About the time I got married, my mother gave me a little needlepoint picture to hang on my wall which read, "All a parent can give a child is roots and wings." I thought of that as I read Benjamin Garber's Holding Tight--Letting Go: Raising Healthy Kids in Anxious Times. Garber, a psychologist and, more importantly, a father, looks at attachment and child development with an eye to the question, When is it time to let go?
It's a balance. "Holding on too long can be as harmful as letting go too soon." The parent provides the anchor. As the child grows the anchor line grows longer. As the line grows, Garber suggests that "transitional objects" can help remind the child of the anchor itself. Something small he can carry in his pocket, wear on his wrist, or hold can give reassurance. Too much contact (phone calls during the school day, Skyping while he's away at camp, etc.) can lead to dependence that delays readiness for eventual separation.
There are plenty of reasons--cyberstalking, terrorism, disease, to name a few--for keeping a child at home and the anchor line short. Garber reminds parents that "They must fall down . . . and they'll need you there, once again, to hold them tight."
Garber's writing is fueled by his experience as a psychologist, but it's readable and conversational enough that it doesn't have the feel of an academic journal article. He may actually have gone a bit too far, sacrificing some structure and practical application for a more free-flowing, story-telling style. I think most parents want to hold tight too long. Garber reminds us that as long as we give our children a reliable anchor, we can let that anchor line go and we'll find they circle back to hold tight in a way that's healthy for both parent and child.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!