I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Friday, April 22, 2005


"No offense, Homer, but your half-*ssed under-parenting was a lot more fun than your half-*ssed over-parenting." Bart Simpson

I once had a boyfriend whose parents would occasionally attend those “Be your best self” seminars that were so popular in the 70’s and are lampooned so well on “Six Feet Under.” He would hide out at my house from his father’s last-ditch efforts at “connecting” with him, waiting for the EST fever to burn itself out. I would take it all in good humor, because, what with my parents both being mental health professionals, it was news to me that other people’s households ever STOPPED being like that.

"Brian, honey, are you ignoring me, sweetheart? If you are, it's okay, just tell me."
"Berniece, if you left him alone, maybe he'd break out of this prolonged latency."
"Our child is not in latency."
"Keep living in denial, Berniece. Bri, everything all right?"
"Feel free not to respond."
-- Brian's mother and father, “My So-Called Life”

In an era when pop psychology was god, my parents were its high priest and priestess. The tangrams and blocks used in testing were our playthings. We were congratulated on the vividness and complexity of our imaginary friends. We were told what Freudian delusions fueled our childhood outbursts. Even when losing their cool, they were prone to such exclamations as, “Oh, why are your attention-seeking behaviors so self-defeating?”

My parents were these really cool, unflappable folks – so much so that they robbed me of the rebellious loathing that was my adolescent birthright. But, now that I am the parent, I realize that growing up with the psychobabble left me another legacy -- I absolutely cannot allow the mental health profession to win EVER.

My child presents a classic case of gifted/ ADHD and I. Can. Not. Stand. to say those words out loud. It’s just all sooo… cliché? Like what suburban mom doesn’t think her little snookums is a misunderstood genius? But it’s more than that. Like there is an inverse proportion between anyone else’s credulity about a mental health matter involving my children and my own snarkiness.

So you can imagine how I was at Girl’s IEP meeting this week. I about jumped out of my skin. Her ADHD is making ME Hyper. Even the news that she is off-the-charts smart was no solace. I was a TOTAL freak. So what’s my deal? I think it’s like, having grown up with it, I feel like I’m entitled to my disdain. Like the way you get to make ethnic jokes as long as you belong to the group you’re dissing.

1 comment:

Dinosaur Mom said...

Whereas I grew up in a household where psychobabble and medically sound psychiatry alike were dismissed as "happy talk," and now I watch all my kids like a hawk for signs of incipient madness.