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Mother of Invention

via 1843 Magazine by The Economist (h/t the Other Half)

In contrast to today’s tiger mothers and helicopter parents, Maye did not hover over her children, schedule their lives, read to them or check their homework; indeed, they learned to forge her signature to sign off their work. She was hands-off, just as her parents had been. “I didn’t interfere with your lives,” Maye says to Kimbal, who responds that they felt very independent as children. When asked about her approach to child-rearing she says deadpan, “I was a perfect mother.” She and her son both break into gales of laughter. “Everyone should take lessons,” Kimbal teases. Was she never worried about whether they would find their way in life? “No,” she answers quickly, and then, “I didn’t have time to.”

Yet it seems reasonable to believe that Maye had some influence on how these three individuals turned out. And her approach to parenting was very different to the modern norm. By today’s standards, she gave her children an outlandish degree of freedom to take risks, extraordinarily little supervision and made no attempt to shape their interests or to determine their futures. They made adult decisions at an early age, and even though the family was separated often, the bond between them remained strong.

In a way, Dad gave us a large degree of freedom, only checking in at necessary milestones. My greatest appreciation was always being treated as an adult, even from a young age. We[1] learnt to own our decisions and accept both good and bad consequences. It was only in my 20s, when I started to chat and make friends with people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, that I realised the impact of being brought up this way.

  1. Siblings included ↩︎