How to Raise a Child: 10 Rules from Susan Sontag

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Be consistent. Always speak well of his pop. Do not discourage childish fantasies.

The second volume of Susan Sontag's diaries, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980, gave us the celebrated author and thinker's insights on love, writing, censorship, and aphorisms. However, it was in the first installment, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (public library), that the beloved public intellectual coalesces out of a shaky young woman grappling with her place in relation to the world and herself -- as we've already seen in her 1957 list of "rules + duties for being 24″.

Two years later, in September of 1959, Sontag lists her 10 rules for raising a child. (Their object, Sontag's son David Rieff, edited this very volume.) Underpinning them is a subtle but palpable reverence for the precious gift of "childishness" -- something Ted Hughes has spoken to with such stirring eloquence

sontag_david.jpg
Image via The Telegraph
  1. Be consistent.
  2. Don't speak about him to others (e.g., tell funny things) in his presence. (Don't make him self-conscious.)
  3. Don't praise him for something I wouldn't always accept as good.
  4. Don't reprimand him harshly for something he's been allowed to do.
  5. Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
  6. sontag_reborn.jpg
  7. Don't allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
  8. Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
  9. Do not discourage childish fantasies.
  10. Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that's none of his business.
  11. Don't assume that what I don't like to do (bath, hairwash) he won't like either.



This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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