Saturday, January 12, 2008

Different Strokes for Different Kids

It's Amanda Eyre Ward's turn to get slammed as a narcissistic mom at Salon. Not quite sure how I feel about this: I like Ward and know a little bit about where she's coming from, and she's not the class avatar so many of the letters set her up to be, but on the other hand privileged white maternal whining without overtly articulated consciousness of privilege is kind of like Gloria Steinem arguing that women have it worst bar none, i.e. been there, done that, already proven inadequate.

That said, what interests me more than Ward's whine and the personal attacks it engenders are the arguments in the letters about the gist of her piece, that is, the viability of traveling with small children. With regard to that gist, I am in the pro camp. At my old job, I spent a fair amount of time in Europe, all of it with M, and then with M and E. There was a lot of settling in one place while Mommy worked, and then there was some traveling, and my kids thrived in all conditions. Over the years, we've developed child-friendly travel routines, which I think have a lot to do with our success, but I'm sure it also has to do with our kids being travel-ready kids, i.e. flexible and...well, I'm not sure what else, but my point is that some of it must be inherent. But just because it worked for us doesn't mean it would work for everyone.

I don't see why people are so invested in things being Good for Kids or Bad for Kids. Beyond the basics of adequate sleep, food, and exercise, couldn't it be that different things are good for different kids? Travel works for some kids and not for others? Ditto unlimited screen time, scary movies, consistent bedtimes, attachment parenting, public school, etc. et al?

Or maybe in this era of compulsive parenting, people feel impelled to defend their own choices, even, or perhaps especially, when they are talking about someone else, and thus ambiguity, possibility, and complexity inevitably erode.

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