Luckily enough, 30 Rock provided some inspiration. I was slow on the uptake with this show which I am now obsessed with. In one of the early episodes, the sinewy 20 year old receptionist/eye-candy girl (who explains that she and her betrothed will have been dating "2 months in about 3 weeks") tells Liz Lemon: "We want to have kids when it's still cool."
Spot on, just like so much in the show: Parenthood, parenting, motherhood, babies--it's all ubiquitous right now. Whether it's the international press corp following Brangelina, special editions of popular magazines devoted solely to children, politicians being forced into the work-life balance debate, or the ever-ranging back and forth on nursing: The narrative of parenthood is hot. We're lucky, in a sense, to have kids when it's so au current. At the same time, it's difficult, sometimes, to navigate all the "noise" and just be a mom, isn't it? It's enough to mother and feed and caretake without reading about J Lo's parenting style or what 342 people think about the fact that Facebook has taken down photos of breastfeeding mothers.
So, without (even) further ado: My CHEERS and JEERS for all the news that was fit to be called "parenthood-related" in 2008:
JEERS to Trainwreck Teenage Pregnancies
My goodness, get a puppy.
CHEERS to Iphone Apps for Parents
I constantly make fun of my husband for his love-affair with his mistress, the Iphone. But when a reader sent in this article about applications specifically tailored to parents I had to admit that the Iphone can do some pretty remarkable things. Whether you need a nursing tracker, a portable baby monitor, a recipe-maker, or a white-noise provider the Iphone has you covered. Next up it will nurse for you, watch the baby, and cook the food.
JEERS to the Man Who Gives Birth
I'm happy for the happy couple, but the public fascination warrants the JEERS. Enough already! And, if Beatie really wanted to just have a family like "regular people" as he claims--why is he now writing a book about it. Just goes to show you how timelessly sensationalist pregnancy is.
CHEERS AND JEERS to Monster families
"Jon & Kate Plus 8" also shows the daily life of a family that went from Jon & Kate and their twin girls, to Jon & Kate, the twins, and a new set of sextuplets. Unlike the Duggars, this family was the product of modern fertility science. Everything they do happens in sextuplicate (is that a word?) and--this is why this garners a CHEERS-- it really makes having one or two kids seem cake-walk easy...!
Though not as publicized as with the Duggars: J&K+8 are also highly religious. It makes you wonder if you need to believe in God to be able to sustain a life with more than one of these little monsters...!
Not surprisingly, with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president, quite a bit of attention has been paid to his accomplished wife, Michelle. Michelle has a distinguished career in law and a history of working on behalf of the underpriveleged, and, in an early NPR interview, many of the Harvard professors that taught both Barack and Michelle almost sheepishly admitted that they would have pegged M to go onto a life in the national political spotlight. Perhaps relatedly--as part of the campaign, there was an effort to make Michelle more "palatable" to more conservative America, giving her a fashion make-over, even advice to speak more quietly so she would not seem so "militant." Hillary redux. On top of that, a great deal of attention has been paid to what role she will have as First Lady, something she herself has defined as "mom-in-chief." Debate now rages on the internet about whether she has been too "mom-ified," transforming a formidable working woman into a docile stay-at-home mom. Some argue that she is "throwing away her achievements" by not keeping a paying job, others say she is "reinventing stay-at-home motherhood." No doubt this debate will rage on for the next four (or eight??) years while Michelle is in the White House--and after that as well. CHEERS to having such a role model of a woman and her young kids in the national spotlight, JEERS to a culture of questioning and judging everything she does in the name of "motherhood."
CHEERS to finding the silver-lining of this recession.
According to this article, the recession may be good for marriage. The argument is "elegantly simple" (I for some reason always remember that bio text books described the double-helix like that--we remember the oddest things): Since money is the root of most marital problems, the lack of money reduces fighting. Hmmm...many missing links for sure...but according to the article, the strongest marriages were born during the Great Depression and it is nice to read something about the recession that doesn't make me want to jump off a bridge.
