News from the Executive Office

What’s the purpose of a happy childhood?

When the Family Support Center network was a line item in the budget of the Department of Human Resources, the network was justified as a strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect, long-term welfare dependency, failure in school, and other negative family outcomes. 

Maryland Family Network logo.When it was moved to the Maryland State Department of Education, along with the network of Child Care Resource Centers, both statewide networks were justified as school-readiness strategies.  There are plenty of benefits that result from a great start in life — advantages to the child, her family, and society — and those benefits are used to support the expenditure of public dollars on early care and education.   I believe, however, that a happy childhood is its own justification.  So I was struck by this entry in Exchange Everyday, August 3, 2015, edition:

In her review in the New York Times of the book, How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott Haims, Heather Havrilesky makes this observation:

“When did the central aim of parenting become preparing children for success? This reigning paradigm, which dictates that every act of nurturing be judged on the basis of whether it will usher a child toward a life of accomplishment or failure, embodies the fundamental insecurity of global capitalist culture, with its unbending fixation on prosperity and the future. It’s no surprise that parenting incites such heated debates, considering how paradoxical these principles can be when they’re applied to children. When each nurturing act is administered with the distant future in mind, what becomes of the present? A child who soaks in the ambient anxiety that surrounds each trivial choice or activity is an anxious child, formed in the hand-wringing, future-focused image of her anxious parents.”