It is interesting to note that last weekend’s New York Times Magazine article about Jodi Picoult (“Jodi Picoult and the Anxious Parent”) was written by Ginia Bellafonte, the Times’ television critic. Personally I have always felt, and described, Ms. Picoult’s novels as “kinda like watching TV”—meaning that they’re great if you are looking for a beach read or simply something to suck you in for a rainy weekend—but not particularly phenomenal literature. Which is not to say that I think she is a bad writer. Nor do I propose that she is particularly artful. She does, however, have a knack for pushing the parental panic and outrage buttons in alternating strokes at a tempo that keeps you turning the pages.
The article looks at Picoult’s novels largely against the backdrop of current TV tastes for Law & Order: SVU and Lifetime movies and honestly it feels like the right lens. In the nitpicky criteria of day-to-day parenting it makes me feel better to look at these horror shows and think hey, I’m not that bad. That I took my kid to Dunkin Donuts for lunch yesterday probably isn’t going to turn her into a suicidal maniac. These shows are not real. They’re pure fabrication. Real parents don’t fail to notice that their children are on the precipice of some shocking act.
Or do we? (And then there I am, wide awake all night.)
All I know is that as a parent, I have to approach raising my children with the knowledge that things may go either stunningly well or hideously badly and is likely to hit all sorts of cords of happiness and mayhem in between. While I can be a force in my kids’ lives, I am not singluar in the pressure I apply. My job is to give care and provide a consistent, safe, and supportive home but even then, even if everything goes exactly right, how much will their futures have to do with me anyway? How much credit or blame do I assign to my own parents for either the good or bad in my own life?
Interesting questions. For now, let’s just say that it’s a poor choice to grow a kid for the purposes of harvesting (anything!) and move on.