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Smartmom takes on her critics — including her daughter

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Last week, Smartmom’s good friend Divorce Diva called to express her sympathy.

“About what?” Smartmom asked.

“About those nasty comments you’re getting online,” she said.

“What nasty comments online?”

“Haven’t you seen them?” Divorce Diva asked ominously.

Smartmom could only imagine what kind of response her last two columns — which focused on her obsession about writing about her children — had elicited.

So one day last week, Smartmom poured herself a large tumbler of Oban, a really terrific single malt Scotch that her dad bought for Hepcat, and braced herself for the barrage of less than enthusiastic public opinion.

Holy Mcgeegee, Smartmom said aloud to no one. She almost fell off her chair. “There’s some major venom out there towards me,” she thought.

Usually, she has a thick skin to ward off this kind of sniping.

But this time it felt different. This time it really got to her. Probably because these people were insulting her right (as a mother) to write (about her kids). And they were saying some pretty nasty things about her as a mom.

“These kids will need years of therapy,” one reader wrote in.

“You’re taking out your frustration with your children — your daughter’s discarded UGGS and your son’s inability to clean up the kitchen — by writing about it in The Brooklyn Paper. That’s terrible, terrible parenting. When your kids move out for college and never talk to you again, at least you’ll know why.”

Whoa. Smartmom felt faint. She tried to summon up her mantra, but it didn’t work. People were accusing her of exploiting her children for the sake of her column and that made her mad, unhappy and a little bit defensive.

Where is all this hate coming from, she thought? In Park Slope, everybody talks about his or her children. Incessantly. You can’t have face time with anyone without the conversation veering into stories about college applications, SAT scores, dirty bedrooms.

Practically every conversation begins, “You won’t believe what my kid did this week…”

Kidtalk is the language of the Slope. What conversation doesn’t include some variation on these themes:

• How’s your kid?

• How does your kid like school?

• How are his teachers?

• What extra-curricular activities is she doing?

• Who are his or her friends?

How would people feel if there was a gag order on all kidtalk? What if there was a huge flashing sign on every corner: “No Kidtalk Allowed”?

Why, there would be silence from Flatbush Avenue to Green-Wood Cemetery — and it’s already pretty quiet over at the cemetery. For instance:

• Park Slope Parents would be blank. Parents would have to go back to reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and crawling on the floor in imaginary play rather than itemizing their every child-rearing dilemma.

• Couples wouldn’t have anything to talk about on their date nights at local restaurants.

• Friends would sit in stony silence over coffee at Sweet Melissa.

• Book groups would actually have to discuss “Great Expectations” or “Bolano’s 2666,” rather than long soliloquies about the latest kid travails.

• Parents on the sidelines of soccer games would actually have to cheer for the kids rather than chit chat about children.

You get the idea. You might as well put a muzzle on every parent around if kidtalk is verboten.

OK, OK. Writing a column, a book, or a magazine article about one’s kid is different from talking about them to friends, acquaintances, teachers, psychologists, learning specialists, doctors, lawyers or anyone else you come into contact with.

Even when she’s not writing, Smartmom knows she spills the beans about her kids to friends and neighbors. And they spill their kid beans, too. And those conversations are impromptu and probably instantly forgotten.

When she writes it for her column or her blog, it does lose the patina of privacy as it makes its way out into the world. But she also has more time to think about it and craft her sentences. She gets to go into a little more detail maybe. She even gets to think aloud and share what she’s learned and what she still needs to know.

It’s not all that different from what goes on at Sweet Melissa, Bar Reis, the backyard at PS 321, on Park Slope Parents, and blogs like Hip Slope Mama, A Child Grows in Brooklyn, and Brooklynometry.

Without kidtalk, parents wouldn’t get to share their stories and hear from others. They wouldn’t be able to kvell or whine. They wouldn’t be able compare, contrast, and contextualize their children’s experience. They wouldn’t be able to measure their own parenting; they wouldn’t be able to act like experts or learn something new from time to time.

