|Migrant Mother (Florence Owens), California|
photographed by Dorothea Lange
After my shower this morning, and while I brushed my teeth, I started thinking about parenting. My father sent me and my sisters the article about how French parents are better parents, and I read it with a sigh and then deleted it. I saw it pop up on Facebook and then on blogs and now it's a book or something and everyone is talking about it and it's making a million dollars while legions of American parents, mainly mothers, are debating again whether they're doing it right or doing it wrong. I'm going out on a limb this morning to say that these debates bore me to no end, in the same way that I'm bored by the agonizing over breast-feeding or Tiger mother parenting or working mothers versus non-working mothers and all the rest of it. I'll admit to possessing one of the ultimate trump cards (parenting a disabled child which makes nearly every other kind of parenting sort of a walk in the park, as they say), but I'll also admit that my parenting Sophie is a walk in the park compared to the parenting of the Sophies of Bangladesh, perhaps, or the myriad children all over this country and the world that are far sicker or more involved, and while I know it's all relevant, in some ways it's not. There's perspective for one, and my belief that it's my responsibility to have some. Do I begrudge the writing of another blockbuster book about the parenting tribulations of the upper classes? Am I jealous? These are the things I thought about as I paid special attention to my back molars, dreading the visit to the dentist on Monday and the tut-tutting of the hygienist when she asks whether I've flossed since my last visit. I started thinking about the self-esteem wars -- important for our children to have it or not important? -- and that led to the giving out of trophies for nearly everything and how that sends some parents into a parenting tizzy. What are the repercussions of a child receiving a trophy when he's an abysmal athlete? That thought segued into my own son Oliver's collection of trophies, half of which are not his, but which he acquired at a yard sale down the street when an unfortunate married couple went through a terrible divorce and divested themselves of nearly everything they owned. You can read about that here. I have one of those electric toothbrushes that buzzes and changes subtly every thirty seconds and while I usually only brush for 23 or so seconds, today with all this heavy thought, I got to the two minute mark and was awarded with an extended vibration and a smiley face on the panel. I thought about that, too, and how here in America, the U, S of A, we're given pats on the back for brushing our teeth for two minutes.