Wonder if you have the same attitude toward mollycoddling as I have? It’s a hard one to pin down. If I am mollycoddling, it’s the thing to do. If I am being mollycoddled, well, that’s alright, too. Society in general seems to have a harsher view, unless it sells something. Who doesn’t mind being mollycoddled with velvety ice cream, blinding diamonds, expensive rigs, wear-only-once outfits to once-in-a-lifetime events, lavish meals in luxurious settings, exotic trips to out-of this-world locales? But a touch, a genuine smile, a kind voice and eyes that really see may be more valuable though the cost is zero.
Consider babies. Mommas tend to mollycoddle their newborns. I did, sometimes under the critical eye of my parents, who, by the way, did their share of mollycoddling when I wasn’t around. Then, when my toddler began exploring, I eased up a bit, hard as it was, because I wanted him to be adventurous and learn to think for himself in a way that toddlers can if allowed. There was that critical eye again, from the same parents who let me get skinned knees and elbows learning to ride my bike and suffer the consequences of disobeying when life and limb weren’t in question. It’s a balancing act that parents learn. I hear and read often that babies can’t really be spoiled. The cuddling and playing and rocking and soothing help them feel safe as well as help Mom and Dad learn to communicate with their child before language develops. Parents can read expressions, gestures, tones, grunts, eyes and silences way before babies speak, but only if they are paying attention. Babies learn those skills, too. Mollycoddling is a necessary avenue for that.
It bothers me to more frequently witness parents with attention on a screen while their previous child is tucked into a plastic carrier staring at the ceiling from a floor or a chair or a table. How that baby would love a goochy-goo, a lap to sit on while Momma or Daddy describes the world or reads or book or sings a tune! It’s the loving interaction- or mollycoddling – that fosters growth in a myriad of diversified paths – that encourages a child to explore and nudge boundaries all while feeling loved and secure.
Mollycoddling is not pacifying; it’s nurturing. Pacifying – keeping a child quiet – seems a current trend. (You realize I am NOT talking about the use of those gizmos we stick in babies’ mouths, that they learn to play games with, that they train their parents with). Mollycoddling a preteen or adolescent is shallow wasted energy if the sole purpose is to keep them quiet and out of the way. The gig is up. Older kids see right through that and might feel as if they are not worth the smiles and touches and attention loved offspring deserve from parents who make them feel valued and wanted by time and attention.
What happens to individuals who don’t feel they were valued enough to be given boundaries, direction, attention and love? Maybe our nation is grappling with increasingly horrendous side effects of distracted child-rearing.