Franklin from "Peanuts" and "Good Enough" Parenting: An Observation
The weather at the beach turned out to be beautiful. This was a month ago, and the beach was partially filled with people because of a brief thunderstorm that happened an hour earlier, but leaving the sky clear and the heat tempered. I was with my wife and another couple, who was in town visiting their family and we were able to meet up at the Island. The couple was with their four year old child who is, as a social scientist would categorize as of mixed race, but as my wife and I describe as a really cute, intelligent, but somewhat shy boy.
Our friend's boy was playing alone when a young boy, happy and calm in his disposition and who's family camped several feet away from our group, approached our friend's boy. The boy was approximately three years of age, and unabashedly friendly. He approached our friend's boy and asked to play together - perfect execution. The boy's mother, sitting with her husband and three other children (newborn, 5, and 8) in their camp thirty feet away, did not react at all to her son's sociability. She did not curtly insist her boy return to their camp. She did not anxiously beg the boy to be careful. She just let him try to make a friend, which eventually worked. We were all happy to see the acquaintanceship begin on its own. What impressed me even more than the boy's confidence and persistence, is that the parents, who appeared to be White, non-Hispanic, did not show one iota of concern that the boys were different in skin color.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of Franklin in the Peanuts comic strip. His first appearance happened on the beach, with him approaching Charlie Brown on a beach asking "Is this your ball?" There were no parents there to put the idea of difference in their minds - much like what a person would expect from parents in the late 60's - but two kids finding common ground in respect and mutual enjoyment. A gustsy move by Charles Shultz in that era, but a successful one. It was a true representation of a developing child - types of differences and their importance in a given society are taught.
To understand the world is to create methods for determining differences between objects, as our developing brain naturally does, but to appreciate the world is to break down those differences and determine how to objects are the same. How gravity affects everything, for example, or how water is prevalent in all living things, or that all living things communicate with each other. Good enough parenting is to give just enough structure, safety, guidance to children at different stages of development, and allow their natural tendencies to manifest and guide them. Two boys playing on the beach have the natural tendency for play, and allowing it to develop organically, without the need to create a category for such play, is more than good enough.