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The problem? Smartmom isn’t bad ENOUGH

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Smartmom has just discovered that it’s very cool to be a bad parent right now.

And she’s not talking about run-of-the-mill bad parenting. You know the kind of bad parents you read about in the Daily News and the Post who commit horrendous crimes like murder, incest, neglect and all the other cruel and awful things that parents (some parents!) do to their children.

Nope. Smartmom is talking best-seller bad: the kind of bad parenting that sells books; makes parenting blogs tick and convinces ordinary parents that they’re doing a pretty good job just by virtue of not being that horrifically bad.

It’s the kind of bad that means money. And as everyone knows, Smartmom has an agent, a book proposal and dreams of publishing her genius insights into the maternal condition. So all of these best-selling bad parenting books are making her mighty jealous and quite sure that she may have missed the boat on yet another parenting trend.

Today, there are many flavors of bad parents (soon, they will need their own special section at the Community Bookstore). First, there are the hipster bad parents. You know, the groovy bad parents who rebel against the status quo of perfect parenting, like that alone is their badge of honor: “I’m a bad parent and proud of it.”

On babble.com, which calls itself the community for a new generation of parents, there’s even a popular column called Bad Parent (soon to be a book collection) with story after story about all the bad things parents do.

OK. How bad is bad?

Smartmom knows from bad. Really. And while she doesn’t really like to broadcast it unless she’s on deadline and has nothing else to write, she might be willing to spill the means if it means a coveted book contract. So here goes:

• Smartmom lets the Oh So Feisty One order out Chinese when Hepcat makes scallop risotto.

• Smartmom and Hepcat only require Teen Spirit to text them if he’s going to be home after 4 am in the morning on Saturday night.

• Sometimes they forget to make breakfast. OK. That’s pretty awful, except that there are usually some English muffins in the fridge and a couple of boxes of Raisin Bran in the cabinet. Can’t the kids just do it themselves?

Smartmom isn’t sure she’s really bad enough to sell a bad parenting book or pen a Bad Parent column for babble (if the Web site would even have her!). But the truth is, the stuff on babble’s Bad Parent isn’t really all that bad. There’s the parent who lets her baby watch six hours of television a day (can you imagine?) The one about the parents who walk around naked all the time (how naked?). The dad who is forcing his kids to play soccer (is that like forcing OSFO to take piano lessons?).

But here’s a whopper: the dad who makes his kids wait in the car while he gets a lap dance?

Now that’s bad.

Years from now you can be sure there will be loads of memoirs written by the children of those parents who wrote for the Bad Parent column. There are already a plethora of memoirs about bad parents, written by people who survived terrible childhoods. Heck, half of English literature is about children surviving rotten childhoods.

Certainly one of best bad parenting memoirs is “The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls’s look at her dysfunctional, nomadic parents. It’s like she was raised by wolves and she goes into excruciating detail about being uprooted constantly from one town to another, not being fed, wearing shoes held together with safety pins; and using magic markers to camouflage holes in her pants.

But somehow she survived it all and still has compassion for her parents, who were clearly mentally ill. And she wrote a best-selling book about it, which you can put on your shelf with all the others: “Running with Scissors,” “Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood,” “A Child Called ‘It,” “Mockingbird Days,” and on and on.

Dang. Smartmom’s parents may not have been perfect, but they’d never qualify for the bad parenting Olympics, that’s for sure. Scratch that idea for a memoir.

And look at Lenore Skenazy. All she did was let her 10-year-old son ride the subway by himself. Why didn’t Smartmom think of that? Think of the media frenzy could have incited if she’d only told OSFO to take the train all by herself to Manhattan Granny’s. Like Skenazy, she could have been the talk of the town and the proud recipient of a book contract.

Yup, Skenazy has written a book called “Free Range Kids,” where she writes about “giving our kids the freedom we had without going nuts with worry.” Since the publication of her book, she’s been driving Smartmom crazy with her Twitter tweets about ridiculous examples of overcautious parenting like “A school just outlawed all human contact including — hugs, high fives — lest someone get hurt. Sheesh.”

You don’t need the full 140 Twitter characters to spell self-promotion!

Skenazy is not alone. Smartmom just heard about another new book called, “True Mom Confessions,” a compilation of bad parenting confessions that originally appeared on a blog with that very name. The Web site received something like 500,000 confessions!

And there’s at least one more bad parenting book to look forward to: “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace” by Ayalet Waldman, who caused a stir when she admitted that she loves her husband, hottie author Michael Chabon, more than her children (Dumb Editor note: So do I).

So what gives? Is this bad parenting fad just a swinging of the pendulum? A healthy reaction to the emphasis on pitch perfect parenting and over control or the conspiracy to make Smartmom feel like she’s missed yet another publishing boat.

Oh, it’s clearly the latter!

Damn.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 5:12 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Ilya from PS says:
"There are already a plethora of memoirs about bad parents, written by people who survived terrible childhoods."

And others written by those who (cough!) *perceive* that they did.
April 25, 2009, 10:59 pm

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