The Best and Worst Celebrity Parenting of 2008Babble Editors
As a parent, it’s easy to feel cut off from the world outside your kids – but not in 2008, when parenting issues took center stage in news, politics, and entertainment. Whether we were crushing on the Obamas, arguing about homeschooling and home birth, obsessing over Bristol Palin’s pregnancy or cheering the moms of the Olympics, 2008 gave us a lot to talk about at Babble. Here are the 52 events, movies, videos, trends, products, baby names that shaped our year in parenting, for better or for worse.
– The Babble Editors
Irrationality-inducing parent of the year: Sarah Palin
Is she a saintlike role model for working mothers, a privileged, book-banning control freak, or a pregnancy-faking, cue-card-reading huckster? Probably none of the above, but try telling that to anybody during the last couple months of the U.S. election. While Obama urged us to stick to the issues, Sarah Palin drove the electorate into a frenzy of half-truths and hearsay – and no one took her candidacy more personally than the mothers of America.
Controversial parenting topic of the year: Unschooling
In this era of pressure-cooker schools and No Child Left Behind budget cuts, alternative schooling (either homeschooling or “unschooling“) has become an increasingly popular option. Unfortunately, the lack of clear guidelines for homeschooling parents means that kids who miss out on school could miss out on a lot more. Then again, isn’t the world outside the ultimate classroom? Nearly 300 parents hotly debated the issue in the comments section of Babble’s “Bad Parent: Unschooling” Essay, which then got name-checked in the New York Times.
Emerging hot topic of the year: Home birth
Parenting topic that still won’t go away:
Most over-hyped parenting story of the year: the birth of the Brangelina twins
You’d have thought that no woman had ever given birth before. Or that Angelina had somehow finessed a virgin conception, which, come to think of it, might possibly have made it a less interesting story, seeing as the whole sex-with-Brad-Pitt angle seems to have had much to do with the hype. In any case, this story amounted to a big fat whatever. Celebrity couple produces offspring? That’s cool and all – and the babies were cute – but really, they were just babies. Now, if she had given birth to divine beings, or, perhaps, to unicorns, that might have justified the hype. Otherwise: meh.
Viral video of the year: “Once Upon a Time…”
Darling French tot Capucine enchanted English speakers this year with her elaborate improvised story about Winnie the Pooh, a baby-eating crocodile, a hippo who is allergic to magic, an ill-fated trip to heaven, a witch-killing ring, a plague of “chicken-box” and a “tremendously bad” mammoth.
Dumbest celebrity baby name of the year: Peanut
General Hospital ‘s Ingo Rademacher went ahead and wrecked his newborn son’s life when, in a fit of unchecked sentimentality, he bestowed on the boy this incredibly idiotic name: Peanut. It’s what Rademacher and his wife called the boy in-utero. Apparently, it stuck (to the roof of his mouth?).
Most Head-Scratching Celebrity Baby Name of the Year: Bronx Mowgli Wentz
The name that Fall Out Boy singer Pete Wentz and wife Ashlee Simpson sounds less like a title for a first born than the results of a parlor game. Try it at home! Think of a New York City borough and a Disney character and you’ve got your next kid’s name. Harlem Aladdin, Brooklyn Pinnochio or Queens Pluto, anyone?
Most refreshingly normal baby name of the year: Henry Story Driver
Minnie Driver stuck to the classics when she named her son, something we can appreciate in a year that also brought us Gwen Stefani’s Zuma Nesta (although Gavin Rossdale recently explained that to Babble), the obligatory “x” in the male Jolie-Pitts’ names (Knox, Pax and Maddox – can Xerxes be far behind?), and a miscalculation of birthday and baby name (Nicole Kidman’s Sunday, who was born on a Monday).
Most evil parent of the year (and possibly of all time): Josef Fritzl
The discovery of the family locked in seventy-three-year-old Austrian man Joseph Fritzl’s basement – including his forty-two-year-old daughter and three grandchildren by incest, none of whom had ever seen the light of day – was the year’s most gut-wrenching news story. Fritzl is currently facing charges of rape, incest, false imprisonment and slavery, all of which should result in a nice long jail sentence before he rots in hell.
