When Will I Be Good Enough?
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Preface to When Will I Be Good Enough

Abigail Brenner, M.D.
Author of Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script
by Rita Battat Silberman & Abigail Brenner, M.D


“Careful the things you say, children will listen.”
These powerful words from the musical Into the Woods go to the heart of the matter in describing the delicate and precarious interaction between parents and their children. Children are not blank slates as had once been thought. Quite the contrary, children are born with their own temperament which strongly influences their disposition and developing personality. But often this unfolding personality is highjacked because of early programming and parental intervention. When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing is Barbara Jaffe’s beautiful rendering of such a story—one that poignantly shows us what can happen when the influence of a beloved parent changes the course of a young person’s life; alters the way a child sees and learns to move through the world.

There are so many layers to this book. Any one of us can relate to the parent-child dynamic. Many of us feel misunderstood by those we feel should know us best of all—our parents. Children often feel as if they are not seen and heard for who they are in their own right. The theme of not being truly known for who we are still runs deep in the lives of many adults who often take decades, and sometimes a lifetime, to come to terms with the consequences of their lives and to find peace through acceptance of themselves. If this were not a difficult enough task, consider the dilemma of the replacement child, one who is born to replace another child who has died, in its most basic definition. While many babies born after the death of another are welcomed into a family and loved for the unique individual they are, the replacement child carries the added burden of keeping their parent(s) focused on the forward motion of life in spite of unresolved grief which continues to haunt them, often for a lifetime. Barbara after Jeffrey. A mother’s inability to see her daughter standing in her own light, out of the shadow of a brother she never knew.

The replacement child lives to please, lives to keep the peace, lives to be “good enough” in their parents’ eyes. But the replacement child often falls short, not because of anything they’ve done, but because a parent who lives in grief also lives in the past—in the time before their child’s death. The replacement child is supposed to be the “fixer,” the one born to make up for the devastating loss but instead often ends up feeling like second best, the “replacement” for the original other, the one who was supposed to be here but isn’t. And then there are the limiting beliefs, the preconceived thoughts, ideas, and pronouncements seemingly written in stone, which are handed down from parent to child. Even questioning what is handed down to us as children often amounts to a kind of betrayal, for how can a child want anything different from a beloved parent who surely knows what’s best for them?

When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing takes us on the twists and turns of a journey of self-discovery to a place of self-acceptance. It is a beautiful portrait of a life unfolding, blossoming into its full beauty. It is a story of taking control of one’s life, of taking responsibility for becoming the person one is meant to be, of learning how to listen to one’s own voice and of learning how to trust one’s own internal compass. Barbara Jaffe teaches us that although we may never get the recognition we so deserve from those we want it most, we can ultimately get what we need from the best place imaginable—from within ourselves.

Books Recommended by Barbara Jaffe

A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss

On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Ezupery

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro

The Replacement Child by Judy L. Mandel

Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script
by Rita Battat Silverman & Abigail Brenner, M.D.

Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman

The Secret of the Soul
by William L. Buhlman

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Lovingkindness by Anne Roiphe

Writing is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice
(and A Guide to How You Can Too)
by Theo Pauline Nestor

Barbara Jaffe is a regular contributor to Psychology Today

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