IN THE PRESS
The Berkshire Eagle
The Natural Authority of All Parents
June 19, 2019
By Clellie Lynch
EAST CHATHAM, N.Y. — June may be the month of brides for humans, but in the avian world, this warm and windy month is prime time for rearing baby birds. Goslings growing quite quickly wiggle-waddle behind their parents across the grassy area by the pond. A flotilla of wood ducklings glide behind momma and then paddle frantically as soon as she squawks, a fuzzy bunch of maniacal tub toys near the shore of the pond. High up in treetops the peeping of chicks grows louder as soon as the adult bearing a crushed insect nears the nest. "Me-eee, Me-eee," each one cries begging for a crustaceous tidbit.
A couple of days ago, Danny opens the front door and halts as young phoebes flee the tidy nest resting on the lintel. Last week we could only see those wide baby mouths and today they are on the wing, instinctively flying and then landing in the nearby lilac bush. Will they survive? Will the adults feed these youngsters for a few more days? Will they teach them how to live up to their family traits — to catch flies on the wing?
Years ago, Danny and I observed osprey fledglings being taught how to fish by their parents. The adult catches a fish and then, in mid air, hands it off to the youngster who eventually turns the fish to the proper flying position — head forward for aerodynamic flight. Another youngster, brave and daring, spies a fish and imitating its parent dives in for the catch. We watch the silvery scales glitter in the sunlight — success! Then the young osprey sinks into the water and disappears for a few moments. The fish is too big, too heavy. The osprey, wings aflutter to shake off the water, awkwardly flies upward. Definitely a lesson learned!
FREE-RANGE TO HELICOPTERING
Not only birds but all living creatures — humans included — have a natural instinctual authority for doing what is best for their species when rearing young from infancy to the age of being self-sufficient. This natural authority takes many forms — some seemingly harsh. Gannets and other seabirds nest high up on rocky islands and bluffs and teach fledglings to fly by pushing them off the cliff. Swallows feed their out-of-the-nest young as they sit side by side on the wires until one day the young swallow gets bored with being force-fed and swoops off on its own to snag a mosquito. So even within the avian world we have disparate examples of parenting, from free-range to helicoptering.
Parenting takes many forms, yet ultimately most parents want the same things for their children. What is tantamount, according to my neighbor, Adelia Moore, in her new book, "Being the Grownup: Love, Limits and the Natural Authority of Parenthood," (Hollow Hill Books, 2019) is realizing as a parent you are always the adult in the relationship.
You are the one setting parameters. Although all creatures rely heavily on instinct, we humans have a curious intellect that allows children to push, rebel, thwart parental boundaries, trying to set their own or eliminating them altogether. But as the grownup, it is your choice that matters most: the home, where to build it, safety and schooling and a set of values to live by. To do this best, parents have to understand their children and realize that each is a separate entity. You may treat them differently, but you want to protect them from fear and danger and instill in each the same values.
Upon meeting Adelia, she and I discovered we were both from large families. Each of us is the third oldest of nine; in her family, six girls and three boys; in mine, six boys and three girls. In any case, as young girls with many sibs, parenting "skills" were part and parcel of growing up. By the age of 11, she and I were deemed reliable enough to babysit outside the home for 25 cents per hour.
How does one translate the in-many-ways-chaotic childhood we both shared into modern day situations and problems? Our family didn't have a TV until I had already graduated from college, so there were no arguments about how many hours a child could watch or how many TVs would be needed for so many children of different ages. I can't imagine how my parents would handle the modern day problems of cell phones and the internet. My mother didn't drive until she was 67, so we learned early on what we wanted to do and how to accomplish whatever without being ferried from lesson to lesson or play date to play date. Bikes were a real plus!
Most of us learn how to care for and raise children from what our parents did or did not do. Some parents think their own upbringing was too strict and try to do the opposite with their children. Then again some think their parents were way too easy on them, that their parents had no idea what they really were up to and therefore set strict rules and regulations that must be followed.
Adelia Moore, fascinated with the differences of parenting that abound, became a clinical psychologist specializing in families and their problems with child rearing, incorporating what she learned growing up and what she learned raising four sons along with her husband. Many examples within the book come from not just her clientele, but from her own experiences.
The book takes its readers from nest building to nest emptying with descriptive situations and how to resolve difficult problems while still remaining the grownup. Moore includes the variety of possible parenting authorities that a child may have, from a single parent who has help from relatives or caretakers, to those children whose parents are divorced and remarried so they are raised by two sets of parents.
She also discusses the inherent differences in children who even within the same family require different techniques. Some children are always obedient; some, rebellious; some, just plain devious. So parents must assess each child's developing maturity and judgement. Styles of child-rearing vary from place to place, from culture to culture. Methods change too. Gone is physical punishment, replaced with various techniques: bad boys couches, naughty corners, time outs, and loss of smart phone privileges.
Whether you are a beginning nester or an empty nester, "Being the Grownup" is a clearly thought-out book that outlines both parental situations and problems with possible solutions and strategies for being the adult in the relationship.
