A Friemdly Declaration of War On "City Mom" and "Moms Who Drink And Swear"

You are terrific writers and consummate defenders of modern motherhood. Still, I have a generational bone to pick with you. And your many readers...!

It's perhaps chronologically inevitable that I at 81 would see you as a little out of touch with the "big picture." However, right now that picture is being featured in a sprawling new exhibit titled CENTURY OF THE CHILD: 1900-2000 [Museum of Modern Art, NYC].

I'm fascinated in the way they [and I] see childhood so differently than you. This exhibit makes clear something I learned living during much of that century. That childhood is a relatively new invention. Until the 19th C, children were simply considered little adults who should start earning their place in the family as soon as they could sew a shirt or plow a field.

Until the Victorians, there were no lacy images of little boys and girls enthroned by their parents with endless hours of playing, napping, and being entertained & educated by devoted mommies & daddies!

Now whether that culture was superior to today's culture is open to debate. My only challenge as a father and grandfather is this: Is it in the best interest of our wonderful children to be placed on pedestals of wonder from the moment we bring them home to their very own decorated nursery, to their first inspirational recordings of Mozart, to their 24/7 part in every club, camp, and tutor we can afford?

If that statement makes you mad, I apologize. But check out that exhibit which will perhaps makes me right.

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  • You make great points. Agree to disagree? And you have a spelling error in the title! Let's be friends.

    xo Nikki

  • Nikki ~ Absolutely! Just like to stir the pot sometime. Being "friends" is easy because you're generally such a sensible commentator. As for that spelling error, now that's one of the worst things about being an octogenarian -- you forget to edit yourself.

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    Jack,

    I am usually the one with spelling errors. People beg me to let them edit my nonsense. I understand.

    I have a mega ton of respect for you and your brave writing and opinion. I hope that I live to be 80 so that I can write about a lifetime of observations with wonder and skill the way you do.

    My grandmother was my third parent. I think she would love and hate what I do equally. Times change, but what stays the same is our love for our families.

    Big, fat, squeeze, hugs,

    Nikki

  • In reply to Nicole Knepper:

    Nikki ~ Right back at you...! Your take on today's culture is a class act. So maybe this little exchange proves that generational "gap" is narrower than some say.

  • My debate with them is that they instituted the Facebook only comments, so they have lost me. In case you are thinking about it, you have been warned.

    With reference to her headline that was in the right pane, I was going to comment on a foul mouthed 3 year old who used similar language, but I can't or won't.

  • In reply to jack:

    By the way, Jack, I wrote a clinical piece on children and death a year ago that spoke of how differently we approach this topic with kids today. I compared the process and the closeness to it that kids experienced in the early part of the 21st century to the distance and ignorance of kids today.

    I get what you are saying. As a parent, I want to prolong my kids childhood as long as it is appropriate to their individual needs and development. The therapist in me says to do that AND to smack down with the kind of parenting ideals and approaches of my parent's generation.

    It ain't easy being 42.

  • In reply to Nicole Knepper:

    Nikki ~ Sounds like you've found the right balance thus far. Only let me warn you. Gram was right: "Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!" Even marriage is not the end; just the start of a variegated version. Years ago one of our more cynical friends advised: "After the last kid gets married, change the locks and kill the dog...!"

  • In reply to jack:

    And to the other Jack, most sites are doing the Facebook comments now. I know plenty of people who don't like it, you are not alone. It's just a choice that Chicagonow bloggers are offered.

  • I hope by "City Mom" you meant "A City Mom" because I would be really hurt if you declared war, even a friemdly one, on some random City Mom out there.

    And I got very excited when you suggested checking out the MOMA exhibit in NYC, because to me that could mean only one thing: Road Trip!! Three ChicagoNow bloggers tearing up NYC--it would never be the same.

    I lean toward disagreeing with you on the child-rearing issue, but probably I won't know for sure until my children are successfully (or unsuccessfully!?) all grown up. Now, please excuse me. I must go prepare some gruel as my children will be returning soon from their week of hard labor in the pedestal mines.

    And what Nikki said, big fat squeeze and hugs ;-)

  • In reply to ACityMom:

    Kim ~ The three of us in New York...? Wow, I wouldn't mind being accompanied by two such classy sassy ladies. Only having to help an octogenarian through Manhattan traffic could be a challenge from which you two might never recover...

  • I just have this for you, Jack: Last night, as we were walking back to the car after a family 5K race, all tired, all sweaty, and my husband and I emotionally spent as the race raised $ for pediatric brain tumors, of which our daughter died from, our three year old son was lagging behind, dawdling, as three year olds are wont to do. I was cranky and spoke sharply to my son to get a move on, my husband well ahead of us. "But, Mommy, look up at the beautiful sky." Well, I looked up, and it was, indeed, a beautiful sky. Glorious, really. "Lay down on the grass and look with me," he suggested. I did. You know what? That moment will stay with me for a long, long time. The wonder of our children is they see things we do not see. I love the world through his eyes. Someday, sooner rather than later, he, too, will no longer see those skies. We enjoy the moments for what they are, including the wonder of childhood. Those moments, like childhood, are fleeting.

    Oh, and next time you write about mommy bloggers, don't leave me out of the title! I like the octogenarian love, too! All best. MTM.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Mary ~ You're so right to treasure those "moments." Not only are they fleeting, they're unrepeatable. And even though you are obviously insightful enough to understand this, you will understand it even more once the children have left you. As leave you they will. As leave you they must. Here's a thought. If ever they do another production of OUR TOWN, go as a family. It's Thornton Wilder's classic look at how time slips through our fingers because we're so busy "doing," we forget to "look at one another." I'm trying to get my friend Bob Falls to bring it back soon at the Goodman. My best, Jack

  • I totally agree with you Jack! I HATE IT that I have to accompany my little darlings every damn place they go. I would LOVE to turn them loose outdoors to roam free, get dirty, and work out their squabbles by themselves like I did when I was a child.

    But these days, especially in a large urban environment like Chicago, if you chose to do this, someone will call DCFS on you and the police will bring your abandoned child home and give you a lecture about child safety. Not that I have done this -- my girls are only seven and three after all. But I dearly wish I could give them a more "free range" life than what they have.

    In the meantime, I try to keep them out of the center of my universe in small ways. They do chores. I don't make special meals (very often). Sometimes I don't feel like indulging their every whim in the moment and I say "no, go play." I see my job as their parent to help them become responsible contributors to society.

    On the other hand, I am SO GLAD that children don't have to work in mines and factories any more. I feel very fortunate that my children won't starve because of the drought we're having or because locusts ate our entire crop in about two hours. I am also grateful that my girls have more options in their lives than getting married at 17 and having a baby every two years until they die -- probably in childbirth. Yes, things have changed in the last 100 years -- not all for the worse.

  • In reply to Christine Whitley:

    Christine ~ I agree not everything has changed for the worse. But I do resonate with your idea of chores. One small way of helping children feel they have obligations as well as right in this world. Better learned sooner than later

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