They wouldn’t get to laugh with neighbors and friends about their trials and triumphs. They wouldn’t get to cry on a trusted friend’s shoulders or unload their stress and parental agita.

In other words, the oral history of childhood would be lost to silence.

Parents might implode with the sum total of their ingested experience aching to come out.

Smartmom bravely read all the comments in The Brooklyn Paper. She found herself hyperventilating. She found herself feeling a combination of guilt, angst, anger, and exasperation — and then she came to this comment:

“Writing about how you are not writing about us is still writing about us!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I didn’t turn the house upside down looking for my pink wig. It was on my bookshelf and I didn’t ask you for any help!!!!”

It was from the Oh So Feisty One. She was back online letting her opinions be known using words and exclamation points. Smartmom felt the pride well up in her. She had done one thing right. She’d modeled to her daughter that it was OK to express her opinion and let the world know what you think about things.

When done in an honest and fair way, it’s the most powerful thing in the world.

She had done her mother proud.

Sure, Smartmom has had her moments of wondering if she’s doing the right thing. Thick skin or not, she’s human, porous, and open to criticism. And like everyone else she wants to do the right thing. Speaking of the right thing, Smartmom thinks Dumb Editor should offer OSFO a column. The girl sure has a lot to say.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

What language is this? says:
Even better to express your opinion in an honest, fair and grammatical way.

"She even gets to think aloud and share what she’s learned and what she’d still needs to knows."

"-which focused on her obsession with about writing about her children-"

"She has had done her mother proud."
Feb. 3, 2009, 3:42 pm
Damn from Park Slope says:
Dear Brooklyn Paper: 20 comments begging you to stop publishing this drek. Which part of "smart mom sucks" do you not understand. I would rather read Scientology literature.
Feb. 3, 2009, 3:58 pm
RK from PS says:
Please God, make it stop!
Feb. 3, 2009, 6:31 pm
Bob from Pk Slope says:
Damn from Park Slope said - "I would rather read Scientology literature."

Who's making you read it (or anything)?
It's strange that some people are so negative-obsessive re: this column.
It's one (1) column, which takes up a fraction of one (1) page in one (1) neighborhood newspaper. It's not the only print material in the Slope, or Bklyn; isn't Big Brother-mandated reading; and isn't being read aloud & blasted from rooftop speakers.
If I got this vexed and obsessive re: columnists, I'd have a psychotic break whenever I opened *any* newspaper, or would have to quit reading altogether.
Feb. 4, 2009, 12:50 am
Emma B. from Park Slope says:
"It’s not all that different from what goes on at Sweet Melissa..."

Except that it is. You're using your children and your family in a far more public forum than a discussion with two of your friends at Sweet Melissa's. That you even equate the two is a telling sign of what's wrong with this column.
Feb. 4, 2009, 4:31 am
mom from Park Slop says:
blech
Feb. 4, 2009, 10:07 am
Parent from Brooklyn Heights says:
To Bob from Pk Slope-

I think what's going on here is that many readers of Louise's column (undoubtedly mostly parents themselves) who may have even enjoyed the column up to now because they assumed she was doing what she was doing with her family's permission, have become uncomfortable with the fact that she's discussing her kids' personal lives in a newspaper against their wishes. As readers we become complicit in that uncomfortable family dynamic, and if it's something we wouldn't do to our own kids, we don't want to participate in it being done to someone else's kids. There simply wasn't negativity to this degree before Louise revealed that her column was making her kids so unhappy. And in fact, many of the comments have taken a positive spin, encouraging her to look for other sources of inspiration rather than just stop writing.

Of course it's just as possible that revealing her family's feelings, and the attendant soap-opera quality of the online back-and-forth (which her editors are milking rather shamelessly) will gain her readers rather than lose them, so who knows what the calculus is. But I don't think you can say the negative reaction comes from nowhere.
Feb. 4, 2009, 11:55 am
Bob from Pk Slope says:
Parent from BH said, "I think what's going on here is that many readers of Louise's column ... who may have even enjoyed the column up to now because they assumed she was doing what she was doing with her family's permission, have become uncomfortable with the fact that she's discussing her kids' personal lives in a newspaper against their wishes."

