Friday, July 25, 2008

Dear Prudence

Something interesting today from in their "Dear Prudence" column:

Dear Prudence,

A year ago, I volunteered to have my family over to celebrate my niece's 4th birthday. Her birthday was on a Thursday, and the party was to be on the following Sunday. On Friday I received an irate e-mail from my sister because I hadn't called my niece on her actual birthday. She then called me at work and berated me for being so thoughtless and told me how upset my niece had been. I actually cried at my desk. After I was able to compose myself, I called my niece fully prepared to grovel for forgiveness. But as one would expect from a 4-year-old, when I apologized for not calling, she simply said, "OK" and was excited when I told her we were having ice cream with her cake on Sunday. At this point, my guilt turned to anger because I'd agonized over hurting my niece, but it seemed my sister was projecting her own issues. I love my sister dearly, so this has made me second-guess myself and question whether I am a bad sister and aunt. Am I thoughtless, or does my sister have "the world revolves around me and my children" syndrome?

—Dreading Birthdays

Dear Dreading,

Your situation could be Exhibit A for the thesis of Joseph Epstein's essay in the Weekly Standard, in which he wrote, "In America we are currently living in a Kindergarchy, under rule by children. … Children have gone from background to foreground figures in domestic life, with more and more attention centered on them, their upbringing, their small accomplishments. ... Such has been the weight of all this concern about children that it has exercised a subtle but pervasive tyranny of its own." So, break free of your chains! The fact that you were enlisted a year in advance to host a birthday party for a 4-year-old tells me that unless your sister gets some perspective, by the time this kid is 14, she's going to be a monster. Make a vow that no matter how wacky and demanding your sister gets, you will be an appropriately loving aunt to your niece, but not a sycophantic courtier at her tiny throne.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

E.T. on the Beach

Have you ever seen an ugly baby? Ugly as in fugly? Picture this. You are sitting on the beach and in front of you is a family of 4. One of the family members is about 18 months old and looks like a cross between Jerry Stiller, ET and Mr. T. (I know this is hard to imagine, but indulge me here). He is squat in shape, has a big head full of frizzy reddish hair, a heavy brow that creates a permanent scowl, a unibrow, a crooked mouth with protruding lips and large ears that stick straight out.

Well, we saw this baby on the beach not long ago and for an entire day, as we chilled and enjoyed the beautiful beach day, I found myself in a state simultaneous awe and pity over the ugliness of this child. I didn't think it possible for a baby to be this ugly. It was jarring enough that I actually whispered to my husband, asking him if he noticed. "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing".

(Sadly, these are the types of things that occupy us when we are on the beach.)

Fast forward to 2 weeks later. It's another beautiful, sunny summer day and we decide to head to the beach again, only this time - we go to a different beach town. Variety is the spice of life! We drag our overloaded beach cart down the sand - umbrellas, chairs, towels, books, sunscreen, cooler and the kitchen sink, and plant ourselves in a nice open spot.

About an hour later, I glance up from my book and look to our right and guess who I see? The ugly baby! He's back! Believe me, there is no mistaking this child. He and his family are sitting 10 feet from us! Now I ask...what are the odds that the same strangers would be sitting within feet of us on 2 different beaches, many miles apart, in 2 different towns, on 2 days weeks apart?

This story isn't really about the CF issue, really. I just thought it was entertaining to share but I guess it does give you one more item to add to your list of reasons not to have kids: you can get one that is so butt ugly he scares the bejesus out of perfect strangers on the beach.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

OK! Feels the Heat

It looks like we are not the only ones who think OK! Mag's treatment of Jamie Lynn Spears' teen pregnancy was a disgrace. In this Newsweek interview with the mag's editor, OK! defends itself against the outcry that their article on Jamie Lynn glamorizes teen pregnancy.

And just how does OK! defend this drivel? Here are the relevant quotes from Newsweek's interview with OK!'s editor:

On whether their article glamorizes teen pregnancy:

I think what we've done successfully in this story is point out that Jamie Lynn is an exceptional situation where she's a young girl but she's already made a handsome living. She's not worried about paying her electricity bill. I think we talk to her about going back to work and what that would be like. I don't think we pretend for one minute that this story is anything but what it is and I hope what we've done is reflected the reality of the story in a fair way. We didn't go down there to slap this girl on the wrist and tell her off.
On the message their article sends to teenaged readers:

I think it's a very sensitive subject. I can totally understand why people have concerns about it. I can tell you too it's nothing Jamie Lynn hasn't had to deal with herself on a daily basis. This young girl has made some very hard choices ... She can only talk about her own circumstances but she certainly is not a spokesperson for teen pregnancy. I think what we try to do in this story really carefully is say that this is Jamie Lynn's story. This is not a girl at a high school story. This is a story about Jamie Lynn and her exceptional story in really, really unique circumstances and how she's making decisions. That's what this is about. We don't set out to be the moral authority. We try to present the facts and let our readers decide.

So what do you think of this defense?

I will tell you what I think. First of all, where in the Jamie Lynn article does OK! emphasize that her situation is exceptional because she's a girl who makes a handsome living? I missed that part. Where in the article do they talk about what it would be like if she went back to work? Where do they "reflect the reality of the story in a fair way"? I missed that part too. Is presenting unmarried, teen pregnancy as a blissful experience of puppies and rainbows a fair portrayal of reality? Is that what they mean by "presenting the facts"?

