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Parenting in a Time of War

398px-a_young_marine_private_waits_on_the_beach_during_the_marine_landing_in_da_nangI spent more time than I would have liked this weekend contemplating children’s bedrooms. They were not the rooms of my own children, but the rooms so mournfully portrayed in the The New York Times’ magazine feature “The Shrine Down the Hall,” photographs of the bedroom’s of some of the youngest American soldiers to die in Iraq.

As I stared at the picture of the chock-full bedroom of Christopher Scherer, 21, who lived in the same town as my aunt and uncle once did, I saw the same Rye Playland sticker my own ten-year-old has in his possession and simultaneous feelings of fear and futility washed over me.

We go on, on sites like this, about formula vs. breastfeeding, and working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, and the proper way of toilet training with a ferocity that seems ridiculous by the standards of our moms and dads. It’s also absurd. Does it really matter in the end if Jack Sweet, 19, who died in Iraq from a roadside bomb, was deemed gifted or if his parents allowed him too much time TV time?

I wonder if our age of puritanical parenting isn’t, as we often think, a response to our own lackadaisical childhoods but, rather, a way of attempting to keep the wolf from the door. We are, as a nation, in the seventh year of a war that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of our nation’s young men and women. Perhaps in our secret heart of hearts, we hope if we feed our children the proper food, and school them in just the right way, we can save them from the fate of Christopher Scherer, Jack Sweet, Thomas Gilbert, Karina Lau, Carl Anderson Jr., Blake Howey, Thomas Caughman and the other 5,411 Americans who have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

What do you think?

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