Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ode to a Childless Bystander

Oh hush, Frank Bruni. I'm sure you're a terrific uncle, but let's face it, it's just not that hard to be an uncle. You take the kids for a few hours, maybe an overnight here or there. You give them some really fab presents and some spirit-boosting pep talks. You probably buy them chocolates.

But being an uncle just ain't the same thing.

You uncles never have to say no; not when it counts. You never have a kid doing whatever they can to wear you down: begging, berating, crying, moaning and then, when you stand your ground (as you tell us feeble parents we never do--but we do, Frank Bruni, we do), have them tell you that you are the Worst. Parent. Ever.

You never have to deal with the middle-of-the-night plagues--the nosebleeds, the vomit, the urine, the shit. Other than your own.

You don't have to be a nurse, a counselor, a teacher, a psychologist, a tutor, an athletic coach, and a life coach every single day, to several different dependents.

This is not a complaint about being a parent. I love being a parent. I don't even mind the bodily fluids.

This is a complaint about a childless bystander judging other people's parenting. His own siblings' parenting, no less. And then, at the end of the piece, the sycophantic creed:
"Cut yourselves some slack. Take a deep breath. No one false step or one missed call is going to consign your children to an entirely different future. Make sure that they know they’re loved. Make sure that they know their place."
I like you, Frank Bruni. I actually enjoy your columns, usually, and find you a compelling writer when you discuss the struggles of your life and the causes that you care about.

But you know what would help us parents, most? Not having people like you stepping out of their place to write columns about everything we parents are doing wrong. And not giving the we're-better-than-you public an outlet to pile on the criticisms in their comments.

Especially as your ideas about authoritative parenting are not new: Wendy Mogel spread a similar message with more compassion in The Blessing of a Skinned Knee back in 2000.

And especially if, as you claim, none of it really matters anyway.

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