Maybe for some - but I don't think that's the whole of it.
I don't know the writer or this/her apparent "set" of people, so have followed this spat with amusement & amazement since it began here.
I've been struck by the simmering "something" underlying many comments. It's as if some people were *itching* to pile on and trash her, and the kid-issue just provided an entree' and a way to cloak it in self-righteousness or imply that she wasn't fit to write a parenting column.
I've seen *many* cases where someone wrote, "My family/kids hate being in my column (or stories, or whatever)" - especially in small-town-type venues, and when the writer's whole focus was on family & personal stuff. But readers didn't go berserk, and, presumably, the family figured out a solution.
In this case, the reaction is *super*-overwrought - as if respondents have some very personal vested interest in this, and aren't just concerned about someone else's kids.
That's pretty evident when - as they have - the righteous remarks get too personal; snipe at her writing re: things other than her kids; say she's damaging the Slope's image; eviscerate the whole column (not just the kid-business); or react as if this thing were hate literature that comprised 90% of the paper and spawned 99% of their life-angst. Or when they've tried to unsubtly pressure the paper itself, via things like "her column makes me not read the ads," or "hmmm, if you keep running it, you might get sued someday."
It sounds as if many of these people had some pre-existing resentment, and the kids'-privacy issue was just a hook to hang it on.
Feb. 4, 2009, 3:33 pm
Charles from park slope says:
It is poorly written, boring and drab. Also it is a tired, tired, horse of a stereotype of Park Slope.

Find either a better writer or a more interesting topic...this one should go away.
Feb. 4, 2009, 4:20 pm
sadie from brooklyn says:
It's called sociopathology. The lack of empathy. Smartmom needing a fix of personal fun while her children, family, neighborhood say stop. I was feeling sorry for you Louise when you admitted that your self esteem was measured by how you please a crowd. But now, arguements for your defense are about as appetizing as Gersh posing nude. The Brooklyn Paper has sunk to some very new lows. These non stories, the mentality of the writers are really gross.
Feb. 4, 2009, 11 pm
Irish Rose from PS says:
One of the problems with the column is that in many instances it is a poor stereotype of the Park Slope neighborhood - and all the early 21st century overreaching, ripe for parody stuff that it entails. Also it seems that the trustafarian who writes this dreck lost a lot of loot by Madoff's minions ... it's all in court papers via the Wall Street Journal. Ouch.
Feb. 5, 2009, 11:50 am
Rien de Rien from PS says:
Irish Rose from PS says: "it is a poor stereotype of the Park Slope neighborhood - and all the early 21st century overreaching, ripe for parody stuff that it entails."

Which DO exist, albeit unfortunately.

"Also it seems that the trustafarian who writes this dreck lost a lot of loot by Madoff's minions ... it's all in court papers via the Wall Street Journal. Ouch."

Why is that info relevant? What does it have to do with the column's content and coverage of her kids?

[You should ask the B Paper to run a weekly wrapup of all Slopers' publicly available financial, legal, and property filings. Since it's so very relevant, I'm sure it would make us all happy as clams.]

I DO agree that these column attacks aren't about those kids anymore. It's obvious that a small number of grudgey-ugly little hatchets are at work, for unrelated reasons.
Feb. 5, 2009, 2:30 pm
Annie from Park Slope says:
To Parent from Park Slope:

You're right, the editors are milking this online back and forth "rather shamelessly." It must be a very s-l-o-w news month. However, they might also have sought an ad hoc appraisal of the column's popularity.
If so, many of the "nay" votes in this B F have been self-negating, since they clearly were spawned by private tiffs, not by the column itself.
Irish Rose's stupefying 2/5 post, and Sadie's 2/4 rant, are examples of the genre.
Feb. 5, 2009, 5:49 pm
JJ from P.S. says:
Irish Rose from PS says: "One of the problems with the column is that in many instances it is a poor stereotype of the Park Slope neighborhood - and all the early 21st century overreaching, ripe for parody stuff that it entails. Also it seems that the trustafarian who writes this dreck lost a lot of loot by Madoff's minions ..."

