Everything went well until it was time for the frosting. We were out of powdered sugar! I begged Mom to go to the store and get me some – the cake would be ruined if it didn’t have the right frosting! “No,” she said, and pointed to a 7-minute frosting recipe. It took a lot of reassurance that this frosting would work just as well, and that I could succeed at making it. Except, I failed.
I ran to my room, slammed the door and bawled. Making this cake on my own was like some sort of rite of passage; if I could nail it, I was officially a baker in my own right. It had to be perfect. From my room, I could hear Mom in the kitchen. Then I heard the jangle of keys, and the car started up. It was after dark and getting towards bed time. Soon, Mom was back with a bag of powdered sugar. I dried my eyes and stared at Mom in wonder. After a big hug, I tackled the frosting and presented my very first cake!
During my childhood, Mom and I spent hours together in the kitchen. One night during strawberry season we stayed up incredibly late, destemming and slicing berries. And of course, there were always piles of dishes to slog through. Cooking and baking together was bonding time.
My mom was present. From my littlest kicking, to toddling, to kindergarten field trips, middle school basketball games, and notes tucked in my home-made high school lunches. I took cues on how to handle myself socially and emotionally from her (and Dad). Her presence was an anchor. Skin my knee? Mom put on the band-aid and kissed the “ow-ie”. Need friends? Mom counseled me through.
In 2017, Erica Komisar, a psychoanalyst and parent guidance expert wrote Being There, Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.1 She focuses in on the first three years of a child’s life:
“Spending more time with your child during this critical period of development means she will have a greater chance of being emotionally secure and resilient to stress as well as being better able to regulate her emotions throughout life, read others’ social cues, achieve a higher emotional intelligence, and connect with others intimately,” Komisar says on page one.
“…I want to stress that without physical presence – if you are not with your child – you cannot be emotionally present. And just as time spent with your child has long-term benefits, the lack of that essential connection can have lifelong repercussions,” Komisar continues on page two.
Compare this to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)2, public education’s primary source for all things social and emotional:3 “The purpose and mission of [CASEL’s] Collaborating States Initiative(CSI), launched in 2016, is to work with states and school districts to help ensure that preschool to high school students are fully prepared – academically, socially, and emotionally, – to succeed in school, at work, and in life.”4
Komisar states, “There’s substantial research that confirms the more time a woman can devote to the joy and job of mothering during that period [0-3], the better the chance her child will be emotionally secure and healthy throughout his life.” Then that child will go to school. . .And be socially and emotionally stable. So where does social emotional well-being fit in schools, if clearly its source is mom (and dad, which is pointed out later in her book)?
CASEL and its many “select” social emotional programs state that kids just don’t come to school with social/emotional skills, and must be taught them at school. “Our mission is ambitious: to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school.”2*
Something is off here – do parents build up a child’s social and emotional well-being, or does the school?
We have decades of research on families, human development and child psychology supporting the vital and necessary presence and involvement of parents in establishing healthy, “whole” children. Daycare, preschool and kindergarten separate children from their mothers at crucial times; times when social and emotional well-being is formulated. You can read about this critical time in Erica Komisar’s book. (Don’t worry, she addresses the working mother’s dilemma!)
When it comes down to it, you cannot replace the importance of moms and dads being there to develop a child’s social and emotional well-being. Who else would’ve understood the critical emotional formation happening during my baking and gone to the store for me, so I could finish my cake? Thanks, Mom! —
Buy Erica Komisar’s book at Amazon:1https://www.amazon.com/Being-There-Prioritizing-Motherhood-Matters/dp/0143109294/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=komisar,+erica&qid=1584033908&sr=8-1
1Erica Komisar, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters (Tarcher Perigee: NewYork, 2017).
*I have yet to locate CASEL’s presentation of their empirical quantitative and qualitative research with techniques, methodologies, etc.5