Health scare of the year: Bisphenol A
Last year it was lead in toys; this year, the toxic chemical BPA leaching from plastic containers and water bottles. There’s nothing scarier than finding out that something as innocuous as toys and baby bottles may be causing your family harm.
Runner-up health scare of the year: Melamine
It came from China: Starting in July of this year, alarming reports began emerging that the industrial chemical melamine had been found in Chinese-produced infant formula, leading to kidney stones in thousands of infants. Just this past month, though, the story took a turn for the local when news leaked that even U.S.-made infant formula contained the dangerous chemical, prompting the FDA to release new guidelines for what it considered a “safe amount.” The substance, used to make plastics, apparently turns up in a lot of products whose manufacturers are hoping to boost protein levels of dairy and powdered-dairy products. Far from being a mere accident, this was the kind of contamination that makes you wonder whether you can eat anything you don’t grow yourself.
Most enviable toddler wardrobe of 2008: Suri Cruise
Suri is rarely photographed wearing the same thing twice (except her metallic shoes, which are de rigeur). She has a penchant for dresses, and the last year has seen her wearing high-end threads from Burberry, Juicy Couture, Phillip Lim, Bonpoint, Helena, Splendid Little, as well as low-end pieces from mall-friendly Janie and Jack. Don’t we all wish we had her clothing budget? Join the ongoing Suri watch here.
Trigger issue of the year: Vaccinations and Autism
If your inbox is short of hatemail, say something – anything – about vaccinations, autism, and/or the intersection between them. This year, Amanda Peet got reamed on the internet for calling non-vaccinating parents “parasites,” while Dennis Leary‘s jokes about autistic kids’ parents backfired bigtime, and singer Kimya Dawson provoked the ire of Babble commenters with an off-hand comment about not vaccinating her daughter.
Hardest-working parents in show business: The Mates of State
This recent ABC News story confirmed what we at Babble have known for years: that Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, sole members of the amazing band Mates of State, are parenting superheroes, bringing their children on tour with the help of only one babysitter and a bunch of roadies. Check out their Babble blog.
Deadbeat dad of the year: John Edwards
Granted, we’re assuming that the child of former mistress Rielle Hunter is his. Also granted that, if the paternity rumors are true, he’s been funneling a ton of money in the child’s direction. Still, John, way to deny your kid’s existence in front of the entire country. The era of politicians not taking responsibility for their own actions (and offspring) needs to end, stat.
Non-issue of the year: Cupcake Banning
Far too much ink was spilled this year condemning America ‘s primary schools for outlawing sugary snacks at birthday parties. Yes, we know school cupcakes were an indelible part of your childhood, but be realistic: it’s still a birthday party without the sugar high. Your kindergartener is just as happy with a handful of goldfish crackers.
Parenting Product of the Year: Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
The newest home breast pump from Medela is rechargeable, weighs under one pound and is only slightly bigger than a stopwatch. It’s also programmable, efficiently powerful and optionally hands-free – making the not-so-pleasant experience of pumping as bearable as it will ever be.
Lamest Attempt by a Parent to Impress Children: Stephen Baldman’s Hannah Montana tattoo
Stephen Baldwin got a Hanna Montanah tattoo because a) fifteen-year-old Miley Cyrus dared him to, and b) he wanted to impress his two daughters with an appearance on the show, and he figured the tattoo would make him a shoo-in. Hilariously, it didn’t work: Disney reps say that the actor is that is “not cast in an upcoming episode.” Yes, it’s sweet to go out on a limb for your kids, but getting said limb tattooed is taking it too far.
Worst Mommy Style: Heidi Klum and Her Ugly Green Pants
You’re rich, you’re beautiful, and you have oodles of designer duds at your disposal. And what do you do? You wear a pair of acid green horrendously ripped jeans – in public, with your kids, at Lego Land. We’d suggest she get Tim Gunn on speed-dial, but isn’t he already?
Best Celebrity Parents: Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
In the plethora of celebrity family pics out there, the ones that strike us as being the most grounded would be the paparazzi pics of Violet with her mom Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Whether she’s being dropped off at preschool, going to art classes, or attending birthday parties, Violet always looks happy, well-adjusted and, well, normal. Her superstar parents aren’t afraid to get their feet dirty on the playground or schlep her around with bags under their eyes, which probably has a lot to do with it. So far, Jen and Ben, so good.
