Thursday, April 12, 2007

the projectionist syndrome

Here is something I have to be careful about as a parent, especially with a child who has a limited capacity to communicate verbally as he is only a toddler. I'll call it the "Projectionist Syndrome." What I mean by that is that I've noticed that I sometimes have the tendency to project onto my child. I had a little bit of a wake up call a while back. I blogged about the incident here and more importantly here.

What happened was that my son began to cry one day at the supermarket. I totally misinterpreted the reason he cried, thinking it was because he got scared of a dark-skinned black cashier. Not so. He got scared of getting separated from me, which I realized when the incident repeated itself later, but with a white-like-me female cashier about the same age as I.

Such an incident just goes to show that misinterpreting my kid’s motives or behavior as -I don't want to call it racist at this age, but "racial"- can be a real issue – for all of us, I think. Was I projecting my own racist thoughts onto my son? I think so. At least I was definitely racializing my son's thoughts. And that’s not good, especially since I’m trying to be an anti-racist parent.

Since then, I have been trying to withhold judgment when it comes to my son’s reactions to his environment (unless he is outright violent, a common phenomenon at this age, as toddlers test their strength and influence on their surroundings). Instead of trying to interpret my son’s behavior through my own convoluted lens, I have been trying to remain open and to trust that young children are inherently pure and open-minded, unaffected by racism. So far, this has actually been the case. My son seems equally interested in interacting in all the myriad of ways in which he expresses himself with children and adults of various races and ages.

So, to go back to my initial statement, I am trying hard to make sure that I don’t project my own issues onto my son. I guess that is a good general guideline when it comes to parenting period, but especially as related to anti-racist parenting. To counter my tendency to project, I find myself constantly examining my own thought process and catching myself making unfounded judgments or thinking racist thoughts. Then I try to reprogram those ingrained voices. At the same time, I keep reminding myself to withold judgment when it comes to my child's behavior and to just watch and learn with new eyes. Tricky indeed, but I am noticing a huge shift within myself. I hope it's for the wiser...

No comments: