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August 26, 1988 - Image 60

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-08-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I FAMILY/SCHOOL

Loving
Doting,
Jewish Mothers

Despite what comedians say, the old-
fashioned Vewish mother" knew a
thing or two about helping kids thrive

,

Marsha Mitnick holding her six-month-old daughter, Emily.

JULIUS SEGAL

1141 of long ago, our daugh-
ter, Becki, encountered
a mother's dilemma.
Her six-year-old son,
Aaron, asked if she
would delay for an hour picking him
up after school. He wanted to join a
fellow first grader in a visit to the
community center across the street
from his school. Becki's response was
outwardly calm. "Yes," she answered,
"but be careful crossing the street."
Here was a sensitive boy's first step
toward independence and autonomy,
and she was not about to block it.
But inwardly Becki felt the
agonizing clutch of anxiety. What if,
by the time he gets there, the cross-
ing guard has already left her sta-
tion? Suppose the other kid cops out,
and Aaron remains alone and aban-
doned? And what if, God forbid, a
child molester should suddenly
appear?
Becki's resolution was in the
classic tradition of the hovering

60 '-'FRIDAY, ,AUGUST26- ,1988

"Jewish mother" of my own youth.
She gave her son a list of safety dos
and don'ts to live by as he left for
school on that fateful day. She drove
to a point near the school and unob-
trusively watched her precious son
safely brave the crossing. And she
asked (no, ordered) a friend who work-
ed at the community center to keep
an eye out for Aaron during his
perilous hour outside her safekeeping.
In recent years, such impassioned
maternal behavior has been out of
fashion. Indeed, this type of mother
— often not only protective, but
demanding, self-sacrificing, upward
striving — has been the subject of
derision by, among others,
psychiatrists, comedians, and
novelists. The result has been _ a
stereotyped mother figure — no mat-
ter what her actual ethnic
background, religion, or race — who
stands indicted for producing nothing
but psychological problems in her
children.
How does that popularly accepted
judgment stand up? How bad for the

mental health of children actually dings suggest otherwise. Babies tend
was the much-maligned Jewish to grow more compliant when their
mother — or the Italian, Irish, Puer- distress signals — crying, fussing,
to Rican, German, Chinese, or any unhappy facial expressions — are
other mother — who was so constant- responded to promptly. In contrast,
ly obsessed with the welfare and suc- they continue to whine and cry and
cess of her young?
become even less compliant when
their calls are slow to be answered or
"Overprotective" or
are ignored altogeher.

responsive?

lb begin with, there is little
evidence that the ever-present,
sheltering "Momma" was all that bad
for her kids. On the contrary, her in-
stinct for on-the-spot responsiveness
to the needs of her little ones, starting
from birth, appears to have been pro-
foundly wise.
At the University of Virginia,
psychologist Mary D. Salter Ains-
worth and her associates studied
mother-infant relationships at home.
Some mothers responded promptly
when their babies cried. Others did
not, often failing to do so because they
held the belief — still quite common
— that to respond would be to "spoil"
the child. But the researchers' fin-

Moreover, contrary to the popular
view, the researchers found that
answering the baby's bids for atten-
tion does not interfere with the
development of independence. Tender
and indulgent mothers, long thought
by many to make the baby reluctant
to "cut the cord" and explore the
world, have just the opposite effect.
Their little ones, feeling securely at-
tached to a tuned-in guardian, also
feel secure in venturing outside
Mother's protective shadow to test
their own capacities. Renowned
psychoanalyst Erik Erikson conclud-
ed that all children need to learn just
such a feeling of trust, the conviction
that "somebody is there," in order to
survive on their own.

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