December 11, 2009

Time Out Of It

I'm a little slow to this, but my grandmother only saw the article at her doctor's office this week.

Time Magazine has one of those big trend-calling pieces, "Helicopter Parents: The Backlash Against Overparenting," about how This Generation of Parents is somehow different from all the rest. Sounds great, except it's really just a litany of helicoptery anecdoteporn wrapped around a few set piece quotes from Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children From The Culture Of Hyper-Parenting author Carl Honoré, the Malcolm Gladwell of Slow.

The thing I've come to hate about these generational stories is the sheer flabbiness of the alleged population in question. It's a journalistic trick that basically allows Time to regurgitate the same stories over and over and over for years, with the not unreasonable hope that readers will have an "oh, that's so true!" or an "I hate that, too!" moment. It's basically the horoscope model of magazine writing, and it deserves its impending doom.

Here's what I mean they mean: "This generation of parents, born after 1964, waited longer to marry and had fewer children." So it's Gen X. Except that if you take that premise as true, "this generation's" pitiable kids could not possibly be applying to college, or having their parents negotiate their pay packages at their first jobs. Because their kids are barely hitting middle and high school.

My playground parenting experience is completely different from someone my age who had a kid at 20, or from someone who's needling their kid's teachers for more time on his SAT. And it's different from someone who's bouncing a colicky baby to sleep right now.

Honoré's kid was in kindergarten when he gave his dad his Slow Parenting epiphany [though, truth be told, Honoré already had a Slow book out and was no doubt looking to expand the franchise], even that was years ago, before there were even Bugaboos. I know, crazy, right?

If I had to guess, I'd say an editor at Time's just trying to make the most of it after his kid ended up in public school.

The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting [time]


Good lord, yes. These articles are so ridiculous as you rightly point out. It's all hearsay and supposition in support of someone's prejudice against some other group of parents (or whatever other group.) Grrr.

Gen X always seems to be forgotten by journalists until they need a group to pick on.

They take what could be real examples and imply that there are parents who engage in most, if not all, of these activities. Look into any parent's life and you'll find something somewhere that some other person thinks is extreme.

Child harnesses/leashes are a particularly bad example because there are children (my son in particular) who need one. Some prick giving nasty glares at a harness would give equally nasty glares at an uncontrollable child running rampant causing havoc – having no clue what that child's story is.

Not only are purveyors of the helicopter myth ignorant, they're jerks. Or maybe they're just marketing a book, and as we all know, marketers are among the sweetest people on Earth.

Quote of the day:

"Not only are purveyors of the helicopter myth ignorant, they're jerks."


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