Last night, I went to a Zadie Smith book signing event at the SCADshow theater. This event was part of Zadie’s book tour promoting her new essay collection, Feel Free.
She was interviewed by television journalist Gail O’Neill on topics like race, her biracial upbringing and the writing process. She then answered questions of the audience including mine on parenting.
Zadie Smith on Parenting:
I don’t have a lot of theories about parenting. I think, like with my parents, they were busy doing other things and working most of the time. Parenting as a verb was I think not my parents main concern. They had other things going on, they were at war with each other and you know they had all these things I guess that seem bad on paper. Right? But my experience of that is that it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.
I think parents don’t matter as much as they think they do. I hate to say that but, my real life and my brothers real life was our neighborhood, our friends mostly. Parents are great of course, because they have that strong influence on you in the early years. But if you’re living in a city, and you’re a parent, I think you’re deluding yourself if you think you’re having an influence on your child one way or another.
So, I kind of take that attitude, to an extent, and let my children do their own thing. Otherwise you’ve this delusion of power to think that you own them or can control them and form them one way or another. And they won’t thank you for that kind of an existence, its like living under an authoritarian state, you know.
So, I try to be a little more Laissez-faire. (Encyclopedia: Applied to parenting, this French term refers to a permissive style in which parents avoid providing guidance and discipline, make no demands for maturity, and impose few controls on their child’s behavior.) And I allow most importantly for the idea that they’re not me. They’re just not me. They don’t like the same things I like, they might never like the same things I like. And that’s OK.
And yeah, also that, I don’t know you can’t really say this in America, but the damage is not the worst thing is either. There’s a cute misery is not the worst. There are other things like trauma that’s all terrible, but ordinary unhappiness is not the worst thing that can happen to your children. That was the worst thing that happened to me, and it was OK. So, with that in mind, I try not to be too stressed out about it.