Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Open Letter to the NY Times

Dear NY Times,

In the immortal words of Michael and his sister Janet, "you make me want to scream." First you publish an article telling parents that we are not allowed to give our kids time-outs, and your reasoning for this seems to be as follows: because kids don't like them. Okay, fine. I'll let that slide. Maybe you've never been upclose to a misbehaving child before. Or maybe you are unfamiliar with the term "tough noogies". It happens, especially to people who can afford live-in nannies. But then you have the nerve (the nerve!) to publish an article called "For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking," written by one Hilary Stout.

When I first saw the title of Stout's article, I was proud, proud of you, NY Times. I thought you were actually running a mea culpa piece, apologizing for taking away the last weapon in parents' arsenals, leaving us no choice but to become banshees, howling impotently while our ghostly hands flail pathetically, unable to connect with earthly butts. The first paragraph seemed to back this up, as it chronicled Jackie, a child-development-book reading mom who's idea of discipline is saying things like "You're making bad choices." Occasionally, and the end of a long day, Jackie yells things like, "“This is ridiculous! I’ve been doing things all day for you!” And then the Catholic Church decided to canonize her prehomously.

So far so good, Stout goes on to remind us that even dear old Dr. Spock admits that occasional shouting is "inevitable". So it seems that St Jackie is Spock approved. But soon, the tone of the article gets dark. First, she quotes Aviva Pflock (I'm assuming either the "P" or the "F" is silent), the writer of a stupid (I'm also assuming) child-development book that supposedly reduces "mommy guilt" as saying, “What blew us away about that is that the one thing you really have ultimate control over is the tone of your voice.” I have no idea if Pflock has kids, but if she does, I'm sure none of them has ever walked up to her and pinched her boob. Because if they had, she would know that "ultimate" and "control" are words you should not throw around willy-nilly when talking about parenting small children.

But then it gets worse, remember those studies they did to prove that spanking is bad...oh-so bad....bad like Arnold Schwarzenagger as Mr. Freeze bad? Bad as Arnold Schwarzenagger as Governor of California ba-aaaaaaa-d? And now, anyone who spanks their kid is no better than a pedophile or the hamburglar? Well, apparently some over-educated jerk named Murray A. Straus has decided to do a similar study on yelling and says this of yelling, " affects a child. If someone yelled at you at work, you’d find that pretty jarring. We don’t apply that standard to children.” What? Jarred? We can't jar our children? Scar...sure, I understand that...but jar? What's wrong with that? Hey NY Times, maybe the idea of getting yelled at at work wouldn't be quite so jarring if we had been yelled at at home.

This quote made me realize two things, 1. Straus has never worked in a restaurant and 2. That according to you, NY Times, we were not supposed to be impressed with Jackie, we are not even supposed to feel sorry for her, we are supposed to tsk tsk her for the horrible crime of yelling at a child. Uck Ooh, NY Times. The reason we are yelling is because we have nothing left to do. You, NY Times, and your child-development-book writing friends have stripped us of all weapons and armor right before the big cage match. We are left with two choices, pull a Kanobi and bow to Darth Vader's light saber...or scream.

Now we're not allowed to yell at our kids? Really? Well-played NY Times. Well played. I suppose you think you've left us with the Kanobi option, right? Wrong. I used to scream at my daughter. I figured that I would one day just slip it in to our "you're becoming a woman" talk. As in: "And that's why mommy yells at you once a month." But now, I really do have control over the tone of my voice because I have control over my kid. Not total control, of course, my kid would never allow that to happen, but I don't feel like the only one in the Thunderdome without a mace and a motorcycle. That's because I stopped listening to you idiots and started taking control of my own child. Whoa, put down that phone, NY Times. I didn't say spank. No, I don't spank, but I say "No", I give her time outs, I raise my voice, I take away treats, I take away toys, I remind her often that I am the parent and she is the kid. In other words, I parent. It seems weird, right? To use that word as a verb...when according to you, NY Times, we are supposed to do nothing but read all your condescending articles and all the completely useless books and feel guilty.

I have just one more thing to say to you, NY Times, on behalf of every parent that has ever yelled at their kid: Don't just stand there, staring, NY Times! Help us!