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Pines, D. (1978). On Becoming A Parent. J. Child Psychother., 4(4):19-31.

(1978). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 4(4):19-31

On Becoming A Parent

Dinora Pines


Throughout our lives we act and re-enact the role of parents and still retain within us the child we once were. The baby who puts his spoon of food to Mother's mouth is taking his first step toward parenthood, trying to feed and care for her as she had fed and cared for him. The games we play as children, “Mummies and Daddies”, “Mummy and Baby”, “Daddy and Baby”, express our feelings, our curiosity and our observations of adult life and the world about us. Thus in observing children we see the wish to have and look after a child foreshadowed early in life, both in play and fantasy, long before there is any physical possibility of parenthood. Normally a woman, usually the mother, is the first most important person in the child's life. Often little girls and boys play with dolls and soft toys, and both identify with mother as they play with the fantasy child in a quest for adult status. So maternal attitudes may be the first attributes of parenthood for both boys and girls, and the boy goes on to develop fatherliness later when he begins to admire Father's masculinity and his own, in identification with him. (Kestenberg, 1974). As the triangular situation develops between Father, Mother and Child, the child's wish fora child of his own, in identification with his parents, is expressed directly either in play or in words. The little boy wants to give mother a baby, the little girl longs to bear father's child, and primitive passions can be expressed with relative safety since the child's physical helplessness and immaturity are his best protection against the fulfilment of these early primitive drives.

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