The Hollywood-ification of Family Life: Have We Gone Too Far?Katherine Stone
Family life is going Hollywood. Have you noticed? Many of us have begun living as if we are famous people, with every part of our lives theatrical, celebrated and larger than life.
Think about it. People are now creating musical performances and choreographed, theatrical entrances at their weddings. The website Mashable even tracks the best ones, like this one where every single member of the wedding party gets his and her own entrance theme, sure to egg on future couples to come up with even better ideas.
Instead of just calling or emailing friends and family to announce the sex of a forthcoming baby, people plan clever baby gender reveals. They make special cupcakes, take staged photographs, and even have fancy parties with printed invitations just for the purpose of telling people they’re having a boy or a girl.
Some parents now carefully and perfectly photograph every move of their children’s lives. While many still take the quick snapshot and move on, there are those who make sure each picture is properly staged. Blogger and new author Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy has one of the most hilarious stories about this, writing about how hard she worked for two weeks straight with props and bribery to get a perfect picture of her children, only to end up with a slightly pornographic one.
And milestones? We might as well act as if our children have found the cure for cancer. Everything must be celebrated. First it was kids’ birthday parties that blew up into major productions, and now? Now we’re supposed to have period parties for a girl’s first period.
It’s like we’re all living inside a Glee episode. I feel as though I should be walking around with permanent jazz hands.
These things are not bad in and of themselves, but in combination they put a lot of unnecessary pressure on families. Pressure to spend money. Pressure to look perfect. Pressure to properly celebrate our children’s milestones because if we don’t and our neighbors do we might look bad or seem as if we don’t care. Pressure to create the kind of YouTube video of our kids performing funny things that will go viral.
It’s no wonder that a study conducted by UCLA and published last year found that American teenagers value fame above all else. I asked John Grohol, PhD, a psychologist and the CEO and founder of PsychCentral, about why this is happening. He thinks there are three key reasons:
1) Generation Xers are trying to make up for what they didn’t have: “Parents are more sensitive to remembering to celebrate their own children’s milestones perhaps because of a lack of such celebration in their own childhoods. While most of us have had birthday parties and what-not growing up, not every child did. Children were often minimized in many families in Generation X and earlier (the TV show Mad Men captures this beautifully). Parents don’t want to repeat the mistakes of their own parents in this regard.”
2) He also thinks our celebrity culture is a big part of the problem, explaining, “Celebrities are worshiped and idealized. Every parent wants their child to feel special in this same way. Parents no longer say ‘No’ to their children — especially when it comes to these special occasions, and the list of such ‘special occasions’ grows with every year.”
3) Finally, he says we’re just trying to keep up with everyone else: “It’s a competition among parents to show off and spoil their child in just a little better way than the birthday party they went to last month. Or by going to one child’s birthday party and seeing the spectacular, it spurs ideas for other parents, which ups the ante — ad infinitum. In order to keep the parties going, new parties and occasions are invented.”
He concluded by telling me that all of this stuff is bad for kids. He explained that it only serves to demonstrate to children that, “… you can make almost anything into a party or reason to celebrate. So when that child grows up and finds the parties and rewards don’t come as freely in college, much less their first job, they can become disillusioned. Too many over-the-top parties may simply end up spoiling a child.” He says kids may come to believe they are entitled to rewards or celebrations of a certain “quality and caliber,” the kind that life will not and cannot always provide.
I like the idea of having more celebrations in life. I just worry that EVERTHING is turning into a production, our family lives lived out “on set.” I’m not interested in making my kids famous, or trying to outdo the last most creative person who made it onto the Today Show. Not that I don’t want to be on the Today Show, but you know what I mean …
So what do you think? Have you gotten caught up in the celebrity and the celebrations in your household? Do you think it’s just fine to party like a rock or Hollywood star, or has it all become too much?
Photo credit: iStockPhoto