Boycott of the Year: Death to the Goody Bag
As much as most of us love a good old-fashioned kid’s birthday party with funny hats, silly games and yummy cake, the commercial pre-packaged, plastic-filled crapola goody bags need to go.
Most exciting celebrity pregnancy of the year
(if you’re a giant geek like us): Willow and Wesley’s baby!
By which we mean, the first child of former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Alyson Hannigan and former Angel star Alexis Denisof, due in Spring 2009.
Most harmful thing done to kids in the name of protecting kids: Banning unmarried couples
(read: same-sex couples) from adopting in Arkansas
While thousands of Arkansas children wait for families, their odds are slashed by taking unmarried couples out of the pool of prospective parents.
Once-astounding-now-total-yawner pregnancy story of the year: Knocked-up grandmas
We used to gasp! and tsk! and wring our hands! Women old enough to be grandmothers – women who ARE grandmothers – getting knocked up and having kids while they’ve got one foot in the grave! Then came the onslaught and this year, grandmas everywhere are shooting out offspring – often their own grandchildren – and we’re all, “Whatever.”
Creepiest trend of the year: Reborn dolls and the mothers who own (raise? nurture?) them
These incredibly real-looking dolls (replete with eyelashes, milk spots and wispy hair) are freaking out cops (someone left a newborn in a car!) and scaring the crap out of unsuspecting admirers, as much as they’re bringing joy and comfort to their, uh, mommies.
Parenting scandal of the year:
Palin family baby drama
The parenting scandal of 2008 is a scandal, wrapped in a mystery, surrounded by a teen pregnancy (and a couple of high school drop-outs for good measure). That’s right, we’re back to Sarah Palin. She made the work-life balance look easy – governing a state during the day, cooking dinner and reapplying lipstick at night. Then, just before delivering her knock-out convention speech, the moose fur started to fly. The much-paraded baby with Down syndrome, Trig, was her grandson! No, no, no, not true. And know how she proved it? By trotting out her seventeen-year-old daughter Bristol’s scandalicious baby bump. Mother/daughter gestational overlap! But that’s not all: Good mother Sarah forced Bristol to make the “choice” to have and keep the baby, saved her family’s face (and McCain’s dying campaign) by inviting hottie, gum-chewing teen daddy Levi Johnston to the convention, and describing the two as smart and wise beyond their years. Next day: they both drop out of school.
Inevitable train wreck of the year:
Jamie-Lynn Spears’ pregnancy
Jamie-Lynn Spears helped her sister Britney get some tabloid reprieve by getting knocked up at sixteen years old. Much gnashing of teeth ensued as parents asked: “What should we tell the children?!” Experts weighed in: “honesty, brevity.” Critics cried: “We’re glamorizing teen pregnancy!” But nine months is a long time in Hollywood and all was forgiven by the time Jamie Lynn gave birth to Maddie Briann. Famous teens everywhere can thank Jamie Lynn for pulling back the purity wizard’s curtain. Sexy pics of Miley Cyrus were called “artful.” Ashlee Simpson’s baby bump barely made us look. And everybody circled the wagons around the nation’s favorite political pawn, pregnant Bristol (role model Jamie Lynn sent her a baby shower gift!).
Criminal we wish had visited our house in ’08:
The Dirty Diaper Bandit
This nefarious diaper-stealer made the rounds of an upstate New York town. And a family actually reported this to the cops? We’ll be happy to make restitution for them – come on over and we’ll let you have all the poop-filled Pampers you need.
Saddest celebrity parent story of the year:
The passing of a young actor just as his star begins to light up the skies is a tragedy. The passing of a young father just as his child begins blossoming into her young life is a bigger one. Nothing made us cry more than the images of little Matilda being hugged tightly by her devastated mom.
Celebrity couple that most needs to breed:
Who cares whether some boneheads in California think that they shouldn’t be married? This pair needs to get fruitful and multiply, because the world needs more them. (A mini-Ellen in sneakers busting a move to Salt ‘n Pepa? The world needs to see that.)
Most well-intentioned legislation that utterly backfired:
the Nebraska Safe Haven law
Nebraska legislators thought they’d make life easier on desperate parents when they passed a blanket safe haven law. Little did they know how desperate some parents were. People traveled hours to abandon their teens; one dad dropped off nine kids before the law was amended.
