I know that my fellow Derby-ers have already run roughshod over Time magazine’s hit piece on Babble and so-called “hip parenting”. Goddess knows that the damn “hip parenting” and “grup” memes perpetuated by monolithic media are wearing thin on my soul. I guess I’m too much of a narcissist to let the story go by without chipping in my own two cents.
Near the middle of his piece, author James Poniewozik states: “The Howl of this movement is Neal Pollack’s new memoir Alternadad.” That comment is so fallacious as to border on dishonesty. Is Poniewozik unaware that Pollack’s book sparked something of a mini-riot among Babble’s readers and editorial staff? Or is he aware of it, but fears that pointing it up will spoil his narrative about the hipper-than-thou parent?
In branding his piece “Too Cool for Pre-school,” Poniewozik wants his readers to believe that all “hip parents” are cut from the same cloth. And that’s the problem with that absurd label. Few of us are trying to be “hip.” What we are is “offbeat”. Nontraditional. Postmodern. We are urban parents. We are crunchy granola parents, attachment parenting parents, environmentalist parents. We are rock ‘n roll parents. We are stay at home or work at home parents. We are gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered parents. We are nothing more or less than parents who, in some fashion, defy the traditional image of uptight cardigan-wearing Donna Reed clones who are perpetually alienated from modern culture.
And you wanna know something? We all – gasp! – like to talk to each other.
We enjoy sharing our experiences online. Why? Simple: because big media properties like Poniewozik’s employer have ignored us for years. With the explosion of the Internet and the blogosphere, we found a way to bypass the sugary sweetness and commercial plasticity of crap publications like Parents magazine, and directly connect with one another. For the first time, we were part of the parenting conversation; we had an outlet; we were no longer marginalized.
Does that make parental blogging “about us,” and not about our kids? Of course. But all narrative writing is about the author, and his or her unique window on the world. The same can be said about the work of David Sedaris. Or Augusten Burroughs. (And I would hope that the irony of Poniewozik writing an opinion piece dissing on other people’s narcissism is not lost on him.)
Poniewozik is right on one score: some of the worst writing and blogging in this genre is so much navel-gazing. I’ve decried that trend myself.
But therein lies the value of community. We all keep one another in
best parenting bloggers don’t simply tell stories about their kids:
like this recent posting by Dooce, they tell stories that serve as flash-points for conversation. And
damn, do we conversate. We bicker; we debate; we call each other on our
bullshit. We do more – much more – than marvel at the precious miracle
of our little Boopsie’s first steps. We
debate hot-topic issues like cervical cancer vaccines for teens, whether vaccinations cause autism, sex education, the grief of parents with stillborn children, and the merits and demerits of the family bed. We share tips on how to save money, spend more time together, and be better parents in general.
Pollack’s book was a noticeable flash-point in our recent history. But such debates happen on Babble and around the blogosphere every week, if not every day. And that’s what gets lost in one-dimensional, buzzword-heavy pieces like the Time article. Offbeat parenting on the Internet isn’t a monologue, as Poniewozik depicts it. It’s a conversation – a conversation that bequeaths upon us an embarrassment of riches. Move over, Dr. Spock: we have more information about good parenting at our fingertips than our own parents ever hoped to possess.
Why so many in the mainstream news media are so het up about that is beyond me. Then again, people react in bizarre ways when you threaten their monopoly on dialogue.