Westward Ho! Off to the Aspen Ideas Festival

I’m headed to the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, where I’ll be on a panel to discuss:

The 21st century child: What is the goal of parenting?

I’ll try to send a few updates from some of the sessions. The lineup is terrific, as always. My panel includes Larry Cohen, Amy Chua, and Ellen Galinsky – moderated by Lori Gottlieb, journalist and family therapist.

Quite honestly, my take on the 21st century child shifts from day to day, depending on how benighted I’m feeling as a mother.  We’ve got the usual handwringing articles: Brats! Incompetents! Sociopaths! Shopaholics!  …  If you’re a college-educated, hyper-engaged type like me, you can nauseate yourself with the follies of contemporary American parenting in this New Yorker article. Look in a mirror and watch yourself squirm with horror and denial. I did.

And then we have the counter examples, too (which I also see every day): Kids are more globally engaged, they are delaying sex, they’re dropping out of school at lower rates, having fewer unplanned pregnancies, picking on other kids less and also – the flip side of all the spoiled bratdom – they seem more emotionally connected to their parents than ever before.

So I’m a little tied up in knots about where I come down on all these issues except to say that I think the word “parenting”  has become a code for all the fears and failures  – projected and real – of American society, and I don’t think that’s fair at all.

And another thing I know for sure: Play is the basis of human cognition and connection, and it’s under attack. Poor and rich kids, for different reasons, are losing the one key ingredient for healthy human development about which there is overwhelming consensus: the need to play. So I’ll be making my pitch in Aspen that one of the major goals of parenting is to cultivate a sense of joy in our kids.

Quality family time, courtesy of Wacked out Captain Bob

And on that sunny note, I leave you all with a photo of my kids tying me to a mast on a trip around the Napali coast of Hawaii… because I want you to see what a playful good sport I am as a parent. See how carefree and spontaneous I am? I even encouraged the assuredly stoned Captain Bob (whose festive idea it was to stage the photo) to assemble a boatload of strangers to tease and take pictures.  Hahaha. Family life is always so fun!! I never raise my voice. I only want my kids’ pure unadulterated happiness. (And they want mine!) I can’t recall a single parenting disappointment. Our lines of communication are always wide open and flowing with such good stuff.  (And I still have those bridges to sell you.)

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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