“Why Are People Obsessed With Their Kids?” is a fascinating piece by Vanessa Richmond at AlterNet, which in turn quotes from a fascinating (long!) piece in The New Yorker by Jill Lepore, all about how parenting has become the focus of our lives, when it used to be just a PART of life. Not a definition. Not a calling. And not something you really had to study hard to succeed at, like AP Biology. An excerpt from Richmond’s piece:
Most people today don’t grow up caring for young siblings or other kids, and don’t know how to do even basic things like bathing or soothing babies. First-time parents can’t count on grandparents anymore in most cases. And all of this means parenthood has become mystifying.
You are a danger to your kids
Into any scary, mysterious void come snake-oil salespeople. In this case, magazines and experts, like in Parenting magazine, arrived on the scene about a century ago, and turned child care into a science.
The public bought the idea that they were essentially a danger to their own kids and had better pay money for advice, that they’d better try really hard to do a good job, and they’d still inevitably fail. (Even though, as Lepore points out, kids are actually safer now than ever. In 1850, more than one baby in five died before its first year, by 1920 that had dropped to one in 20, and today infant mortality is at one in 200.)
The article that reinforces a basic Free-Range Kids point: Society has foisted upon us exaggerated fears and, in doing so, made us trust our own instincts less, and their gizmos and advice books more. That’s good for anyone with anything child-related to sell — and bad for anyone actually raising the child. Especially anyone who would like to give that child a little freedom, but is being told: That is not what “good” parents do. Good parents are overinvolved, all the time. And they buy a lot of stuff, too.