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.