New York Magazine ran a piece called “Ethical Parenting” that caused me distress. (My original title for this week’s Tablet magazine column was NEW YORK MAGAZINE IS TRYING TO KILL ME AGAIN.) I responded with a rant. I love Tablet for letting me be go spittily nutballs, though I do not love the house style of hyphenating “asshat.” (Ditto assclown and shitbag. Come on, these words are way funnier without hyphens.)
A more sober response: I found the NYMag piece interesting in its desire to have it all ways. I felt the writer’s legit yearning to NOT BE THIS WAY. I appreciated the expert quotes in the second half of the piece urging people to NOT BE THIS WAY. But the piece takes a strange, self-justifying, almost wistful would-that-things-were-different tone I find objectionable. Don’t wring your hands and say, “Hey, it’s our CULTURE.” I also thought it disingenuously equated a bunch of non-equivalencies. It is not bad to ask for a reference for your child (though if the child is over 10, it’s better for the child to do the asking) or use your connections to get your child an internship! Doy! But the piece lumps these things in with lying about your address to get into a better school district, sending a kid to school crawling with lice because there’s a standardized test that day and you just can’t deal, and subverting other children’s chances to shine. It mocks crazy-parent behavior like sleeping with admissions officers and suing preschools that don’t get your kid into top-tier kindergartens, while also saying “but the rest of us are similar…except we’re kinda sorta not because we don’t go THAT far and we know how far we DO go is bad.” It was confused…because I think the writer was struggling. And I have written pieces in which my struggle is right out there, and gotten eviscerated for it, so I sympathize. To a degree. But I also think opting out of grade-grubby obsession and testing madness and materialism and not letting your kid suffer or feel guilty or experience consequences is easier than many parents want to believe. And they make a conscious choice to blame “the culture” and say “it’s a bummer, but you have to play the game,” and THAT IS A BAD CHOICE. For the parent, the kid and the world. And it is NOT THAT HARD to push back. And just like that I’m hyperventilating again.