Parents “under fire”!!!!!!!!!!!!

You can’t get on the internet, turn on the TV, or read a newspaper (does anyone still actually read newspapers any more?) without seeing some headline about a parent “under fire” for doing something.  Granted, the term “under fire” is catchy, it GRABS your attention, but don’t parents deserve a break?  And just who, exactly, are they under fire from?

Without even looking specifically, I have encountered several “parents under fire” articles in the last few days.  The most widely discussed, with photo above, dealt with the delightful phenomenon that is child pageants, as chronicled by the harder-to-stop-watching-than-a-train-wreck phenomenon that is TLC’s “Toddlers in Tiaras.”  In this episode, Shannon, the stage-mom-you-never-knew-you-always-wanted, is in the cross-hairs for giving her dazzling first-grade daughter the competitive edge that only a mammoth dose of caffeine can provide.  Her concoction, wizardly named “go go juice,” consists of two parts Mountain Dew, one part Red Bull, 100% pure maternal love!

I know exactly what you’re thinking: why didn’t my mom give me go-go juice when I was six?  Answer: your mom obviously didn’t love you.

But is this really all that bad?  She says she only does it on pageant weekends, and she swears she’s not the only mom doing it (also in her arsenal, the gateway pageant upper Pixi-Stix (street name “pageant crack,” banned by pageants in 48 states, still awaiting FDA approval)).

I just Googled “dad under fire” and got 76,800,000 results.  “Mom under fire” = 96,600,000.  Obviously, I haven’t yet had a chance to read through all of these (though I would like to).  And I’m not saying all parents are perfect, nor that some couldn’t stand to step up their game.  But for me, pageant moms make too easy a punching bag.  I mean look at the picture; that’s Shannon in the background.  Doesn’t everyone deserve something to get excited about?  What’s wrong with a little (mostly) healthy competition?

I really do think there is too much of this “parent under fire” stuff.  With the advent of cell phone and web cams, YouTube, and social networking, we are all having to embark into the stressful, challenging, exhausting, confusing, and sometimes even terrifying world of first-time parenting under the jaded and judgmental microscope of the collective public eye.  You can’t judge an excerpt of arguably bad parenting out of context.  And no parent is perfect.  I know ours made mistakes.  But theirs weren’t chronicled for the know-better billions that can watch evidence of our blunders at the click of a button from anywhere in the world.  We all make mistakes, but there is little value in non-constructive criticism aimed at an out-of-context portion of a mistake or judgment lapse blown out of proportion.

I am not a perfect parent, and cringe at the thought of certain of my errors and omissions being broadcast for the world to see.  Who are any of us to judge?


2 thoughts on “Parents “under fire”!!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. I was raised under very different auspices; it was a simpler time, then. There were only four food groups and we tried to avoid eating as many of them as possible. We played with lawn darts. We started babysitting for other people’s kids around the age of 9. And when we did something truly obnoxious, we got spanked.

    Do I think this was for our benefit? Sometimes. I distinctly remember being center under the center of my bed, with my father waiting on the end of it and calmly reasoning that I had to come out sometime and whenever I did was my prerogative, but either way I was going to get spanked. “You’re laughing! You like to spank me!” I shrieked. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m going to probably enjoy this one,” he said. (To date I can’t remember what I did, but rest assured he had good reason.)

    In this day and age? Tacit admittance to any host of potential crimes in his truthful statement about sometimes you really do want to smack someone. Back then? My just desserts.

    I think pageant mamas are an entirely different breed and one that can’t be defended under any circumstances; it’s a frightening circuit. People that obsessed with training something to be the cutest and top performance really ought to simply breed dogs instead. At least then they hire a trainer and the dog is well treated; spray-tanning a four year old and getting her to shimmy and walk in high heels wearing a sequined bikini the size of a chihuahua sweater is really not living out ANY of the four-year-old’s fantasies, but IS helping out the pedophile market quite a bit. (I recommend the movie “Little Miss Sunshine” for an excellent evening’s entertainment as well as thought-provoking approach to what society tells little girls beauty is supposed to be.)

    Everybody gets to have a fun weekend once in a while. Let’ the stenching cherubs have a night once a month where they get jacked up on Mountain Dew and sugared cereal and play Xbox until dawn hits. Having no responsibility is part of being a kid. Frankly, that happens all-too-frequently and parents are not under fire for that. The entire structure has shifted; parents are blamed for too much discipline, not enough discipline, too much junk in their kids’ lunches, but one of the best cartoons I’ve seen recently involved a student/parent/teacher conference. The parents and teacher were looking at the kid saying “Explain these poor grades.” The next panel was labeled “NOW:” With the same caption…except the parents and kid were looking at the teacher saying the same thing.

    I don’t have kids and I won’t have any, so it’s VERY easy for me to judge and have an opinion. But I do agree, pageant mamas aside, it’s hard to know what the situation was leading up to the parent doing what they did. The recent Father On Fire for Letting Toddler Run Through Snow In Only His Underwear? Clearly the reporter has never tried to wrestle a full-on tantruming toddler into snowboots or the car. Totally makes sense to me to say “Fine, do what you want” and let the kid figure it out. As near as I can tell, parents generally seem to be On Fire for letting the kid suffer consequences for something the kid does.

    And while my mommy didn’t love me and give me go-go juice, I’ve totally made up for it.

  2. I don’t know if pageant mamas can be defended. My remarks above are sort of semi-serious tongue-in-cheeky. We’ve all seen what happens to the high-school quarterback that peaks his senior year, and everyone would agree that it’s ugly. The prospect of one of these pageant darlings peaking in pre-school? Perish the thought.

    I actually have watched an episode or two of the show, and it does seem like, sweet treats aside, it is just an organized method for torturing your children and living vicariously through them. The whole thing is just really superficial and sad. But still fun to watch.

    As to shifts, it does seem like parents can’t win, kids can do no wrong, and teachers can do no right (though I still think teaching would be a pretty sweet gig). I have seen just in passing the kid-in-snow-in-underwear-shame-on-dad fiasco you reference. Who knows? All I’m saying is, if I had a camera on me 24/7, I wouldn’t be nominated for dad of the year any time soon.

    I don’t think you need to have kids to have a valid opinion. You were a kid once, you had parents. We all did. It is a learning process. Kids are spirited and stubborn and I don’t think mollycoddling does any kind of favors. Kids will be kids, but parents will be human, and we all need to cut each other and ourselves some slack.

    Of course I would have no way of knowing what your dad was after you about, but I bet you did deserve it.

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