James Cory's Reviews > Above Parr: Memoir of a Child Prodigy

Above Parr by Patricia Parr
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really liked it

I truly enjoyed the book. The following is more of a reflection than a review:

Although framed as a musical memoir, Patricia Parr's book (implicitly) poses the following question for her readers to consider: "How do you raise a prodigy?" Or, in her words, how do you support your gifted child without pushing them into a life they don't necessarily want?

We live in ambitious times. You need only to go through the New York preschool application process, as I recently did for my son, to witness the hysteria attached to early achievement, the widespread presumption that a child’s destiny hinges on getting a baby foot on a tall ladder. Parental obsessiveness on this front reflects the hegemony of developmental psychiatry, with its insistence that first experience is formative.

What are we to do with this information?

I would hate for my children to feel that their worth is contingent on sustaining competitive advantage, as Parr no doubt felt, but I’d also hate for them to fall short of their potential. Tiger mothers, like Parr's, who browbeat their children into submission overemphasize a narrow category of achievement over psychic health. Attachment parenting, conversely, often sacrifices accomplishment to an ideal of unboundaried acceptance that can be equally dangerous.

While it is true that some parents push their kids too hard and give them breakdowns, others fail to support a child’s passion for his own gift and deprive him of the only life that he would have enjoyed. You can err in either direction. Given that there is no consensus about how to raise ordinary children, it is not surprising that there is none about how to raise remarkable children.

So, in the end, Parr doesn't offer a conclusive answer to the question "How do you raise a prodigy?" That's because (a) it's not a book on parenting (not directly, anyways), and (b) there is no conclusive answer. All parenting is guesswork -- difference of any kind, positive or negative, just makes the guessing harder.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 26, 2017 – Shelved

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