The mother lode

How do we parent today? What's too much or too little -- and who decides?

Published August 4, 2006 10:00AM (EDT)

Families Who Think

Still Harpying After All These Years...

kit - 06:05 am Pacific Time - Jul 26, 2006 - #6042 of 6307

You have uncovered one of my major pet peeves about the whole punditocracy overanalysis of Parents These Days and how we endlessly hover over our kids and don't allow them any freedom blah blah blah we're spoiled ourselves and we're too lazy to parent properly blah blah blah we indulge our children and give them everything they want blah blah blah we care more about ourselves than we care about our children blah blah blah we have kids just so we can pass them off to our illegal Guatemalan immigrant nanny to raise blah blah blah please refer to Judith Warner's piece in the NY Times recently about our selfish collective refusal to send our kids to sleepaway camp. If I have this right, we're lazy and self-centered but we always hover over our kids and don't allow them any freedom and obsess over their grades and generally we're destroying their lives because of our unrelenting ambitions for them, but at the same time our kids are wild and undisciplined and apparently that's all our fault, too. Basically we're ruining them.

When I was growing up, kids would act like kids and the world would bemoan the fact that there was something wrong with the kids. Now that I'm a parent, kids act like kids and the world bemoans the fact that there's something wrong with the parents. Can't we please get to the point of admitting that there's nothing wrong with the kids, the parents are doing no worse than a dozen preceeding generations have done, and maybe the real problem is the pundits?

And are we really so much more obsessed than parents in the past? If Felix Mendelssohn's parents locked him away in the attic and forced him to practice violin for hours on end, can't anybody cut the Suzuki moms out here a little slack for finding a less-abusive way to teach string instruments? What about Brooke Shields' parents, who had her acting in porn flicks? Are we more ambitious than that? In my hometown, I remember perfectly normal kids getting shipped off to military camps, because their parents discovered them smoking pot. Maybe our generation is smart enough to say, let's talk with our kids, let's maybe get them into counselling if this is a problem, but boot camp is not the answer.

If there is anybody who is being subjected to unrelenting scrutiny it's the modern-day parent, not the kids. I'm sick to death of Judith Warner, David Brooks, Tierney, and their ilk blasting my generation with absolutely no solid information to go on other than a generally sanctimonious attitude about other people they don't know, have never spoken to, have never met, and have nothing in common with. Case in point: Judith Warner seems to think we are obsessed with our kids because we all have nannycams trained on them 24/7, so we can watch them from work. Her evidence is that we're not apparently sending our kids to sleepaway camp for weeks on end in the summer. She herself, of course, works from home and makes a nice cushy living as a pundit for the Times, and she herself has no clue what it feels like to be trapped in a cubicle for 10 or 11 hours a day doing mind-numbing work. Maybe she'd have a little more empathy for the working mothers who want a chance to spend a summer vacation with their own kids. As for the nannycam thang, I will happily venture an opinion on it, if I ever actually meet someone who uses one. The pundits insist we all have one, but in my limited experience in the non-pundit reality-based world I've never actually met a parent who owns one.

Private Life

Child-free Table-Talkers

clemencedane - 02:51 pm Pacific Time - Aug 1, 2006 - #6916 of 6958

I don't understand why anyone would watch their child's lessons. That is the time for the child to do something by themselves out in the world, learning to get along in a group and getting to know adults other than their parents. I think if I were going to go to my child's lesson I might as well just teach him/her myself.

If the standard of motherhood means that you must "entertain" your children every minute of the day and must be at their beck and call all the time, a new mother might get the impression this was an all-or-none choice. Why not have your own life and your own activities while still allowing for time with the children?

Parents didn't used to act as their children's playmates. They sent them out to play and they dropped them off at lessons and had time to themselves. I don't understand how/when everything seems to have changed so radically.

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------