Dumbest product of the year: Heelarious – high heels for newborns
The shoes are, according to the company, “fully functional” but are “not intended for walking (heel will collapse with weight).” So what function would that be, exactly?
Least surprising celebrity parent revelation:
Clay Aiken = Gay
Who knew? Apparently everybody on planet Earth, because Clay’s coming out barely made a blip on the celeb news radar.
Parenting term we can be glad never caught on: Claby
As in, Clay Aiken’s baby. Proof that TMZ is not all powerful, and that the American public still has some dignity.
Taboo-busting pregnancy of the year: Thomas Beattie, the “Pregnant Man”
Nothing spawns a discussion about traditional parenting roles like a pregnant man. And when Thomas Beattie, a transgender men with female reproductive organs, announced he was carrying a baby, everyone from Oprah to Fox News had an opinion about the ethics of the world’s first high-profile transgender pregnancy. Beattie hoped that publicizing his story would open the public’s eyes to the fact that loving families come in many forms, but as evidenced by the comments on our coverage of the story, we still have a long way to go.
Working mom of the year: Michelle Obama
It’s hard to imagine a more difficult place to balance work and parenting than the White House. But just days after her husband’s election to the presidency, Michelle Obama was explaining how and why she plans to continue putting her kids first, even as she fights for policies that will benefit military and working families throughout America.
Best Sesame Street guest star: Feist
Parents and toddlers alike were transfixed by the velvet-voiced Feist singing her practically-made-for-Muppets tune “1 2 3 4”, thus proving that she is more than a pitchwoman – she’s a star. (Plus, she works well with monsters.)
Stay at home dad of the year: Kevin Federline
Who knew he had it in him? Even if you go the cynical route and say that the artist formerly known as KFed was just doing it for the cash, at least the guy stepped up and took care of his kids. Bonus: he’ll probably be too busy going to PTA meetings to make another rap album.
Worst kids’ movie of the year: Space Chimps
It’s not bad enough that an important-historical-event-as-cute-kid-movie gets the green light; the lifeless chimps don’t even bring their animated A-game. The alien subplot is laughable, but as Jon Stewart and Tim Robbins concurred on The Daily Show – sadly, your kids will love it.
Best kids’ movie of the year: A three-way tie between Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E and Bolt
One of our bloggers refers to Kung Fu Panda as “the best thing Dreamworks has ever done – it actually made me excited at the prospect of the inevitable sequel.” Other staffers have chimed in for the dystopian, showtune-y saga of WALL-E and the “dog meets cat; dog hates cat; dog and cat fall in love” charm of Bolt.
Best movie that young children should never have seen but probably did:
Yes, it’s about a superhero, but Heath Ledger’s brilliantly disturbing portrayal of The Joker made Jack Nicholson’s take look like Bambi.
Single mom of the year: Debbie Phelps
The proud mom of Olympian swimmer Michael could teach us all a few lessons about parenting.
Meanest government of the year: China
China wins not just for the human rights violations, one-child law and blatant censorship, but for telling a first grader that she wasn’t cute enough to appear at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games even though they used her voice.
Great Olympic mom who got less attention than Dara Torres:
Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina
Chusovitina was able to join the German Olympic team (from Uzbekistan) in order to get better medical care for her son, who has leukemia. Nothing against Dara, she’s awesome. But this story still makes us teary-eyed four months later.
Best use of a child’s computer skills, 2008: The Epilepsy Rescue
Hackers put flashing graphics on the Epilepsy Foundation message board, causing a thirty-three-year-old mom to fall into a seizure. She was saved by her eleven-year-old son, who saw what was happening and closed the browser window.
Bizarre story we couldn’t stop watching:
CPS (Texas Child Protective Services) vs. FLDS (The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
This one had it all: religion, polygamy, underage marriage and sexual abuse of minors – it was made for cable news. Eventually the church would start offering their clothing for sale to the public, the Texas head of the CPS would resign, and five more FLDSers were arrested.
Contributors: Gwynne Watkins, April Peveteaux, Brett Singer, Sunny Chanel, Madeline Holler, Catherine Connors, Jeanne Sager, Hannah Tennant-Moore, Kate Tuttle, Shannon LC Cate