Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parenting is Your Job, It Does Not Belong to Madison Avenue


Let me start off this post by saying this post is a bit of a rant, if you have a problem with that don’t read the rest. Stop here. Do no pass go. Do not collect $200. No, this post is not political, even though my friends know me to be somewhat vociferously loud when it comes to my political opinions; this post is basically about society, media hype and parenting.

What actually got me thinking about this topic was all the hullabaloo over the past few weeks concerning young women, girls, their role models, clothing and toys. Let’s start with the buzz about Governor Huckabee’s attack on Oscar winner Natalie Portman. He derided her for being a single mother. Yes, we all know that Huckabee is a minister and a conservative candidate for President of the United States.  So I suppose it came as no surprise that he would say something about Portman, as she was the center of a media blitz because of her Oscar win.

However, Huckabee went on to attack her as role model for young girls in the country. Portman is a single mother; she is not married as yet to the baby’s father. Huckabee said, it sends a wrong message to young girls who use her as a role model. (Of course, his latest book is all about how it takes two married parents to raise a child properly.) That she is successful, wealthy in her own right and competent did not matter. It was all about being married. Sorry not all marriages work out and being a competent parent does not mean always being married. He was attacked in the media and he did apologize and correct his statements. He said he did not make himself clear. (Bullshit. He didn’t expect the firestorm he created and expected more support from society in general.) By the way Huckabee didn’t happen to think it was great that Portman chose “Life” instead of an abortion. But we won’t go there now.

The reality is that while everyone was suddenly talking about Natalie Portman being an unwed mother no one actually hit upon the real issue. With all due respect to that talented young actress, why is she a role model for our girls? Yes, she is beautiful, talented and rich, but why is how she lives her life, part of how we raise our children? Why do we as parents allow media to dictate who our children look up to? Now, do not get me wrong, I have nothing to say about how Ms. Portman lives her life. But it is her life and her choices and she has a right to make them to suit herself. She does not have to suit anyone else. But on the flip side, we also do not have to allow our children to get caught up in the media hype and think that a celebrity’s choices are appropriate choices for them.

Case in point, Brangelina. Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt are talented, rich and gorgeous people. They have a huge family, appear to do a lot of charity and lead very glamorous lives. But their relationship began as an affair while Pitt was married to someone else. Do we have to allow our children to think that that is just fine? No, we do not. We teach our children our values and our beliefs and how we think they should live their lives.  We do not have to allow celebrity to rule morality. Now does it mean I won’t see their movies? No, of course not. They didn’t betray their country or kill anyone. I just wouldn’t hold them up as paragons of virtue. But they are pretty to watch and their movies tend to be entertaining.

Why do we allow media to decide who our children’s role models should be? Isn’t that our job as parents? Listen I am not angry about screwed up values in society because I am not my children’s role model. First of all I am their mother and they are boys. They need to have a male role model. Yes it does my heart good to know that they look up to their father as a role model. Heck, who else should be their role model? He is the man who works, fights for them and gives his entire existence to making their lives better. Of course he should be their role model. By watching him they learn how to work hard, be honest, forthright and trustworthy. They learn how to love and be loved and they learn what it takes to be a good man, husband and father. They don’t need politicians, sports stars, celebrities and the media defining who they should be and how they should live their lives.

I think part of the problem is that parents themselves need to take a good look at their lives and how they teach their children. Why do we allow the media or so-called social-pundits tell us what we should think and believe? Who cares what everyone else thinks and who cares how they raise their children? You have morals. You have values. You have a set of principals by which you lead your life. That is what you need to hand down to your children. Since when did we as parents need to defer to Madison Avenue on whether we are good parents or not? Where is our self-respect? When did society allow celebrities to become the manifestations of right and wrong? I have nothing really against any celebrity. Talented, rich and leading glamorous lives. I am happy for them. Who wouldn’t want everything that money can buy- heck if we had that money what kinds of therapies could we provide for our children, right? But they are not necessarily the people I want my children to look up to.

Now what about clothing? There is this latest Abercrombie fad, no I will not link to it, a padded  bra in bikinis for 8-year-old girls. What is up with that? Who would even contemplate buying that for their child? Is that company just run by a bunch of pedophiles? Meanwhile, why are we allowing the fashion industry in general to sexualize our prepubescent children? What is with this slut look too- does it have something to do with what they term slut-feminism (which I am glad to say I find disgusting)? Why does anyone buy clothes that make their children look like whores? When did becoming a parent mean that you stop paying attention to the clothes you put on your child’s back because fashion, not appropriateness, is what counts? Are people too afraid to say “no” to their children?

Because little Sally’s mother buys it for Sally and Sally is popular so your Cindy has to wear those horrible clothing? When did parents forget that individuality should be fought for and that peer pressure may be something at times to fight against? When did being part of the “in” crowd become the overwhelming issue instead of self-respect? When did it become just fine and dandy for MTV to be the purveyor of all that children should be? When did it become a goal for your daughter to walk around looking like a whore instead of becoming a lawyer or a doctor? Let me tell you, if you think that a woman walking around dressed like a floozy is respected in any profession, don’t bet on it.

Listen I am not against sexy clothing. Heck, when I was in my twenty’s and had a great figure I could dress with the best of them, however not at work, and definitely not at 15 years-old and absolutely not at 8 years-old. I was taught that to be respected and to be thought well of you dress like a lady. That does not mean you run around in a burka. So don’t’ start saying I am akin to the Taliban. What it means is that if you want to be taken seriously in life you cover up your butt, your boobs and you don’t walk around with half a blouse. 

It’s the same for boys. Of course they don’t walk around with half their privates showing either, but this whole idea that their underwear shows and that they don’t have to wear descent clothing and that they can run around with more bling than what is in Fort Knox is just obnoxious. There are ways to dress for boys too; a clean shirt, proper pants/jeans and simple jewelry if any at all. And for heavens’ sake get them to comb their hair.

It is time for parents to relearn the art of parenting. I know that many here who read this blog do not have this problem. We face issues that the average family could not even contemplate so there truly is no question about any of us being responsible parents. But quite frankly we are still surrounded by people who are too afraid that their children will hate them. Actually heard that one day from a group of women at the highschool once, how they didn’t want to say no to their children, because they didn’t want their children to hate them. I told them that I do what I think is best for my children and don’t care whether they hate me or not.  They actually couldn’t believe I said that. They were totally stunned. These women are morons.

Unfortunately I am afraid that these mothers are more prevalent than anyone cares to admit. It’s why Abercrombie can sell sexualized bathing suits for 8-year-olds and girls are allowed to dress like Lady Gaga. It’s why people go on twitter and ask where they can buy descent clothes for their daughters, because there is none in the stores. If these items weren’t purchased the manufacturers would make something else. I think its time that parents in the United States take back their right to parent and use the power of the wallet to say no to the creeps that run the children’s fashion industry.

Lastly, as just as an aside: People are making a big deal about the breastfeeding doll. Personally I think it is unnecessary, and at almost $120 a pop, don’t think too many are going to be buying it either, but it is not sexualizing little girls. It is teaching that breastfeeding is a valid choice. The problem is that anytime anything has to do with breasts in this society everyone goes bananas. Babies feed from the breast. That is life. Get over it. No I am not a member of Laleche League. I bottle fed my boys. I would do it again. But really, society does find the dumbest things to get upset about.

Until next time,
Elise