There are some interesting child rearing stories in the news this week. On the one hand, we’ve got Abby Lee Miller of Dance Moms parading her charges out on stage in leotards that make them look naked for a showgirl number. The sort of flip side to this is Mayim Bialik’s book, Beyond the Sling, that’s just out on Attachment Parenting. From what I’ve read and heard about the book, Bialik’s philosophy is kind of an extreme sports version of attachment parenting. And my friend Zoe sent me a clip on a news bit about parents forgetting their kids and leaving them at Chuck E. Cheese.
But now it’s time to indulge in a little outrage. Do you think it was Abby Lee Miller’s idea to have her girls dress up like showgirls and use big pink feathers in the dance number? Or was it Lifetime’s idea to take a group of 7 – 11 year old girls and dress them up for a pedophile’s delight? And I’d love to talk to the girls’ mothers. Is there anything we need to say beyond, “What the f*%# were you thinking?” So while Amalia and I used to indulge in the Dance Moms trainwreck, we have erased it from our DVR queue and will no longer participate as voyeurs. I hope others will follow suit. Draw the line where you will. Having little girls dress to look naked and prance around doing hip thrusts for national TV is just way too much for me.
I’m not really sure what you call the Dance Moms parenting phenomenon– maybe irresponsible? misguided? In any case, it’s more like going Beyond the Bling than the attachment parenting Mayim Bialik talks about. Early in her book, Beyond the Sling, she states, “You already know the majority of what you need to know to be an incredible parent.” This is a premise I can get behind. As a parent coach, I worked with parents to help them see this, even when they really didn’t believe it. (Okay, I might need to take exception to the Dance Moms…)
Bialik advocates co-sleeping with your kids. I shared a bed with my kids off and on until they were two. I was sorry I didn’t have a better plan for nighttime because I spent a lot of time sleep deprived and frustrated. It’s not that I didn’t want to sleep with them, I’m not really sure what I wanted. I just felt helpless in the face of their night waking. So use a crib, co-sleep, mix it up, but I’d say evaluate your options and make a decision, try not to succumb to the moment just because you’re exhausted.
When I look at Bialik’s philosophy (or at least my limited understanding of it), I did a lot of the things she recommends, but not for as long, not as intensely. I mentioned recently that Scott’s been going through old photos. One of the themes with my girls from early childhood was their scruffiness. They were always ready to go, ready to climb, run, swing, play, hang from trees, make mud pies, pick flowers and turn the petals into potions. And they look happy. This was the right way for me to parent. I can’t remember lots of the little details, but one hallmark of my early parenting was having messy, smiling kids with dirty feet. I look back on that with a certain pride.
I wish I could convince new mothers that while you will go through a lot of hand-wringing and question yourself mercilessly, things turn out pretty much okay. Even if you leave your kid at Chuck E. Cheese, all is not lost. My friend Zoe and I have relied on each other since Day One of motherhood. We figure that together we make up one whole competent mother. When the kids were babies, if she had diapers, I had wipes. I’d bring Cheerios and she’d have apple juice. Somehow the balance was always perfect. I like to think that if my distracted, perpetually exhausted state during early motherhood had resulted in me leaving my child behind at the birthday party capital, Zoe would have scooped her up and slipped her quietly into the house. (And then called me from her cell to laugh and crow just a little…)
Parenting isn’t easy. I try really hard not to give in to my natural propensity to judge other people. Every time I think I’ve got something figured out, I’ve got really good friends like Zoe to set me straight and remind me of the time we lost her son at the aquarium or I locked Izzy and the keys in the car. I’m trying really hard to weave these three news stories together. I guess the common thread is parenting. Just keep trying your best. Ask for help when you need it. And laugh as often as possible.