Monday, June 11, 2012

Mistakes Were Made

Spoiler Alert:  You might want to read Gone Girl before reading my blog.  It is thoroughly entertaining and worth the hours I stayed up too late to read it.  I’ll loan it to you, if you’d like.  But, you don’t have to have read the book to get the blog.  Up to you….

What’s worse than having one parent who’s a psychologist?

Having two parents who are psychologists.

In Gillian Flynn’s new book, Gone Girl, Amy, beloved daughter and hated wife, has gone missing.  Amy is the daughter of two psychologists who have written a best selling series about her, Amazing Amy.  The Amazing Amy books are a set of morality tales in which Amy always emerges the victor.  The superior.  The doer of right things.  Amy, the person, lives under the specter of perfection.  A fictional self she must live up to. 

She is also a psychopath.  A person without a conscience, without remorse.  Though is not explicitly stated that this childhood gave rise to her psychopathology, it is implied. 

I think it could simply be ironic that Amy turned out this way.  But that may be because, reading the book, I felt a light being shined a bit too brightly in my own eyes. 

From the moment I was pregnant I heard people joke about Sophia’s terrible fate —that she was doomed to be screwed up, being raised by two psychologists.  As if we would be scrutinizing her every move (we do), forcing her to talk about her emotions (guilty), and analyzing her motivations (yes, that too), and that somehow, one day, this would push her over the edge.  (By the way:  The dual-psychologist effect is amplified when there is only one child to absorb all of this attention.)

Now the good news is that the most recent research on psychopaths reveals that there is most likely a genetic vulnerability, which may be expressed when coupled with horrific, extreme childhood abuse.  I haven’t heard of any psychopaths in the family tree (Kevin has conducted extensive ancestry research), and the worst thing I have done is pinch Sophie’s tushie because it is just so darn cute.

I cannot be the only person who has done this.  And, if there was any direct causal relationship between tushie pinching and psychopathology, I think there would be a lot more of them running around.

In Gone Girl, it wasn’t garden variety psychologist-parent behavior or even tushie pinching that pushed Amy over the edge.  Amy’s parents thought they could raise the perfect child.  Or that they were raising the perfect child.  Herein lies the difference.  I know I am making mistakes.  Every day.  They fly out of my mouth every time I yell, they seep into the atmosphere every time I grown impatient.  And I have no illusions that Sophia is the perfect child.  There are days she is perfectly monstrous, but most of the time she just being her willful, free-spirited, wacky self. 

The other parallel in the book that made me blush was the fact that Amy’s parents wrote about Amy.  (Guilty again.)  I think I am less concerned with the impact of having two psychologists as parents (which largely amounts to behavior charts, a concerted effort to foster social and emotional skills, and a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking), than I am of Sophie having her life so publically documented. 

Just the other day, I flashed to middle school.  What might it be like for Sophie if her friends discovered I have been writing about her all her life?  Or worse, her enemies?  Could this be a source of humiliation for her?  Have I deprived her of her privacy?  I want to believe that these essays are more about my musings as a parent than an expose of my daughter’s daily existence—but can they be separated?  Will they be separated? 

Perhaps not.  And if not, it will certainly be my duty to notice this and do something about it.  I’ve thought about having to stop, which I certainly would, if I thought it was hurting Sophie. 

I can only hope that these carefully crafted stories will one day be received, not as a life-long exploitation, but as a exploration of the parent I strive to be, and an homage to the person who made it all possible.  

This post is inspired by mystery thriller, Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. They may not have the perfect marriage, but after Amy goes missing, Nick becomes the number one suspect. Can he discover what happened before it's too late? Join From Left to Write June 12 as we discuss Gone Girl. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Amy @ said...

Ah, I'm no psychologist, but I certainly struggle with the writing about my kids and how they'll feel about it in the future. I'm hoping they'll see the humor and love that's the foundation for all of it. Hoping. Otherwise I'll have to farm 'em out to a psychologist!

Neena said...

I decided recently not to write so much about my kids. They are getting a bit older (8, 6, 4) and I no longer feel like it is my story to tell.