Terry Castle’s advice to kids: become an orphan!


Breaking up is hard to do.

Terry Castle‘s new essay on “The Case for Breaking Up with Your Parents” is getting a lot of attention over at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

She begins by discussing her Stanford students, who seem to be in constant contact with their parents via email, texting, voicemail. Helicopter parents?  It’s worse than that, she says – we’ve now got snowplow parents, blowing everything out of their way as they blaze a path for their kids.  Not only do they mastermind student schedules and coursework, they’re in touch with kids up to half-a-dozen times a day.

Terry finds this all very depressing.  She concludes:

My own view remains predictably twisty, fraught, and disloyal. Parents, in my opinion, have to be finessed, thought around, even as we love them: They are so colossally wrong about so many important things. And even when they are not, paradoxically, even when they are 100 percent right, the imperative remains the same: To live an “adult” life, a meaningful life, it is necessary, I would argue, to engage in a kind of symbolic self-orphaning. The process will be different for every person. I have my own inspirational cast of characters in this regard, a set of willful, heroic self-orphaners, past and present, whom I continue to revere: Mozart, the musical child prodigy who successfully rebelled against his insanely grasping and narcissistic father (Leopold Moz­art), who for years shopped him around the courts of Europe as a sort of family cash cow; Sigmund Freud, who, by way of unflinching self-analysis, discovered that it was possible to love and hate something or someone at one and the same time (mothers and fathers included) and that such painfully “mixed emotion” was also inescapably human; Virginia Woolf, who in spite of childhood loss, mental illness, and an acute sense of the sex-prejudice she saw everywhere around her, not only forged a life as a great modernist writer, but made her life an incorrigibly honest and vulnerable one.

Or are her reflections pertinent only to the world of Stanford students, spending $50K a year  to be among the palm trees and sandstone? “The first step towards getting rid of parents is paying your own bills,” replies one pragmatic reader.  The responses in the comment section are all over the map.

Read the whole article, and the comments, here.

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3 Responses to “Terry Castle’s advice to kids: become an orphan!”

  1. earl Says:

    Great article, I must now read the rest of Terry Castle’s essay.

  2. Shelley Says:

    Fascinating. Another example of how the wide empty personal spaces needed for reading and thinking have shrunk to a tiny cell with cellphone.

  3. Emma Says:

    Very interesting article. I completely agree that many parents cross the line from being supportive and end up intruding on or “living through” their child’s life and accomplishments. I recently read another article on the topic that I found to be very interesting and informative, http://www.psychalive.org/2013/03/the-problem-with-narcissistic-parents/, I highly recommend it!