Saturday, August 2, 2008

the real wild child?

Anette and Adinah and V were at another kid's party the other day, when they got a free medical diagnosis.

"V. is hyper-active," said our friend G.

I wasn't there so I don't know what V. was doing, though if she had clobbered a few kids or knocked over several Dixie cups of juice, those would have been typical V. playtime moves. Nevermind.

G. offered a semi-professional opinion (actually he's an engineer) that says more about him than it does about our kid. And he's not even American!

What is it with parents these days? A kid is minding her own business at a party, she drinks a little too much punch, maybe snaps a few necks, and the nearest adult prescribes Ritalin for her. For some parents, the only thing worse than a kid who's a little quiet is one who's a little loud (okay, very loud.) Amateur pediatricians enter stage left and right, and they intone the most dreaded words: "hyperactive" and "shy." What is this shit?

No doubt, V. wakes up every morning, 6 a.m., full of beans and ready to play hard. She drives me nuts and she wears me out. And she comes home from any special event involving cake so wound up she can barely stop talking. (So do I.) But why would a grown-up look at her and see a pathology, instead of a young life, extra excited and curious about Everything?

Maybe we forget what it's like to be that new, that alive. I suspect we want so badly to care for our kids that we try extra hard to name their problems, so we can research, evaluate and then administer a definitive solution. Or maybe some parents are just lazy bums, and don't want to know from kids who 'splode like supernovas.

I know that last is not true of G. His kid is both temperamental and demanding, and he and his wife do their best, 24-7. So why would he say something so wack about our V.?

A: Parents, as a species, also normalize their own kids, then diagnose everyone else's.

I don't know. Some of this is culture-specific. Americans wanna prescribe drugs for every problem bigger than a headache. Americans believe in scientists and scientific diagnoses. European parents, at least most of the ones we know, tend to be less panic-stricken.

I'm somehow, somewhere, as usual, in the middle. I just don't think I want to write some semi-professional, medicalized script for any kid who's still in size 5 Pampers. That seems...unjust. Labeling a kid before she can explain herself seems like the opposite of parenthood. Isn't it our job to wait, and listen, and then make room for our children?

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