Rebecca Walker


Friday, November 23, 2007

San Francisco Bay Guardian

San Francisco Bay Guardian : Article

Hey everyone, I've got so much to report, from talks with students about sex after pregnancy in Florida to hanging out with beautiful Surinamese-Dutch women in Amsterdam, it's been an amazing ride. As soon as I'm rested, I will catch you all up, but in the meantime, this article about the parenting boom in SF Bay Guardian caught my eye as I was walking down the street here in SF today, and I thought I'd share the article and the note I wrote the writer:

Hey Amanda, I don't have a brilliant quip or raging critique to throw your way, just simple appreciation for a well-written and dead-on article about our generation's ridiculously overwrought and self-absorbed approach to parenting. Like you, I have been a victim of baby as accessory and felt tremendous shame about belonging to such a self-righteous tribe of breeders. I have long-since sold the Bugaboo stroller and let go of the idea of keeping my kid McDonald's free for life. I sometimes even let him watch tv for more than two hours! More important, I am learning to relax with him, to not be so precious about his every gesture or word, and to try to keep my love for him from drowning us both in a sea of mother-gush. It's too much pressure on me, but especially on him. Forcing him to play the role of the beloved, adored, golden child began to look and feel like its own form of child abuse. And yes, there are so many without. How can we raise our children to see, let alone care, about others who don't speak their language, literal or material? Thanks for the reminder.

Peace and love,

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Anonymous cosidolce said...

I compare the cult of childhood to rock star management:
Raising kids today, at least in upper middle class America, is less about providing good nutrition, shelter and access to a good education than it is about rock star management.

Let me explain. When I was growing up, my parents considered themselves good parents because they provided a fairly stable environment, we sat down to dinner together every night, and I had piano and ballet lessons. As I got older, it was expected that I would take responsibility for myself. I baby sat for extra money, rode my bicycle or took the bus for transportation, but was responsible for arranging all of my own extra curricular activities, minus payment. That means when I wanted to study Russian independently with a tutor when I was a senior, I bicycled fifteen miles there and back every Saturday morning. No one drove me, no one made the arrangements, no one supervised my progress. My success, or my failure, was my responsibility. When I failed, and fail I did sometimes, nobody consoled me. I had to clean up my own mess and take responsibility for my own actions.

My son and his friends, however, expect a type of parenting that closely resembles rock star management. The main responsibility of the mother is PR manager. No mother worth her salt would ever let the shenanigans of Little Johnny or Jenny Superstar hit the press unless it was good. In that respect, Paris Hilton's PR agent and mother are complete failures and not to be emulated. The goal is not Page 6 or your own reality TV show but a mention in the local newspaper either from a sports victory, an academic achievement or volunteer work. I have known eight year olds who were published poets. In addition to managing Little Johnny or Jennifer's PR, the mother is in charge of the schedule, arranging rehearsals, managing the support staff, selecting the tutor, and running the fundraising. In short, today's mothers are judged by their child's academic and extra curricular performance. It requires nothing less than sacrificing your own personal ambitions and living through your child in order for both mother and child to be 'successful.' I kid you not, no upper class child above seventh grade is without a resume.

The father's responsibilities can include chauffeuring and sports.

The interesting point of this phenomenon, the goal of which is admission to an Ivy League college, is that the children, clever little buggers that they are, know the game and actually act like little rock stars. They expect to be groomed, fed, and driven at any time to their next event. A parent who complains or doesn't comply is a 'bad parent.' They also know that all that is required of them is minimal effort and an occasional performance. There is no expectation that they will clean up after themselves, wake-up on their own or make their own breakfast; why should they?

Don't get me wrong. I like children. I like my teenager. But I have issues with today's mode of parenting. I am a self-described 'bad parent.' My attitude has earned me, upon occasion, the epithet of 'white trash.' Perhaps I am, although I boast no tattoos. Perhaps, in a meritocracy where the only path to social mobility is education, rock star management is a successful parenting strategy; how else do we separate the chaff from the wheat, the upper from the lower?

On the other hand, are we not potentially raising a generation of kids who think that if they simply show up they deserve a raise? Or applause? Or worse yet, to be elected? And are we not generating some of the most over educated, pampered and isolated future leaders ever?

Blogger Dayenne said...

Dear Rebecca,

Sending you some sincere love from the Netherlands.
We met at the Black Magic Woman festival in Amsterdam South East and am really looking forward to your blog about your experience during your staying in Amsterdam.
Especially with the African Suriname sisters.

Lobi (love)

Blogger Danielle said...

I don't think I should say much in the way of detail, but for what it's worth, sex since having the baby has been ten times better.
I don't know what article you are commenting on, but as a new mom myself (Annalise will be six months tomorrow) I have been floored at all the insane obsessions of parents and parenthood. As someone who also workd with abused children, believe me when I tell you, we should be focusing our energy on more important things than "McDonalds Free for Life" or "TV for more than an hour".

Blogger Rebecca Walker said...

hey danielle, you had your baby! congrats how is it going? I totally agree--for example, my partner and I were talking about sexual predators in our neighborhood, and what we need to do/think about to protect our kids and other kids. We also spend a lot of time talking about preparing the kids for any possibility, from China invading (which they seem to be gearing up for), a nuclear event, a very serious recession, etc., while also allowing them to be kids and not have to think about all that...that's the balance I'm trying to find at the moment. You should def read the article the link not working? It's really sad. Isobelle's post is spot on too. It's sick. Check out this article in New York Mag:

Blogger Danielle said...

Thanks, Rebecca. It's going extraordinarily awesome.

Anonymous Artemis from Jamaica said...

I'm so glad I went back to your last year posts to see your comments and read that article. I can totally relate, though here in Jamaica it's not quite the same scenario, I know all too well about reading far too much about doing it "right", etc. I don't read "What to Expect" anymore (in fact I realized some time ago that I had actually FORGOTTEN to keep up for about five months!) but I can't say I'm fully redeemed. I'm actually thinking of homeschooling, at least for the first couple of years, so maybe I am still too into it.
Are you writing a Baby Love follow up, either book or essay? I'd love to read how things have changed from what you wrote there to the reality of parenting two years in (your son is two now, right?)


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