If you're an example of classy, appropriate, un-overreaching behavior, heaven help us all.
I liked the old Park Slope stereotype much better.
Feb. 6, 2009, 1:25 am
Disinterested from PS says:
If anything, this so-called debate brings those page views up. The physical paper itself is still good in its secondary uses ... lining bird cages and cat litter boxes, filler in packing boxes, etc. etc.
Just stop it already! It's getting almost as bad as the infamous child's hat debate of a couple years ago!
Feb. 6, 2009, 11:33 am
My eyes glaze over from PS says:
"If anything, this so-called debate brings those page views up."

I think that's why this dustup was started.

I'm also SO very very very glad that I missed "the infamous child's hat debate." Just the sound of it gives me an anticipatory migraine.
Feb. 6, 2009, 4:04 pm
momof2 from PS says:
when you're a writer, you know you're doing something right if half the world hates you. how many times have i read yr column and said, 'the same thing is happening in my house!' That is why we read your column - to relate, to feel less alone, to feel less crazy and to have someone speak for us. many times you have written about things related to schools, homework and other things that are actually issues for all of us. other times you give us a slice of life about how families grow and relate. i feel the love in all you write. and i feel the truth there, too. do not go gentle, smartmom. do not go gentle.
Feb. 8, 2009, 12:50 am
Obvious from South Brooklyn says:
I don't feel sorry for millionaires. Or for people making over $100k/year.
Feb. 8, 2009, 1:37 am
Janna from Slooooope says:
The paper sure is pushing this mini-battle - but some of the critics have been unreal...intense, angry and 'way personal, like the venting of ex-friends or people w/issues other than the column.

If you're going to have a parenting column, this beats the alternatives - which would be either a boring syndicated column, or a carefully 'correct' white-bread Slope-p.r. thing that would mollify critics, but be as dreary as a church-luncheon report.
Feb. 8, 2009, 5:19 pm
OSFO says:
GET UR OWN PROBLEMS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:46 pm
OSFO says:
DONT LIKE IT...DONT READ IT!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:50 pm
OSFO says:
OSFO TELLS THE TRUTH-

I GAVE HER THE PERMISSION TO RIGHT ABOUT ME!!!!
BUT THEN I TOOK IT AWAY
AND NOW I GAVE IT BACK!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:53 pm
OSFO says:
TAKE THAT SUCKERS!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:58 pm
Louise Crawford from Park Slope says:
Thank you OSFO. You are awesome!
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:58 pm
OSFO says:
I KNOW..I KNOW
Feb. 9, 2009, 3:03 pm
OSFO says:
THE ONLY PROBLEM WITH THIS COLUM IS THE READERS!!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 3:05 pm
OSFO says:
What language is this? says:

Even better to express your opinion in an honest, fair and grammatical way.
"She even gets to think aloud and share what she’s learned and what she’d still needs to knows."
"-which focused on her obsession with about writing about her children-"
"She has had done her mother proud."

OSFO SAYS:
its a language of a kind, loving, proud person...a language u wouldnt understand!!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 4:52 pm
RK from PS says:
Make it stop!
Feb. 9, 2009, 9:32 pm
Oh-So-Chortling-One from P Slope says:
RK from PS says: "Make it stop!"

Well, if everyone gets to mouth off, it's only fair that the Subject Matter (OSFO) get in her two cents as well.

In fact - she's one of the few people who has actually addressed the topic ('is it OK to write about the kids?'), instead of venting irrelevant blahblah.
Feb. 10, 2009, 12:55 am
Scott from Far from the Slope says:
Louise, I love your column, and I love your blog, and I love your name, too. You seem to have stirred up a ——storm, which will calm down in a few days or weeks. Parenting was hard for our parents and look where it's got us. But honestly, what do your kids think of those goofy names you've given them in your columns?
Feb. 11, 2009, 4:24 pm
OSFO says:
FYI!!!!!! I LOVE THE NAME OSFO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 11, 2009, 9:17 pm

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