James Poniewozik, author of the much Babbled about “Too Cool for Preschool” piece in this week’s Time Magazine, kindly agreed to answer some of our questions about his problem with hip parent bloggers and writers.
Strollerderby: You seem concerned that Gen X parents are so busy being cool and inserting themselves into the story of their kid’s lives that they aren’t putting their kids first as they should. Is this based only on the books and the blogs or also on your observations of parents in action?
James P: I’m responding to the books and the blogs. In fact, this is the most important point I want to make: my article was about–to use the hated term–”hipster parent” *writing*, not about hipster *parenting*. I’m not trying to judge anyone’s parenting.
I feel like the Babble bloggers, et al., kind of want me to be judging their parenting, because that allows them to frame the debate as though they’re being socially oppressed: Time magazine is trying to force us conform to their parenting norms! We’re just too free-thinking for them! We’re too threatening to The Man! I would argue if, anything, there’s an implicit tone of judgment that suffuses Babble–if you’re not on board with them, you’re some kid of brainwashed Stepford robot.
My objections are to the writing. Or specifically, to a set of attitudes I see in the writing (which is not to say this applies equally, or at all, to every parent-blogger-author-etc. in the world). This notion that I have just experienced this thing that a hundred billion people in history have, but because I am so offbeat, because I am so distinctive, because I feel so deeply, my experience of it is different. And terribly interesting. And look what it says about me that I made this and this choice with my child.
The idea of one’s child, a distinct, separate person, as proof of one’s uniqueness and alterity. It’s not about failing to put your child first in private life–I’m sure all these writers take fine care of their kids, feed them well, look out for their interests. (The other knock on Gen X urban parents is that we dote too much and parent obsessively, right?) It’s using a child as a sort of third-person vehicle through which to write one’s autobiography.
Part 2 of our conversation with James coming soon…