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Parents! Gone! Wild!

grow-up-national-post-hipster-parentsOh, come on. Are we new modern parents even half as ridiculous as we’re still made out to be?

A pack of old coots up in Canada seems to think so. They’re shaking their fists in the air and complaining about a perceived, collective, prolonged adolescence in a series called “Grow Up” running in Canada’s National Post (I know, I know, why am I reading the National Post?!).

Many parents … aren’t growing up at all, they write in the introduction. From middle-aged women dressing like high-school fashion victims to daddy’s X-Box addiction, modern adults are reverting to childish habits en masse.

If only we’d embrace the elasticized waistband! If only the old man would take up golf! (Wait, now what are we doing wrong again?)

What’s weird is that while reading the first installment of this  I kept checking to make sure I hadn’t clicked on a really old link. The commentaries, which can be summarized as “parents these days!”, reads like a rehashing of the whole hipster parent/Ramones onesies discussions of early 2007. (Think I’m exaggerating? They quote Neal Pollack.)

And like those who filed their “hipster parents are ruining society!” missives years ago, Christine Rosen argues that today’s parents care more about themselves or being cool and raising cool kids, than about raising good people. Her evidence? Dooce discussing PPD aaaaages ago, excerpts from Ariel Gore’s Hip Mama’s Survival Guide (published in 1998!), and Cookie magazine’s children’s fashion spreads (Cookie is gone, Rosen, gone! It was shuttered last week because, among other things, too many of today’s parents were just not that into it.) And an indorinate amount of condemnation aimed straight at Babble and all those who can relate. Although the evidence came from Strollerderby blog posts from (ahem) 2007.

So what’s Rosen’s big beef with parents today? I think she’s upset that parents like their kids. How completely un-old-fashioned of us.

She doesn’t say that, of course. None of the contributors in the series does. Instead, they harp on how unwilling to grow up today’s adults are. We want to share our lives with our kids. They  make sweeping generalizations that apply to everybody except the people they know. Barbara Kay writesAdolescence as the new adulthood is a widespread but thankfully not a universal phenomenon. A smart and savvy subsection of the middle class — my own children and most of their peers, for example — present as counterweights to the extreme solipsism that Christina Rosen wrote about in these pages yesterday.

Is wanting to look pretty during pregnancy really a refusal to make space in one’s life for another human being? Is staying in a city apartment rather than putting money down on a two-story colonial truly a refusal to act one’s age? Is sharing your life with your kids — rather than compartmentalizing family and life a la Don Draper — arguably an attempt to be friends with your kid instead of being a parent? Is it wrong for kids to like their parents?
Of course not. But it’s not how Rosen and Kay would do things. Therefore! It’s wrong. Out of control. We’re “putting hipster posturing ahead of responsible parenting.” (Is that what happened to that kid and the hot-air balloon? But his parents aren’t hip at all!)
Since these commentaries offer no concrete facts to back up their claims — one guy even admits he doesn’t actually know any new parents but says they get on his nerves anyway — I’ll make some generalizations of my own:
Many older people I know think parents these days are better parents than they were. They not only envy the choices we have made — to delay parenthood, to consider our partners as equals, to breastfeed, to speak up — but they envy a world that allows for many, many more lifestyle differences. Babies born to unmarried or gay couples is real yawner these days.
These old-timers may feel disgust toward the modern “hipster” parent (and if you don’t like Barney or scrapbooking, you’re apparently a hipster parent), but I’d like to see them lay out arguments for returning to the be-seen-and-not-heard childhood of the ’50s and ’60s-style family archetype, or the benign neglect of the ’70s. They can’t. Because while this “hipster” generation of parents is known for looking back fondly at the products of our childhoods, we know all that TV, all those Twinkies, all that undiagnosed depression of our childhood is not something we should be eager to pass on to our own kids.
So while Rosen and the other National Post contributors paint today’s moms and dads as Parents! Gone! Wild!, we’re not. We can be just as drab, just as stoic, just as stern, just as loving, just as mature as parents of previous generations.
But now we have better pants.
And much, much, much more information than any generations before us. So much information, in fact, that, with little effort, we can find a non-smoking bar to take the baby to, find out the life-cycle and treatments for PPD, download tolerable children’s music, apply for a job with more flexibility.
With the click of a mouse, we can order a Ramones onesie — though it’s a wee bit 2007.
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Photo: National Post
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