I know I feel this way because everytime I reread it I make a “hmph” noise, and I say we need to talk about this.
Here is the article in question. I will make tea while you read.
“I Am Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical”
It called to mind a Salon article I read awhile back regarding the tyranny of the “Slacker Mom,” which I totally identified with–slacker moms are intimidating in their single-minded devotion to slacking, and are really judgmental of those of us with Pinterest accounts and shaved pits.
For the sake of transparency, let me make clear that I suffer from “Normal Mom-ism.” It is a Black Hole containing socks eaten by the dryer, lost math worksheets, and moms who are boring. I don’t say “No” all the time, but neither do I “Attachment Parent.” Boring. I’ve given a few cute parties, but never with ponies or matching t-shirts for the attendees. Whatever.
So if I had a few uninterrupted minutes of the author in question’s time, I would say the following.
The surface summary of this article is easy–you don’t have to fill every waking minute of your child’s life with “experiences.” Amen. If we give our kids all of their experiences they will not know how to go out into the wild and make their own. I think back to my younger years (like, up to last week), and I love the path-forging and experience-gettin’ (regardless of crying jags and restraining orders–sorry again, HS boyfriends!). That said, this article crosses the line in several ways.
1). The author asks about when being a good mom came to be defined by your Pottery Barn-ness–since never. Really. Never. No one has ever, in the history of momness, ever said that. Ever. For real. This is one of the worst straw horses of parenthood–my Friends, it is a lie some of us tell ourselves so that we can feel better at the expense of others the same way the Kardashians want to make themselves feel better at our expense (and the expense of all things decent, and Bruce Jenner). We turn our Sisters into Others and we judge them. It is one of the worst sub-plots of the “Mommy Wars.” The Pottery Barn Moms vs. the Ikea Moms vs. All the Other Moms. By whom are we being fed the idea that we have to be in our child’s precious face all the time? The “Make 100 Indoor Summer Craft Ideas” Police? This is self-inflicted pressure, and I will not go on down on that sinking ship. Please hear me–we are doing this to ourselves.
2). The author sites the “Everything You Can Do I Can Do Better” parenting model. This is not a parenting model. It’s as far from parenting as you can get and still be biologically related to humans under 18 who live in your house. This attitude is only about the adults, make no mistake, and these people need our love, not our judgment. Smother them, People, and if they don’t respond to your love smother, then just smother them.
2b). Are you sure the above really exists for most people? Or do you feel guilty (unwarranted) about something? I’ve met people like this. One went out of her way to make sure we knew our kid wasn’t all that special. Whatever. But MOST of the time this is unfounded guilt living where the love belongs. You can admire your friends’ crafty mom-ness and embrace your non-craftiness at the same time. Really. I promise.
3). The Elf on the Shelf is terribly creepy. It has sad clown status for me. However, my friends, my nieces and nephew–they dig it. One of my sisters-in-law even made one with her Little. Adorable! Shall we judge her for a clever use of an empty toilet paper roll? No, absolutely not.
4). I am very sorry that you have limited memories of doing crafts, playing with, or vacationing with your parents. My memories of doing crafts with my mother are limited to Shrinky Dinks. She may have had a Winston hanging out the side of her mouth and a half-empty bottle of red wine at her elbow, but fuck-all we were fucking crafting! They are great memories, and hilarious now that I am an adult (and she will shoot me on sight for writing that just now). The point is that it DOES NOT MATTER what you do with your kids, but please, as a former teacher, I am begging you to do shit with your kids. Shrinky Dinks, fort building, 4-H cows, it doesn’t matter–just please stop encouraging people to not spend time with their kids because you have no memories of your parents playing with you or crafting with you or going on vacation with you, and look, you turned out just fine.
4b). That trip to Disney when you were 5 was not for you–it was for your parents. They are real people deserving of experiences just as you are. I am so happy that you clearly have such great memories of childhood that involve ultimate simplicity, all children should have those. I am also happy for your parents that they have some special memories of their own.
5). I think we are all in agreement that time for free, unstructured play with age-appropriate supervision is simply the best. Also important is supporting a child’s interests, whether that’s sports, the arts, school clubs, whatever they find meaningful. Leading from behind as a parent often means taking time out for track meets and band concerts, and if that’s what floats a kid’s boat I’m not going to question it. I am going to give up date night for a few weeks, pay the money, and haul Jr. around. He’s learning how to be a team-mate, a leader, and also how to manage his time. It’s a win-win. Unless you are Date Night, then it’s not so much a win.
6). You are so right on when you say that childhood is inherently magic. Indeed! So why not support it? Play is not a childhood thing, it is a human thing. Why not show our children by engaging with their interests that adults like light sabers, too (and 5 shades of pink and purple nail polish for my girl-mom sisters). There is a line–when play becomes directed by the adult it is no longer about the child, so please let your budding architect design the sheet and pillow fort, but if invited in, for the love of all that’s right in this world, don’t refuse. Play! Model this very healthy activity so that when your babies are adults themselves they will remember how, and have happy memories of you besides.
7). You are so right again when you say a childhood without Pinterest crafts can be magical. But so can a childhood filled with them. It’s everywhere, in the quiet moments, on the playground, in the fort, making the fucking Shrinky Dinks, talking, and traveling and on and on–childhood magic is not limited by anything except narrow-minded views of what constitutes childhood magic.
And there, I have finished my tea and really need to get back to work. Talk amongst yourselves.