Are Most of Us “Bad Parents?”

It’s official: Imperfect parents are the next proud, new minority to come out of the closet. Or, rather, out of the toy chest – the one NOT filled with Swedish, hardwood, hand-lathed toys. The one filled with games missing cards, Barbies missing hair and educational toys missing batteries because (sorry, kid)  they were just so LOUD! What does the duck say?

Nothing! Not one single quack. Mute piggy, too! Mute chick! Moo-less cow!

And what does the parent say?

“Yay!”

In an article meriting front page status in the Wall Street Journal (http://tinyurl.com/c5rkzj), reporter Ellen Gamerman writes about a bumper crop of new books and websites by parents confessing their kiddie crimes, from using paper towels instead of diapers, to letting the dog clean up the baby vomit in the way only dogs can. (Good dog!)

The stories are great and the interest is greater. The online magazine Babble gets 1.8 million visitors a month — a number that tripled, according to the article, when the site began its “Bad Parent” column ( www.babble.com ). Truu Mom Confessions (www.truumomconfessions.com) is popular for the same reason: true moms, confessin’. And now really big name writers like Ayelet Waldman (www.ayeletwaldman.com) and Michael Lewis are writing books about their imperfect mothering and fathering, respectively, in part because they are sick of a culture that expects parents to spend all their waking moments enriching their children’s lives and being enriched by same.

It’s easy to see why the time is ripe for all this truth. We are swimming in a culture that exults – and often scrapbooks – every parenting moment. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying parenthood. I sure do. Often. (Not today, maybe, but that’s because it’s spring vacation and both my boys are home and I’m trying to WRITE THIS SO SHUT MY DOOR, PLEASE, GUYS! OR GO OUTSIDE! IT’S BEAUTIFUL OUT THERE! WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING?)

…what was I saying? Oh yes, much of parenting is marvelous. But there’s nothing wrong with saying some of it is tedious and overblown. And one of the reasons it has become so tedious is that we are expected to be involved with every baby step our kids take – literally and figuratively. (GUYS, IT IS SO SUNNY OUT! GO!)

So now “bad” parents are the ones who don’t get down there on the floor and play patty cake all day, every day, no matter how pooped they are. “Bad” parents are the ones who don’t help boil the solution for the science fair. “Bad” parents drop junior off at soccer practice but don’t necessarily stay to cheer every kick, and bond with the coach afterward. “Bad” parents may even bring non-organic grapes (or Drake’s Cakes!) when it’s their snack day.

In other words bad parents are the ones who parent the way OUR parents did – loving and encouraging us, but not hovering over every outing and stressing over every issue.

These days it’s called “bad” parenting but really, this all seems to be a rallying crying for, ahem, Free-Range parenting – parenting that is a little less obsessive and a little more ready to let kids fend for themselves. The kind of parenting that not only builds more self-reliant kids but also less exhausted, frustrated (BOYS, CLOSE MY DOOR!) self-neglecting parents, too.

Call us bad parents, busy parents, realistic parents, Free-Range parents – what we all share is the realization we’re not perfect and our kids don’t have to be either. That means we can sit back and breathe deep. And — who’da guessed? When you feel less overwhelmed you can even enjoy it a little more.

A little.

(GUYS! HOMEWORK OR BIKE RIDE? I THOUGHT SO. BYE-BYE!)

Ahh. — Lenore