Whoops, I forgot to mention this article here when it was published last week. I wrote a response to Prime Minister Abbott’s announcement about a Productivity Commission Inquiry into Child Care.
“Dear parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents” at The Matt Walsh Blog.
See, I figure there are two types of people who mock and criticize parents whose children throw tantrums in public. The first is — from what I gathered based on your age (you looked about 19? 20, perhaps?) and what you said in your follow up email — your type: the non-parent who thinks, if they ever have kids, they’ll discover the secret formula that will prevent their hypothetical son or daughter from ever crying in front of other people. Then they promptly scrutinize and chastise real parents for not having this fake, imaginary, impossible, non existent formula. This sort of non-parent doesn’t realize that, unless they plan on using a muzzle and a straightjacket, there is nothing they can do to tantrum-proof their toddler.
Fine. Ignorant non-parents, who don’t know what they’re talking about, imposing ridiculous standards on actual parents because it makes them feel superior. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. As bad as you people are, you’re not nearly as horrible as the second type: actual parents with grown children who judge other parents, as if they haven’t been in the exact same situation many times. I had an older guy complain to me recently about babies that cry during church. He said: “Back when our children were babies, you didn’t have this problem.” Interesting. Apparently babies didn’t cry in the 50′s. The whole “crying baby” thing is a new fad, it would seem. These folks who had kids a long time ago seem to have a rather selective memory when it comes to their own days of parenting young kids. They also tend to dismiss the fact that modern parenting presents unique challenges, some of which didn’t apply several decades ago. I always love the older folks who lecture about how THEIR kids weren’t as “attached to electronics” as kids are nowadays. That’s probably true, but mainly because, well, YOU DIDN’T HAVE ELECTRONICS. You had a toaster and a black and white TV with 2 channels, both of which were pretty easy to regulate. But, sure, congratulations for not letting your kids use things that didn’t exist. On that note, I have a strict “no time machines or hover-boards” policy in my home. It is stringently enforced. I’m thinking of writing a parenting book: “How to Stop Your Child From Becoming Dependent Upon Technology That Isn’t Invented Yet”
It is hard, as I have said before, to reconcile the chaos of life with little children to the presence of those children themselves. Who strewed those toys, who smeared that food, who reorganised those cupboards, who broke that bowl? Surely not the children, who sit on the floor and are charming. By whom was I run ragged in the night so that I fortified my day hours with caffeine? Surely not the baby, who is napping peacefully at noon.
The narrative question, then, is how to tell stories about the children in a way that reconciles the love with the chaos but does not diminish either. And the aesthetic question for me is how to do this in a way that doesn’t bury itself in received tropes, in the modes of online motherhood that populate message boards with ciphers and acronyms. There is only a need to tell “the truth” about parenthood because the established modes of expression answer to norms of social conservation and cohesion. These work against truth-telling to the extent that exploring the difficulties becomes confessional. At the same time, the delight, the heart’s long joy in children, becomes yet another neo-liberal mode of choice and thus private, personal, not for public consumption. Loss and melancholy then fall into the trope of consequence, and people whose stories inhere here: the infertile, the bereaved, are excluded.
You must. Watch this.
If you take the words of a 2-year-old and put them in the mouth of a grown man, suddenly the malevolence and intimidation really shine through.
Matthew Clarke has launched a new series called “Convos With My 2-Year-Old” where he takes actual conversations he’s had with his daughter and reenacts them with an adult man standing in for her. The result is hilariously creepy. Watch episode one above.
I think this is why when you have very small children it is difficult to be excited about art .. because you feel like you now live in art. And it’s exhausting.
Posted in body image, bratz hatred/pornification/sexualising children, classism, feminism, feminist motherhood, motherhood, motherhood sux, pop culture, preschoolers, raising daughters, school kids, toddlers on April 30, 2013 | 5 Comments »
I have a new article in Essential Kid discussing the four biggest problems I see with the conversation around the sexualisation of young girls. And I almost never say this about an article I have written but you can read the comments.
Not so long ago there was controversy over child models being photographed in French Vogue mimicking sultry adult poses and being dressed in women’s clothing and makeup. Everyone agreed that it was little girls looking like adults but some people still wondered what the fuss was about. Even some feminists view the concern about the sexualisation of children as really being a sneaky resurrection of female purity obsessions. To my mind, there’s nothing bad about little girls playing dress-up, or even playing with sexy dress-up ideas, if they’re genuinely choosing this play idea from a range of gender-diverse options. Shaming girls about femininity, even artificial constructs of it, is a big mistake. But the Vogue photos weren’t pictures of little girls playing – they were adults playing dress-up with little girls. That’s an important difference and we should pay attention, particularly when it is for commercial purposes. What was the magazine selling? Notably, little boys are not typically used to represent miniature versions of sexy adult men, why is that? It could be that this collapsing of sexiness and materialism into displays of girlhood is part of a wider trend in sexually objectifying women.
While each successive era’s ideas about motherhood have had a political and economic dimension, the proliferation of parenting manuals and programmes such as Supernanny signals something else: a moral panic over parenting that feeds into the narrative of “broken Britain”, in which “faulty” parenting is the cause of everything from obesity to educational failure and even divorce. Jensen says: “It’s a very common narrative that we’re going through a parenting crisis. There’s a lot of nostalgia in there – that our parents knew how to parent us, and that our grandparents knew how to parent them,” even though all the evidence suggests that parents today spend more time with their children and are more attentive to them than previous generations. Leaving children unsupervised – standard practice in the 1960s – is now seen as evidence of neglect.
Of course the parenting advice industry has not just ideas, but products to sell – you can actually buy a naughty step, aka a Time Out Pad, solving parenting dilemmas by shopping. But even if you strive to resist their messages, contends Jensen, programmes such as Supernanny create a system of self-surveillance in which mothers scrutinise their every decision, thereby generating yet more anxiety.
From “Mothers on the naughty step: the growth of the parenting advice era” by Anne Karpf in The Guardian.
Mrs Licia Ronzulli, Member of European Parliament from Italy with her daughter. (Yes, Mrs Ronzulli is part of Berlusconi’s crew but let’s just rest a moment and gaze at work life balance in action).