Dan Sinker is one of the writers who I think is best capturing the fury and heartbreak and fleeting moments of beauty involved in being a parent right now.
I loved this piece about bird-watching during the pandemic and this epic thread of his kid’s drawings:
If you want something nice in your feed, here are posters from the last few weeks of the four-year-olds research projects. pic.twitter.com/QKHCLbHkF4
— ? damned sinker ? (@dansinker) June 15, 2020
He recently published “There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Good’ Parent in a Pandemic” in Esquire:
Every parent wants to be a good parent. And every parent, every day, fails at that because, right now, being a good parent is literally impossible. A fine parent? Maybe. An OK one? Possibly. But a good one? We’re eleven months into a pandemic that sent all our children home, laid waste to jobs, killed a half-million people in this country, and sickened many millions more. Politicians like Ted Cruz ensured it would hurt as much as possible by fighting against public health measures and relief efforts that would have made a difference. So no: a good parent isn’t really an option. We’re all just barely getting by.
“Every parent—every single parent—has known the crash this year,” he writes.
I have two of these bumper stickers: one in my studio, and one on our refrigerator.
What I hang onto these days is the D.W. Winnicott’s concept of the “good-enough” mother. “Success” in caring for children, he wrote in Playing and Reality, “depends on the fact of devotion, not on cleverness or intellectual enlightenment.” All the devotion required is an ordinary devotion, as he put it. No particular need for extraordinary skill or expertise.
In Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2016), she jokes about the concept’s popularity:
Winnicott’s concept of “good enough” mothering is in resurgence right now. You can find it everywhere from mommy blogs to Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Are You My Mother? to reams of critical theory. (One of this book’s titles, in an alternate universe: Why Winnicott Now?)
“If you are satisfied with being a good enough parent, and have no illusions that perfection is possible,” Peter Gray writes, “you see this problem for what it is, a problem to try to solve, not a tragedy, not an occasion for blame or shame.”
Me, I’m trying to see it as a comedy, or a farce, or maybe just bad improv. Making do with what we have.
We might not be able to be good right now, but we can be good enough.
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See also: “Manifesto of the Idle Parent” and “You are forgiven!”