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.

Anyway, read it and tell me what you think, but not in the Tablet comments, because right before that abortion story I stopped reading ’em.


  1. tanita October 18, 2013 at 9:50 am

    My two favorite phrases: “You do not gotta” (I’m pretty sure my mother said this frequently when I was a child), and ” Ethics are NOT A LUXURY.”

    If they are, you end up with assclowns (un-hyphenated ones, at that) like the ones currently in government, whose tantrums and self-aggrandizing invective have shafted an entire country, which they seem to see as perfectly justifiable. Parents should be able to hold up mental pictures of members of congress and ask themselves daily, “Do you want your kid to be like that???”

    It’s also a little disingenuous for the author to promote this kind of aggressive, my-kid-wins-or-else activity and leave out those for whom gaming the system doesn’t work for: minority parents. Remember the two mothers <a href=""who got fines and in one case serious prison time for lying about their place of residence, in order to move their child’s district? They were being mothers, and not moral, which is only how it’s done, right? After all, “Parenthood means you cannot possibly behave as though society’s rules and norms apply equally to all.” Society’s rules don’t apply to parents!

    Well, Caucasian parents, at least. If you’re a minority and manage to pull all of these rule-breaking lying, sleeping around and paying out things so your kid gets “ahead,” you’re just showing your true colors, which are thuggish and lowlife and ignorant and deceitful, and thank you for reminding all of the good parents who you really are. And meanwhile, we’ll continue to step on your kids’ heads and shoulders to make sure ours rise.

    Yeah, I’m getting all spitty and nutbally. And I was only a teacher.

  2. marjorieingall October 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    You go with your spitty nutballiness, Tanita. You’re absolutely right.

  3. Tanya Ward Goodman October 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Marjorie, this was just right on. Read the whole thing twice. Funny and true and smart. Thank you, thank you.

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