How could our parents have been so wrong? How do we know we’re right? Well, they weren’t and we don’t. Like skirt lengths and math curriculum, parenting has its trends. So, annual braggy Christmas letters are out, but blogging to strangers about your child’s under-achievements? Very in. Living vicariously through your child’s birthday celebrations is out. But that $1,000 stroller? Sorry, still in. – Madeline Holler
Wave Bye-Bye! 10 Parenting Trends That are Out:
1. Same name, different spelling: Katelyn, Kaitlyn, Catelin and Kadlen are going to get together and really hammer their parents over this one. As are the -aydens (fill in the first letter) and any other child who (1) suspects parents are just making up names and (2) has never seen his or her name spelled correctly, ever. (Jennifers with one “n” thought they had it bad!)
2. Three-ring birthday parties: We only got cupcakes and water balloons, but our kids are getting zoo animals, helicopter rides and $20,000 teas! Maybe we’ll never return to pin-the-tail on the donkey (too dangerous – See #5), but we middle-class mortals are backing it down, hanging up streamers, making Grandma the star attraction and remembering what birthdays are really for: cupcakes (heavy on the frosting) and presents.
3. Bringing baby to work: We love that offices are becoming more flexible, but we suspect in tough economic times this particular perk will soon come to an end. Not soon enough for many co-workers – and even for some parents who tried it. Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of making the workplace family-friendly. Babycare down the hall, perhaps? Longer and paid parental leaves?
4. Hiding vegetables: Did it ever catch on? Not likely, what with all that damn steaming, pureeing, tucking and tricking! In other good news, parents are also turning their backs on caring quite so much about organic-everything (especially since the new trend is going local rather than organic). Five servings of a fruits and veggies rainbow is the overall goal. But every single day? Eh. Too much work. (Have a spinach-free brownie and think about it.)
5. Clear the landing pad: Helicopter parenting is headed for a crash – a good thing. Moms now negotiate grades with their kids’ college professors, dads shake hands with baby’s future employer. And there are kids who, for the love of Band-Aids!, have never, ever been hurt. Leading the way out of this prison of love is a nine-year-old NYC solo subway rider. Will others rip off the shin guards, turn in unchecked homework, and follow?
6. Nursing beyond babyhood: A huge number of new moms are breastfeeding. The largest number ever in modern times are making it to the recommended six months. But nursing until the kid hits kindergarten will never be widely popular. Sure, extended nursers will always have La Leche League and each other. But they’ll never convince a majority of moms to nurse preschoolers (or eight-year-olds). Hell, the Swedes don’t even do that.
7. Buying baby some smarts: Monochromatic mobiles, Baby Einstein videos, Mandarin-only playgroups, tutors for three-year-olds. We’ll do whatever it takes to get our kids ahead. Or we used to. Thanks to a critical eye, vetted studies, and sympathy for four-year-olds with fuller schedules than Mom, we’re finding out that you can’t teach kids before they’re ready. Enrichment videos aren’t going to put baby over-the-top (and may even hold them back). Instead, afternoons at the park, quiet time with the ‘rents, a big pile of blocks and time to develop are all they ever needed to learn their shapes, colors and ABCs.
8. Spending $30K/year on kindergarten: Sure, private schools aren’t going anywhere. But public schools are slowly, quietly, getting their acts together (some had theirs together the whole time!). Whether you lucked out with a nearby magnet or landed a spot in the popular and promising local charter school, more and more kids are learning plenty on the public dime.
9. Elimination Communication: Mini-trend? Fake-trend? Trend-in-name-only? Whatever it is, getting babies to pee on the potty feels like too much work to go fully mainstream and stick. Of course, EC has its loyalists. And we can thank them for creating a big enough market for those crazy cute baby leg-warmers that are even available at Target. As a trend, though, the diaper-free movement has no legs. Spending hours staring at a pantless child while searching for signs of an impending bowel movement will never compete on a large scale with regular coffee dates, sympathetic grown-ups and not having to explain why your kid is crapping in the sink.
