George W. S. Trow was not widely known as a father. Fancy essayist, editor of the twee, proto-media-critic (in the days when Media might include painting, television, and opera all at once), but Daddy? Not so much.
But his most famous work, Within the Context of No Context, which I highly recommend, does expend a lot of energy describing children. Granted, the children in this, uh, context, weren’t really children at all, but members of our culture, which Trow believed to be infantilized by television (and though he didn’t know it when the essay was first published in 1980, the Internet), confused by dissociative stimuli, and ruined by isolation.
That said, several passages in this fascinating, confusing, startling, beautifully written little book refer to the parenting of actual children, not “cultural” kids raised by folks who thinks “open and honest dialogue will keep Baby Judy from gulping Quaaludes and drinking Night Train Express and marking her arms with razor blades,” or who indoctrinates his little ones with such thoughts as “nobody does anything in America unless it is perceived as a step up.”
A couple of examples:
An important role of a father is to give a son a sense of permission—a sense of what might be done. This still works [in America], but since no adult is supported by the voice of the culture (which is now a childish voice), it does not work well.
In the absence of adults, people came to put their trust in experts.
“Adulthood” in the last generations has little to do with “adulthood” as that word would have been understood by adults in any previous generation. Rather, “adulthood” has been defined as “a position of control in the world of childhood.”
I started out thinking that this post would be about my efforts to parse these statements, but I’m going to let them stand. I think they are relevant to many of the situations I encounter as a parent, and I would wager many of this site’s readers would agree. I definitely think these lines above help explain much of what gets put up on this site, for better and for worse. Perhaps some of you will tell me what you think.