If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again

Diane Looman’s ‘If I had my child to raise over again’ is presented from the viewpoint of a parent who is reflecting on their approach to raising their child. The poem juxtaposes instances of what the parent did and would do differently if given a chance. For example, this parent would strive for ‘less correcting, and more connecting’ and would ‘stop playing serious, and seriously play’ as she focused on building ‘self-esteem first, and the house later.’ (Santrock, 2013, pg. 3)

The speaker’s diverse goals are informed by two overarching ideas: prioritization and being ‘present’ in the moment. During round one, the parent was focused on an end-goal of molding the child to a societal norm, at least from a standpoint of behavioral discipline. We see her ‘point[ing] the finger’, correcting, ‘acting serious’, ‘tugging’, ‘be[ing] firm’, and teaching about the ‘love of power.’ (Santrock, 2013, pg. 3) Upon reflection, the parent would not focus on this ‘straight and narrow’ expectation, but more on development through the ‘power of love’, which can be achieved by prioritizing the child via ‘taking my eyes off my watch’ and finding more special moments in life – hikes, kite-flying, running through fields, star-gazing – tugging less and affirming more. (Santrock, 2013, pg. 3)

My childhood very closely mirrored the initial experience provided by the parent in the poem. It often followed a strict routine that did not leave time for play or exploration. Due largely to struggling circumstances and the pressures that I am sure my parents constantly felt, I did not have the emotional connection that the reflective parent wishes they had provided in the poem. Conversation in my house was very one-sided and often direct, communication born of a need to carry out an order or directive. This had positive effects on my academic life, as I quickly accepted the confines of behavior in a traditional education setting. I understood not to talk out of turn, how to sit quietly, and how to complete self-directed tasks. In an odd way, I was both independent and self-sufficient at a young age, which actually helped me to adapt into adulthood. Now that I am older, however, I can reflect on ways that this hindered me socially. When I began college, I had to adapt to the more social nature of life outside of the classroom, as well as the expectations that discussion and dialogue were just as important as individual or written work. Despite being an extrovert, I sometimes slip back into a shell and feel at odds with my personality.

Now that I am a parent, I try to interact with my daughters in a manner reflecting the poet’s ‘do-over’ mindset. Having experienced the initial approach during my own childhood, I have the chance to give my daughters connections in ways that were simply not available to me. When I see frustration from my oldest daughter, I attempt to help her work through the problem and succeed through effort, instead of directly solving it for her or making her feel shame in her response. Although busy with class and work, I remind myself that I am never too busy to read a storybook or eat a bowl of invisible soup that she diligently prepared in her play-kitchen. It can be hard to slow down and enjoy these moments, but these important interactions are encouraging positive development in our children and, importantly, doing so in a safe and nurturing environment. When she feels similar frustrations during a Calculus course, I want her to know that she has the tools to persevere and solve her problem because of what she learned in her playing, puzzle-building early days.

Santrock, J. W. (2013). Children. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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