Sunday, February 26, 2012

If You Don't Read This You are Unfit to be a Parent

screaming contest

There. I said it. Do I mean it? No, of course not. How could the reading of one blog entry determine your suitability for being a parent? This entry is really going to be about something else. But that guilt-inducing fear-mongering sensationalistic headline has preyed on your need to feel like you are somehow doing the right thing in the vast uncertain world of parenting and consequently has sucked you in. All in a day's work.
Three things have brought this whole issue of ridiculous headlines and unrealistic parenting goals to the fore:
1. Newsweek--I have subscribed to Newsweek for the past seven years or so. I used to love it. Recently it changed hands. Tina Brown is running the ship now, and running it into the ground. But before she runs it into the ground she has decided to take a tour of the murkiest ocean of shit on the planet. The typos. The grammatical nightmares. The tiring new layout. The ham-handed references to 'The Daily Beast' crammed wherever they can fit. The dwindling content. All of these are problems. But let's just focus on the covers. Her business model seems to be taken from the Rupert Murdoch playbook. Make the covers patently obnoxious so the magazine gets talked about on as many platforms as possible. 'Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb?' trumpeted a recent one. Then there was the particularly tasteless photoshopping together of Princess Diana and Duchess Catherine. The Michelle Bachman 'Queen of Rage' cover, using the craziest picture they could find, was another winner. Instead of trying to get noticed for content they are going for controversy. As serious writers and politicians begin to shun the tabloid, things will only get worse. Soon it will settle in nicely right next to the Enquirer on the checkout line, where I will gawk at the cover as I unload my shopping cart but never think twice of actually buying it.

2. Superior French Parents--There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled 'Why French Parents are Superior'. Sigh. I can hear my friends chanting already--''F**k the French! F**k the French!" I have actually heard hundreds of people chant this, in unison, in a crowded bar. I cannot remember why, but it was probably related to the original Gulf War and not letting the US use their airspace. But that was almost twenty years ago, and this chanting took place last year. There is some deep-seated resentment of the French and their culture that exists in America, and this headline played right into it. The article was actually pretty good--it had some solid parenting advice relating to patience, saying No, setting boundaries, etc. The premise, that all French parents are like this, was a bit flimsy, but all in all it was a good reflection on different parenting styles. But many people didn't bother to read past the inflammatory headline, and instead jumped straight to the comments section, decrying French snobbery and trumpeting America's superiority in every way. And that is the sad part. Instead of focusing on the good parenting advice, they instead went for the lowball attention-grabbing headline, and as a result the headline is all that is being talked about, not the content.

3. 25 Words by Two Years Old--Checklists. They are awesome for grocery shopping, when you are packing for a vacation, and when you are a pilot preparing for take-off. They are not real great when it comes to figuring out where your kid is developmentally. Especially when they are definitive in nature, like this recent gem: '25 Must Have Words For Toddlers'. The gist is that if your toddler cannot use these particular twenty-five words by the time he is two years old then he could have some issues, maybe a speech impediment, maybe autism. You better get your kid tested, though. Now. What are you waiting for? You already fucked up as a parent! Don't wait any longer! Go! GET YOUR DOOMED CHILD TESTED!

Sigh. The method they used to get these particular words seems suspect, especially considering some of the words included. Sure, there are 'mommy,' 'daddy,' 'yes' and 'no'. But the word 'cookie'? And 'banana'? What if you are not giving your kid cookies? What if you don't have access to bananas? I know it may seem far-fetched that you won't give your kid a cookie until they are three or four, but that's not the point. The point is the pressure that these well-intentioned lists put on already stressed-out parents. I know they mean well, and once again the message behind it is a good one--less TV, read more, talk more, explain the world to your child using lots of words--but it gets lost in the compulsion to make sure our kids are doing OK by comparing their development to a list of words on a piece of paper. 

Well, you can rest easy in one respect--you have read through to the end of this blog post, so that must mean you are fit to be a parent. Congratulations! Celebrate with a highball while your kid runs around the house with scissors.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for pointing out the ridiculousness of that words list. I read that article too and thought some of the words were just silly to set as a standard for development. Another thing to make parents feel like they aren't up to scratch.


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