Friday, February 9, 2007

The Momtini* heard round the blogosphere

*The Momtini was invented and (I think) soon-to-be trademarked by Melissa Summers of Suburban Bliss.

So the whole mommy blogosphere seems to be talking about this. And I feel a little disconnected because, while I read several blogs that have discussed this, I haven't commented. And no one here in my "real" world is even aware of the debate. It's almost as if the entire ~scandal~ exists only in the virtual Internet world. So I have no one to talk to about this. And I need to talk about it. I don't know what exactly I have to say that hasn't already been said, but this whole thing bothers me on several levels and I can't stop thinking about it.

First, a re-cap: Melissa Summers, a mother who writes a blog (see links above), has written posts about enjoying adult alcoholic beverages with other parents while the children play. The other parents are also mothers (usually no dads) and the get-togethers are referred to as playdates. The Today Show picked up on the story from Melissa and from another woman, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who wrote a book about just such playdates and other mothering adventures. They aired a spot a couple of weeks ago with Melissa and Dr. Janet Taylor discussing the issue, which they referred to as a "new trend."

Because of the strong response they got from this piece, I think primarily negative, they aired a follow-up piece this week with Dr. Taylor and Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. This piece seemed to be a little softer on the issue than the first piece, but it is still generating a lot of buzz (no pun intended!) on a lot of blogs.

I have so many thoughts on this, but mostly, I am just sad. Sad that we've all come to this. Sad that we're so concerned with what other people are doing that we have to find new names for old things so we can gasp in horror at the "new trends." Sad that, unfortunately, there are parents in the world who make the rest of us look bad and cause the so-called experts to look for any sign of bad parenting in an effort to save the children from the results of our behavior. Sad because some parents NEED someone else to call them on their irresponsible behavior.

Sometimes parents are just ignorant of the proper way to care for children - and ignorant is okay, as long as they get help (would someone PLEASE help Britney?!). Ignorance is just a lack of knowing. Most of the time, ignorance can be corrected. Stupid, on the other hand, might just be permanent. These parents probably do need someone like Dr. Taylor to tell them that even one drink could impact them and impair their ability to be a good parent. Because the difference between one and plastered to these parents might not be clear. They may be struggling to be a good parent even without anything that would alter their thoughts - whether that be beer, wine, cough medicine, American Idol, etc. And by struggling, I don't mean that they don't have all the beds made by 7am, that they work 50 hours a week and have to rely on day care too much, or even that they fight with their spouse about money in front of the kids. I'm talking about the kind of parents whose toddlers are walking down busy interstates in January wearing nothing but a diaper and a t-shirt, parents who don't know any other way to get their children to be quiet other than to knock them unconscious and leave them outside in the cold to die.

Most (God, I hope we're the majority in this) of the rest of us, who are not perfect and whose children are not perfect, but who are healthy, functioning, warm, fed, and have a bed to sleep in...we're doing okay. Of course, we are probably messing up our kids in millions of little ways. How could we not, being the imperfect beings that we are? My mom ruined me on grape jelly when I was a kid by putting my medicine in it (I couldn't swallow pills). Does that mean that someone should have put her on TV and pointed out what a crappy job she was doing in the jelly area? Of course not. It just means that we now only have strawberry jelly in my house. If we're going to start pointing fingers about parenting styles that others see as wrong, everyone is going to come out the loser. Do you work outside the home? Do you stay home all the time? Do you formula feed? Do you co-sleep? Do you practice cry-it-out? Do you eat meat? Do you not eat meat? Do you eat fast food? Do you watch violent TV programs (and yes, the nightly news counts)? Do you listen to a radio station that plays some songs with suggestive lyrics? Do you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle? If you do any of those things, I guarantee there is another parent out there who thinks you are not being responsible with your children. Show me a parent, and I'll show you someone who has done something in front of or to their kids that would absolutely appall another parent.

I know I sound like I'm pretty worked up about this, but the truth is, I am not as worked up as I think I should be. Like I said, I'm mostly just sad. Of course, I understand why other people are very worked up about it, Melissa Summers in particular. I can't even begin to imagine how pissed I'd be in her position. However, I also understand that there is another side, and I know she does, too. I know there are some people who are not okay with drinking. Ever. Anywhere. In front of anyone. Especially not children. They have their reasons. They are entitled to their opinions. And for them, drinking in front of children is the same as teaching them to steal cars or kill someone. I don't agree with them, but I feel for them. I think for many people with that view point, they are desperately trying to protect their children from a world that at times seems to have gone crazy. Kids bring weapons to school, we hear about drug problems in elementary school kids, there are adults pretending to be kids on the Internet so they can lure our children for their twisted fantasies. It is terrifying the many many ways in which our children can be hurt. If you stop to let all of that in, it would be paralyzing. You wouldn't let your children out of the house or anywhere near a television, radio, or computer. But to live life that way, in my opinion, is not really living. It is attempting to create a bubble that has no hope of surviving the pins and needles of this world. I would also assert that preventing children from seeing a parent drink really won't keep them from drinking in the future. I know lots of people whose parents never smoked pot in front of them, and yet...

I don't drink often, but when I do, it is usually in front of my children. We get together with our friends from church, the kids play, we might have a few drinks. It's normally pretty low-key. The purpose of the get-together is not the drink. Drinking is not a way in which any of the adults deal with their stress. I do find a glass of wine to be relaxing, but it's not my first option when I'm stressed. Mostly, I am enjoying time with my friends, which is also relaxing, and sometimes I feel like having a glass of wine while we do that. And then it's even more relaxing. However, to be fair again to the other side, at times I've also seen some grown ups get pretty wasted in front of the kids. The kids were never in any kind of danger from being neglected - there are always 6, 8, 10, or more adults around, and almost always there is at least one who has had one or no drinks. But I know that it has sometimes bothered some of the kids to see their parent or their friend's parent drunk. And that makes me sad, too. I don't think less of my friend for getting drunk. I don't think she is a bad mother. I think she gets carried away sometimes. But I also know that she would never do that in a setting where she was solely responsible for her kids.

And that again, is the difference between people teetering on the edge of neglectful parenting, and the rest of us living in the middle, who are not perfect, but are doing the best we can, even while the voices on the TV, in the magazines, and even on the Internet tell us we're doing it wrong.

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