May 17, 2013

DT Friday Freakout: Rollercoaster Edition

As a public service, Daddy Types holds back on publishing all the incendiary, headscratching, anxiety-inducing, clickbaiting WTFparenting stories during the week, to offer them up all at once in a little weekend-ruining feature we call the Friday Freakout. Here it is:

"Real Winners Don't Have Work-Life Balance," argues Business Insider. To make the case for ignoring your kids on nights and weekends AND during the day, BI quotes the CEO of a PC company [did not know they still existed] and a career coach and self-styled business guru with fewer Twitter followers than an abandoned Ikea monkey. Who argues on his own siteblog, btw, that so many of his female clients are obviously lying about their career ambitions and really just want a man to take care of them. Lean in when you say that! [businessinsider.com]

So I assume you know that the Bangladeshi garment worker who sewed your kid's $5 Children's Place t-shirt and $15 Target jeans is dead now, right? In a pile of factory rubble? I have to assume that since no one in the cheap clothing industry and no one in the cheap clothing market, which is everyone at every mall ever, wants to talk about it. [NY Times]

And now, I must say, it has taken me all week to not write this post. Almost every typing hour was spent fighting the urge to unleash the hounds against this epic-level mom troll. But I made it.

A friend of my wife's likes to say, in regards to parenting, "Don't get on the rollercoaster." It's advice that comes in especially handy when faced with a tantrum or a meltdown. And you have to remind yourself that a kid does not yet have the fully developed mental or psychic capacity to control his emotions, to provide a reasonable, modulated response to a situation they might not like. Kids lack this ability; it's our jobs as parents to teach it to them, to help them develop it; this implies, of course, that we ourselves have this capacity for appropriate response and interaction ourselves.

And that when faced with intransigence, inexplicable or sudden outbursts, or wailing, a can remind himself to not get on the rollercoaster. Just because your kid is twisting and turning every which way in a melted down Space Mountain, you do not have to join him. You just wait for the ride to end and for the rage rocket to come to a complete stop.

But even such a self-aware parent can find it difficult to keep his cool. Many adults do not seem to have this capacity or inclination at all. I remember standing on the corner of Madison Avenue where a well-dressed mom was arguing with her 3yo kid to hold her hand to cross the street. The kid was refusing. A couple of back & forths in, the mom suddenly screamed, "Give me your hand RIGHT NOW or I will throw your doll in the garbage!"

We don't know what was going on in this woman's life, but we don't have to know the details to be able to identify this as a sub-optimal strategy for getting a kid to do what you want. if only because this mom was also modeling an interaction approach--of yelling, threats, escalation, infliction of emotional harm, and destruction-- at the same time she was trying to get the kid's compliance.

Which brings us to the freakout, where the Magic Kingdom and the Upper East Side converge, the New York Post's headline-shaped bottle of lighter fluid, "Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World."

Such a rollercoaster. And look at that line of people passing the link around! I wonder if we should we get on?

The scandal turns out to be complete bullshit, of course. There are not "moms," but one mom, unnamed, and it's not clear that the story's writer ever actually spoke to her, or if she got the info and incendiary quotes secondhand from her former colleague, a self-styled "social anthropologist," who's writing a book on Park Avenue moms. And "guides" turns out to be one scooterbound lady and her booker boyfriend.

scootarama_disneyworld_lines.jpg
for the fullsize image of crowds at It's A Small World see Scootarama

The story raised red flags for Jane Magazine blogger (and Disney World superfan) Lesley, too, who called bullshit on the whole idea that going around with a disabled guest somehow gives you an edge at all.

And the Post glosses over the fact that Disney offers actual VIP Tours for $300/hr [min. 6 hrs] that actually do take your party of ten to the front of any ride you want, and that holds prime curbside spots for the parades, too? Shouldn't we be pitying these hapless Manhattanites who could have had the keys to the Magic Kingdom, but instead end up apparently schlepping around with a local grifter, all because they tried to save a measly thousand dollars?

This is what kept me off the rollercoaster, recognizing that every single choice in booking a Disney World visit is really a cost-benefit analysis, trading money for time, convenience and experience. Disney's entire system is calibrated to deliver precisely the experience you pay for; and everyone knows that. So what, exactly, is the outrage the Post is trying to stoke here, and who is its target?

"They are 1 percenters who are 100 percent despicable." "A shameless ritual among Manhattan's private-school set." But it all comes down to the headline, "Rich Manhattan moms." "The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a 'handicapped' sign on it."

[Wait, a 1yo at Disney World? How many rides can't you take that kid on? Did the tour guide watch the baby while the family rode together? If the disabled person doesn't actually ride, can they still use the disabled guest entrance? But that's not important now.]

With the Post's lone, passive mention of the escorted "husband," women are left to shoulder sole responsibility for these outlandish, Orlandoish moral affronts. But by directly and repeatedly invoking The 1%, the Post tries to conflate their flimsy story of individual hustling with the ongoing protests against structural inequality and privilege. The Post genders criticism--and culpability--of The 1%, trying to ride the Tiger Mom of outrage that lingers unaddressed in our political and economic culture.

And for what? It would be seriously pathetic if this whole episode were just a plea for attention for a book of gossipy lifestyle porn that won't even be out until 2014. Even sadder would be a pitch for attention by a former Post writer trying to position herself as a faux-populist parenting expert, a cross between Caitlin Flanagan and Anne Coulter.

The most likely explanation, though, is the simplest and dumbest: that the emotional sophistication and integrity of these two NY Post hacks is such that they not only jump on the rollercoaster of this ridiculous spring break incident themselves, they try to drag everyone else along with them, for nothing more than reflexive WTFpageviews and retweets.

Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World [nypost]
YEAH NO: Rich Manhattan Moms Allegedly "Renting" Disabled People To Skip Lines At Disney World [xojane]

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