10. Attachment parenting purity (and its evil twin, defensive opposition to all things “touchy-feely”): Some mothers feed the newborns formula while carrying them in a sling. Others nurse their babies and then let them cry-it-out in a crib. Sometimes you co-sleep; other times you install the kids in a separate wing of the house (and turn off the baby monitor). Hybrid systems aren’t just for cars. They’re also an energy-efficient method for childrearing. Even attachment parenting experts are starting to vouch for this. Whatever you’re doing, you’re not the first, you’re not alone, and everybody’s going to be just fine!
Come to Mama: 10 Parenting Trends That are In
2. The $1,000 stroller: Often used as a stand-in for decadent parenting gone wild, the high-end, high-function stroller is the trend of trends. They’re gorgeous, light, convenient, their owners love them and they last forever. As we turn our backs on disposable plastic everything, we’re looking more at lasting quality. Think the kids will cherish their four-wheeled Stokke heirlooms?
3. Saying yes!: Whether it’s a good or bad thing, parents are letting kids drink booze, watch grown-up movies, go to nice restaurants, and swear. Some say it’s a sign of over-permissiveness, but others say they’re being realistic. Kids are a part of the family, and if you’re a group of wine drinkers, might as well teach your kids to be responsible ones too.
4. Elective C-sections: Another non-trend used to describe the Type A, entitled, modern mom. Sure, there’s little evidence this is a growing trend – or that “too posh to push” is behind the increasing rate of C-sections – but elective cesarean is always going to be an option, as well it should be. Now, if we could only get the medical establishment and state governments on board with the rest of the spectrum of birth options. Women should also be able to hire legal midwives, attempt a VBAC in a normal pregnancy, and give birth at home – all without hassle from insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and the law.
5. Daddy!: That’s him wearing the baby! That’s him changing diapers! That’s him on a playdate! That’s him putting the career on hold/going part time/leaving early for the soccer game. Dads as actual parents has moved from trend to societal norm. For this, moms, partners, kids and dads everywhere rejoice!
6. Getting religion: Okay, maybe not religion. Church attendance is dropping. But lapsed Catholics, non-practicing Jews, even some atheists are looking for a way to teach their kids about religion – all religions – and discuss things like virtue and character. So they’re looking to the humanists, universalists, even regular ol’ Sunday school to get the big questions answered.
7. Blogging babies: We’re a proud bunch, we parents. We’ve been bragging about the kids since Cave Baby Jr. first crawled out on the steppes. But only recently has the bragging – the storytelling, the sharing – been offered to so many readers who are actually known by so few. Instead of our mom’s annual Brag Bulletin, we’re blogging. We do it ironically, with a bottomless cache of digital pics (often of our perfectly made-up selves), for the whole, entire world to see. And also for a profit.
8. Some call it outsourcing; others call it survival: Parents are hiring help to figure it out and get it done. We laugh at parenting coaches and sleep trainers, but middle-class Americans also used to save eating out for special occasions and speak in fake British accents when talking about a housekeeper. Not so anymore. We often live far away from our own moms and dads – their help is for free. And we’ve put spending time with our families at the top of our priorities. If we can pay someone to teach us to nurse a baby or get her to sleep, or if we can contract out the search for preschool, you know what? We will.
9. Sleep-training: Parents’ desire for the babies to sleep (perchance to dream of sleep themselves) is the trend that will never die. Which is why parents, now, do whatever works – rigid scheduling, co-sleeping, Ferberizing, cribs, bassinets, car seats, swings, slings. Until someone comes up with the magic baby sleep pill, we’ll be over in the corner, just resting.
10. Homeschooling: It’s kooky! It’s Christian! It’s barely legal! It’s working! Homeschoolers win Spelling Bees and Geography Bees! They go to Harvard, Princeton and Yale! Can’t get on board with this increasingly popular trend? Don’t worry. More homeschoolers mean more open spaces in those sought after magnet and charter schools (See Out Trend #8). So, you know, whew!
Article photo: Roy Botterell/Getty