Readers respond to "Hard Rain" by Anne Lamott and "Through a Glass, Darkly" by Dr. Lynn Ponton.

Published January 6, 2003 8:21PM (EST)

[Read "Through a Glass, Darkly" by Dr. Lynn Ponton.]

I think that in "Through a Glass, Darkly" Dr. Lynn Ponton completely missed the point. The mother whose question she didn't answer was a very self-aware woman who realized that her younger daughter seemed to have inherited the same tendency to say she didn't deserve happiness that her mother had, and that her older daughter had the same tendency to procrastinate and avoid work as she did. The mother was asking whether she could do anything to modify traits in her daughter that she now wonders if they inherited -- which they really may have! -- and Dr. Ponton's answer was to say that the woman was being too hard on herself!

I know for myself and for friends who've been in therapy, that we are shocked to notice self-doubting feelings or thoughts in our children that we thought came from having had unsupportive or critical parenting -- which, God knows, our kids haven't had. (We've got the videotapes to prove it.) It's also painful to see our children have problems that we know are going to make their work lives and ability to reach their potential more difficult, especially if we have the same problems. Boy, can I relate!

The mother's separation from the father probably complicates all of this, but Dr. Ponton acted as if that issue was the primary cause of the mother's concerns. She subtly made the mother into a case of depression, which is very insulting.

The mother needed practical advice, and I don't think just telling your kids that you've got the same problems and have struggled with them all of your life with no real solution is enough. What a downer! Since she was already a very supportive parent, she hoped Dr. Ponton had some more ideas about how to help her girls not get saddled with the same issues she herself has.

I hope "Reflecting Mother" finds her answers. I have often had the same questions myself, and I wish Dr. Ponton were more honest and simply said, "Gee, I don't have the answer."

-- Larry Letich

The letter from the ironically self-titled "Reflecting Mother" and Dr. Ponton's response reveal how parenting has fallen prey to the psycho babble of both the professional patient and the medical professional.

Did the "reflecting mother" consider carefully about the man with whom she became involved and the likelihood of their marriage thriving prior to having children?

Did she reflect on whether her habits of procrastination and boredom with applying herself were the habits that she wanted to model for her daughter?

It is difficult enough as an adult to deal with the huge gap between what reality is and what we want life to be. How much harder is it for a child?

A child learns how to behave from their parents. If the parent behaves inappropriately, has a poor work ethic and lacks self-confidence, what is the child learning on a daily basis? How a parent behaves is as critical as what a parent says.

Every day I see the consequences from Dr. Ponton's advice that "The pursuit of personal happiness and self-acceptance is often a long road that occupies a lifetime, but it is key that this mother continues her search, for her daughters and herself." In other words, children must put up with their parents spending long periods of time obsessing over themselves rather than attending to the business of parenting.

There seems to be much confusion amongst the over-therapied as to the differences between narcissism and introspection, self-understanding and self-absorption.

For the sake of her daughters, I would hope that "reflecting mother" changes her poor habits so that her daughters start realizing the correlation between actions, or lack thereof, and results.

-- H.K. Lew

[Read "Hard Rain," by Anne Lamott.]

Thank you. Thank you for being funny, even about the scariest things (war, Dubya & Co., California's weather, etc.). Thank you for being the only Christian I can read without becoming nauseated. Thank you for using your humor and gift of wordplay to help me feel better about the world I'm living in.

As a longtime reader of science fiction/fantasy literature, the concept of waking up to a world fundamentally changed while you yourself still remember the old one is familiar to me. However, I never in my life expected to be living IN a world like that ... until Dubya's daddy's cronies snagged the brass ring of the presidency for him. Now, it seems every day brings another headline that prompts me to pinch myself and ask, "What the hell happened to my country?"

Ann, your column is one of the few bright spots for me in this increasingly dark and frightening world. You help me to believe that if enough of us try hard enough we can stop this mad rush back to the Dark Ages, and you make me laugh out loud at the same time. Heck, your take on religion even has me nodding my head in agreement at times, and that's saying a lot. So please, keep praying to your God and telling us about your conversations with her. Keep writing columns that shine a bit of brightness in these depressing times. Keep fighting the good fight with humor and empathy intact.

Thank you again.

-- Tracy Poole

Having Annie back is such a comfort. It feels like the rekindling of a childhood friendship, the kind where no time seems to have passed. Thanks for that.

-- Sarah

By Salon Staff

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