Frank Bruni, Stop Bashing My Village

I’M NOT A PARENT, BUT I PLAY ONE ON TV

Or in this case, in the NYTimes.

Frank Bruni has a lot to say about parenting.

Rather than draw from and describe the experience of knowing and loving his personal village of nieces and nephews, Bruni seems to summarize the entire public critique on parents from the last decade — which, I swear, seems to be based on the same group of a few clueless, over-indulgent, moron parents that we all stopped hanging out with when our kids were four.

Modern parents can’t say No. They offer too many choices. They equivocate on all matters. They replace parental guidance with iPhones. They hover. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Does he only see his nieces and nephews at holidays? When the behavior of parents and children are altered by stress, sugar and disrupted schedules? Or has Bruni learned first-hand the challenges of parenting by taking care of his sibling’s children in his own home or apartment.

Certainly, you don’t have to be a parent to comment on parenting (if you did The Atlantic would be out of business). But it would be much more valuable — and credible — if Bruni could recount tales of his own family and experience caring for them. Or, at least name names of the jerk moms and dads he’s describing, so we could all avoid them.

Many of the problems and solutions of modern parenting center on a real, fundamental societal change; we’re parenting alone, without the de facto villages parents relied on thirty years ago.

Progress and technology has allowed us to move across the country and the world from our own parents, siblings, grandparents and cousins and we, modern parents, have had to compile — often hastily — our own villages. From scratch.

Moms, and now dads, are left home with one or more children for ten to twelve hour stretches at a time and must rely on a bevy of safety devices to hold junior just so they can take a pee. There are no other arms to place baby with.

Or, increasingly, both parents work and rely on a bevy of strangers they must train and then trust to care for their kids.

Behavior — how to parent — is learned second-hand, from books, Hollywood TV families and glimpses of other monkeys with strollers at the park. Not, instead, from the direct modeling of the monkeys of their own tribes.

Frank I grant you your opinion, but I’d like to hear more about how you helped your sister or brothers take care of a sick kid all night long, or pitched in during a school “week” made up of three half days. I want to hear how you counseled your nieces to deal with emotional bullying at school, or when you cooked a few meals for a tired, working parent, who’s staying at a shit job so their kids can live in a town with a decent public school system.

It’s not that your opinion isn’t valid or doesn’t count, it just doesn’t add anything new to the conversation. Modern parents are struggling to take care of their families without the large networks of support they desperately need.

They don’t need your opinion. They need your helping hands. Stop editorializing and pitch in.

Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan is the Founder and CEO of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

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