OK! Mag give us a break. Your objective is to make big bucks, period. If in the process you contribute to the overblown media obsession with pregnancy and childbearing, it's no skin off your back. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, but don't give us lame explanations that make no sense whatsoever.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Okay, people, I know I pick on OK! Magazine a lot but honestly, how can I help it? This rag deserves it like no other and gives me plenty of fodder for this blog. Just check out their latest installment of celebrity baby/mommy obsessing featuring the deliriously happy, beautiful and glowing, unmarried, 17-year-old Jamie Spears with her new bastard child. As you read the article, ask yourself these questions: what message does this article (and photos) send to teenage girls about unmarried, teenage pregnancy? How is pregnancy and childbirth portrayed? Do you think it's a realistic portrayal? (Pay particular attention to the sections I highlighted in blue italics).


Since giving birth on June 19 to baby girl Maddie Briann Aldridge, Jamie Lynn Spears has taken to doing what any good first time mom would do — making sure her brand new daughter has everything she needs.

And, in an exclusive interview and photoshoot, the younger sister of Britney Spears tells OK! that being away from the shining lights of Hollywood is making it all easier to learn the ins and outs of first-time motherhood. "Around here, everyone has the same focus," Jamie Lynn tells OK!. "The focus is family, and that's a good way to live."

The 17-year-old actress opens up to OK! about everything — from taking parenting classes to life inside the new home she shares with Maddie and boyfriend Casey Aldridge, to her first experience with labor pains."They'd told me it would be an eight- to 12-hour labor, and I was ready to have the baby in three to four hours," Jamie Lynn tells OK!. "I had a perfect pregnancy and a perfect delivery. I was very blessed."

While the former Zoey 101 star and her fiancé have not yet set a date for their wedding, the couple remains closer than ever. Jamie Lynn, who tells OK! that while her labor was induced, she gave birth naturally and without complications, says that Casey was the one person she wanted in the delivery room with her.

"Once I got in there, my doctor was just so calm and so good it was not bad at all," she says. "I was just talking to Casey. And you know what's so weird? I was asking him if he was okay. He was like, 'Yeah.' We were both so excited."

A baby nursery is set up for little Maddie at the other end of the house, but for now her proud parents like having her next to them at night, so she sleeps in a bassinet in the same room as Jamie Lynn and Casey.

"She is very good," says Jamie Lynn. "She'll feed every two or three hours. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, I'll feed her and she goes right back to sleep. There's no screaming and crying."

The proud mama continues, "We get up in the morning, and she gets her little bath. Then I get my bath. We have a routine, and I love routines. I've worked one out with her, and we're happy going about our little life."

So by way of summary: Jamie Lynn, despite being an unmarried teenager - essentially a child herself - is a "good mom", whose focus is exactly where it should be - on family. Her life is the picture of perfection - a perfect pregancy, and childbirth was a piece of cake - a real breeze with no complications and - an "exciting" affair with no drugs required! Best of all, she is gloriously happy with the baby's father and having a child has brought them closer together than ever. Most amazingly, she has one of the only babies known to man that never screams or cries! It's almost as though Jamie Lynne has a fairy godmother who waved a magic wand over her head and sprinkled her with fairy dust!

Fairy dust indeed! The editors of this rag should be thrown in prison for the messages they are conveying to young girls and for spinning such a disgrace into an exciting "world exclusive". It is exactly these messages that result in a society where young girls are making pregnancy pacts and becoming pregnant in droves - celebrating unwed, underaged motherhood. Maybe I am showing my age, but it wasn't that long ago that it was a disgrace for an unwed teen to become pregnant and it was something one tried to avoid at all costs. Pregnancy was something to fear and worry about. It was the enemy. Becoming of age, getting an education and getting married were the normal order of events before considering having children. Now, unmarried, pregnant teens like Jamie Spears are held up as examples of perfection in girlhood!

Well, all I can say is - THANK GOD I don't have any children. Especially girls.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Praise and Criticism for the Today Show

Well, it looks like that Newsweek article I posted on here the other day has really been getting a lot of notice in the media. I couldn't believe my eyes this morning when the Today Show did a spot about it! For those of you who watch the Today Show, you know that they are very parent/family-oriented. In fact, that's the one thing I don't like about the Today Show. They do so many spots on parenting, always with a positive spin and always with this underlying assumption that all their viewers are MOMS. They almost never mention anything about people who choose not to have kids. So I was completely surprised when I saw the spot this morning featuring the author of the Newsweek article talking about how parents are not as happy as people without kids. For the Today Show, this is a real breakthrough!

Let's not get too carried away with our excitment, though. If you watch the clip, it is interesting to note that the Today Show still manages to keep the spot somewhat pronatalist. After a discussion of how people without kids are happier than parents, they make sure to point out that there are rewards of parenting that are so wonderful and indescribable, driving home the relentless message that it's so worth it.

The other interesting thing about this spot is that they chose to spend the last couple minutes of the spot discussing what parents can take away from these studies - ways that parents can make their lives HAPPIER. Given that the Newsweek article focused on studies concluding that childfree people are happier than parents, and given their discussion about the unfair prejudices CF individuals are subject to, they could have spent the last couple minutes of this spot discussing ways that people can be more supportive of those who choose not to have children, or ways we can encourage people to consider this happier lifestyle instead of pressuring people to choose the less-happy parenthood route. They could have illustrated the results of these studies by bringing in some happy CF people to talk about their happy lives, showing that yes indeed -there are fulfilling paths in life other than the sole parenthood path prescribed for everyone. Or, they could have offered advice for childfree people on how to deal with the pressures and prejudices we come up against every day in our culture. But nope. In true Today Show fashion, they managed to turn it around and orient it toward parents and families.

Anyway, it is worth watching and I'd love to read your comments.