Being the Grownup will help anyone who works with children see the parental role with new clarity, appreciating what parents can mean for their children and do for their children, by understanding the ways that parents act through love and authority.
Perri Klass, MD
New York Times columnist; Professor of Journalism & Pediatrics, NYU
Well-researched and thought-provoking, Being the Grownup puts forth the radical notion that both parents and children are, well, people, and that like all people, their relationships grow stronger with communication, clearly-articulated boundaries, and respect. I'm so grateful for this book.
Kim Brooks, author of Small Animals:
Parenting in the Age of Fear
Being the Grownup is a Baedeker for parents, an ideal guide for those moments with children when we find ourselves buffeted by cross-winds or at sea. Ever since the button “Question Authority” cast suspicion on assuming what Adelia Moore calls “the natural authority of parents,” parents have been blizzarded by books on “parenting.”
What we need, Moore tells us, is more simply a reminder of what is entailed in being the grown up--- the person responsible for the child’s well-being and safety. In situations that have tried the patience of anyone who is or has ever been a parent such as a two-year-old’s playground tantrum or an adolescent’s recalcitrance, Moore thinks with us about how to assume rather than question our natural authority. Drawing deeply from the well of her experience as mother, grandmother, and psychotherapist, she has written a very wise book.
Carol Gilligan, PhD
Professor of Applied Psychology, NYU
Being the Grownup will be a treasured resource for parents and professionals alike – and grandparents too, indeed for anyone who is responsible for children, whatever their gender or their biological or non-biological ties to the child. As Moore writes: “Being a parent is not something you do to a child but something you are with a child. Parental authority is not simply a matter of discipline with time-outs and consequences, or even skilled negotiation and conflict resolution. Parent and child are two human beings whose bodies and voices, experiences, perspectives and emotions shape their interactions with each other.”
Rather than telling parents what to do, Moore offers a lens to parents through which they can see more clearly the many influences that shape their relationships with their children, and at the same time embrace their authority free of fear of negative or untoward consequences. She shows, most convincingly, that the ideal of the authoritative parenting style is within reach of every parent: Love and limits go hand in hand.
Diane Ehrensaft, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, UCSF
How much can you let your child do, and when? These are questions society keeps answering with more and more pressure to "helicopter." This book will help you break free of that stifling mandate and understand how much wisdom and authority you have in deciding how and when your child encounters the wider world.
Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement
The author sets out on a journey in search of the meaning of parenthood – a complex and perilous trip indeed –and she does not falter or fail. Natural parental authority is a concept ambivalently held by behavioral science. People who become parents know in their bones they have it and it's around here somewhere, but they haven't got much help locating it from the attachment theory, mindfulness, or 'natural consequences' approaches.
Kyle D. Pruett, MD
Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry & Nursing, Yale School of Medicine
Being the Grownup provides a stunning account of middle class American child rearing practices in the 21st century. Moore deftly Interweaves theory from psychology, family therapy, anthropology, and neuroscience with her own experience as a clinical psychologist, mother, and grandmother to develop her ideas about the central importance of authority in parents’ relationships vis-à-vis their children.
The wisdom this book conveys about accountability in parent-child relationships is bound to be enduring
for decades to come.
Marjorie Harness Goodwin, PhD, Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology, UCLA
@Better Letter named Being the Grownup one of the ten best parenting books of 2019. See the list here:
A debut guide offers a wide-ranging philosophy of responsible and balanced parenting.
Moore’s book takes on a topic that’s much in the news in the modern era of helicopter and lawn-mower guardians: the nature, limits, and origins of the parenting bond. Like many people who watch the news (or observe modern adults), she’s familiar with the ways that parenting in the 21st century often devolves into a harried series of negotiations, with many well-meaning mothers and fathers lamenting that “I don’t want to impose rules, just guidelines.” These parents are facing more challenges than ever before, including the need to oversee the screen time that has become such an inevitable part of everyone’s lives. The bulk of the author’s manual is a passionate, empathetic reminder to parents that their power isn’t derived from mediations with their charges. Rather, it comes from what the author refers to as “the natural authority of parenthood,” which springs from adults’ responsibility for their children and does not depend on particular strategies. Instead, it’s a functioning relationship in which parents make consistent demands and set firm limits. The book’s gambit extends across the whole spectrum of parenting concerns, including “food, friends, or the Web,” and pays attention to the broader cultural forces that have always been a part of the job. “Culture,” Moore writes, “can be as big as a nationality and as small as a family, with lots of layers in between.” But for all of its topical comprehensiveness, the book never strays far from its central tenet, which is the bedrock relationship between parent and child that morphs throughout its life span. “Many parents worry too much about doing the right thing at any given moment,” the author writes, “but it is less that a
particular moment makes the difference than that the accumulation of moments creates a set of expectations for each of you.” Parents of all ages, especially new ones, should find Moore’s easygoing wisdom invaluable.
A wonderfully insightful, back-to-basics approach to parenting.