such an important part of parenting. That’s why routine is so great. If your child has safe boundaries, she feels brave enough to take healthy risks. That this episode put that burden on the girl children is remarkable and sad.

Psychologist Stephen Mitchell in his book, Can Love Last: the Fate of Romance Over Time said all of this better than me:

One of the things good parents provide for their children is a partially illusory, elaborately constructed atmosphere of  safety, to allow for the establishment of “secure attachment.” Good-enough parents, to use D. W. Winnicott’s term, do not talk with young children about their own terrors, worries, and doubts. They construct a sense of buffered permanence, in which the child can discover and explore without any impinging vigilance, her own mind, her creativity, her joy in living. The terrible destructiveness of child abuse lies not just in trauma of what happens but also the tragic loss of what is not provided– protected space for psychological growth.

It is crucial that the child does not become aware of how labor intensive that protracted space is, of the enormous amount of parental activity going on behind the scenes.

4 thoughts on “How to protect your child’s imagination

  1. Margo, I wonder if you’ve read any of Vivian Paley’s books about early childhood. I think you would love them. She writes about the importance of fantasy play (and how to protect it, essentially) in developing the child’s sense of community and humanity in general. When I read her books, it’s like a wonderful vacation for my spirit.

    Also, you probably know that this idea of Winnicott’s is explored somewhat in Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? I’m still sorting out my reaction to that book (Bechdel’s) but thought I’d mention it in case you haven’t seen it.

  2. Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the comment. My background is in producing talk radio programs, which involved screening calls, so I was trained early to respond to people who were furious with my host. He was fat and when people got really angry they, inevitably, would yell out: “You fat fuck.” I asked him how he dealt with that and he just shrugged. “They say that when they have nothing else to say.”

    I strongly believe you’ve got to go beyond preaching to the choir. Also, since becoming a mom, I’ve been amazed by the sexism comes from other women and little kids. I shouldn’t be. It’s a belief system that is dominant in our culture and influences everyone.

    There are many feminist blogs I enjoy.


  3. I just wanna say you have a great site here. Like many men, I am apprehensive when women seem to speak about sexism and feminism. I think it will lead to a bunch of whiny male-bashing. But I cannot find that here. In fact, I can’t find anything negative to say about your site. You have a lot of positives: you’re willing to listen to the opinions of others; you are respectful; and you don’t seem to let bias cloud your judgment. If more feminist bloggers were like you more men would read them.

    Keep up the good work. I plan to start commenting from now on.

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