When it comes to children, this otherwise progressive writer is probably a centrist, somewhere to the right of Angelina Jolie and to the left of W.C. Fields. That ambivalence (shared by my spouse) explains why I’m not a parent—it’s the most important job in the world, a lifelong commitment, and one shouldn’t be on the fence about it. Also, I’m really, really selfish.
So I’m not the first person who should be dispensing parenting advice; on the other hand, sometimes it’s useful to get an outside perspective.
The social psychologist Diana Baumrind has identified three major parenting styles:
1) Authoritarian (excessively strict and at worst, abusive);
2) Authoritative (firm, but fair—Ward and June Cleaver—the ideal);
3) Permissive (they cave, like France, or moderate Democrats)
As a resident of New York City’s Upper West Side, where the sidewalks are paved with strollers and illegal nannies, I’ve had ample exposure to #3 and guys, I have a message for you: Your kids may be (and should be) the center of your universe. But not ours. You live in a mommyanddaddy bubble, and you think the world’s your family room. It’s not. So please, wake up, remember there are other people on this earth and:
1) Don’t teach your toddler to walk on the subway stairs—at rush hour. Yes, there are actually people who do this—young, healthy people who could easily carry their kids. While you’re cooing, “Yay, Emma” you could cause a commuter catastrophe—a pileup of bodies with a crushed little Emma underneath. Also, you’re making me late.
2) Don’t let your kid ride his bike or scooter, or roller skate or skateboard on a crowded sidewalk. I don’t care if little Max is wearing a helmet—we’re not, and while you’re lingering behind, chatting about white wine, he could send someone—say, an elderly person with a walker—flying.
3) Don’t let your little ones run around loose in restaurants—did you ever see a waiter or waitress try to dodge a small child while carrying four hot bowls of soup?
4) Don’t let your kid press the elevator button. Because he or she will press at least three or four. It’s not cute. And it will make me late.
People will hate me for this one:
5) Breastfeed all you want—but not next to my table at Starbucks. Or if you must, please wear a blanket. I know the research—mommy breast milk beats the crap out of Elsie the Cow’s. But as a new mom pal of mine attests, some women breastfeed in a way to be SEEN breastfeeding. In a way that cries out “Yes, yes, I am a caring nurturer!” Then they hand the kid off to the nanny.
Oh, while you’re at it, get off my lawn.