This seems to be an example of people LOOKING to be cultish. There is an actual movement of crazy moms who are obsessed--and I mean obsessed--with the teeny-bopper "Twilight" books that this year's blockbuster movie was based on. Although the general assumption was that the movie would draw only teens and tweens, it turned out that women over the age of 25 made up 45% of the audiene for this film, and many of these people were mothers, either attending with their daughters, or going on their own with other moms. At first blush, this seems fine--moms reclaiming a bit of their youth and bonding with their daughters. But look a bit closer and see that these moms have websites, online communities and travel plans devoted to "Twilight." Debate rages amongst the moms about which 17 year old character they would rather date; they are booking trips en masse to visit the town where the books are set; one mother tried to buy the cheerleading outfit of a girl in the town--while the girl was in it. My interal crazy meter is going off. Plus if we have learned everything from after-school specials (can you believe our kids won't know what "after school specials" are??) it's this: We aren't really supposed to be our kids' friend, we're supposed to be their parents. A natural corrolary? We probably shouldn't be lusting after the same 17 year old who is on the poster in their rooms.
JEERS to SARAH PALIN:
Was she a saintlike role model for working mothers, a privileged, book-banning control freak, or a pregnancy-faking cue-card-reading huckster? Probably none of the above, but every description seemed fitting at one point or another during the last couple months of the U.S. election. While Obama urged us to stick to the issues, Sarah Palin drove the electorate into a frenzy of half-truths and hearsay — and no one took her candidacy more personally than the mothers of America. With some distance on the election--and with the election ending how I wanted it to--I am starting to feel a bit sorry for Sarah, having been thrown into such a shark tank of media and national vitriol. But you know what? She was an idiot, she has made a mockery of intelligent women everywhere, and she has made it so I can never use the word "maverick" every agin. She never should have been thursted into the VP spotlight to begin with.
You probably were expecting JEERS? A comment about the media's fascination with two people simply having babies and getting to do it with a small army of help in the form of nannies, cooks, trainers, more nannies? Perhaps a tie-back to the "monster family" topic above?
But you know what? I love Brangelina. I love that Angelina was a blood-wearing sociopath who has become a smiling mom in the park by day, a U.N. ambassador by afternoon, a red-carpet fixture by night.
I love that the trainwreck has transformed because she became a mom. It's inspiring. Plus she's just hot and wears tons of black and I might have bought aviator sunglasses beause she looks like such a badass in them.
Oh yea, and the twins are cute.
The discovery of the family locked in seventy-three-year-old Austrian man Joseph Fritzl's basement — including his forty-two-year-old daughter and three grandchildren by incest, none of whom had ever seen the light of day — was one of the year's most gut-wrenching parenting news story. Fritzl is currently facing charges of rape, incest, false imprisonment and slavery, all of which should result in a nice long jail sentence before he rots in hell or whatever bad place you happen to believe in.
JEERS to the Most enviable toddler wardrobe of 2008: Suri Cruise
Suri is rarely photographed wearing the same thing twice (except her metallic shoes, which are de rigeur). She has a penchant for dresses, and the last year has seen her wearing high-end threads from Burberry, Juicy Couture, Phillip Lim, Bonpoint, Helena, and Splendid Little.
JEERS...yes, because it is excessive to dress a child like this and because there has got to be something wrong about the amount of time this child spends in the shoe section of Barney. But really? JEERS because I am jealous of the wardrobe of a 3 year old...!
JEERS to Bisphenoal A, Melamine, and other scary things
Last year it was lead in toys; this year, the toxic chemical BPA emanating from plastic containers and water bottles. There's nothing scarier than finding out that something as innocuous as toys and baby bottles may be causing your family harm. Then, the melamine scare. It came from China when, starting in July, alarming reports began emerging that the industrial chemical melamine had been found in Chinese-produced infant formula, leading to kidney stones in thousands of infants. Just this past month, though, the story took a turn for the local when news leaked that even U.S.-made infant formula contained the dangerous chemical, prompting the FDA to release new guidelines for what it considered a "safe amount." The substance, used to make plastics, apparently turns up in a lot of products whose manufacturers are hoping to boost protein levels of dairy and powdered-dairy products. Far from being a mere accident, this was the kind of contamination that makes you wonder whether you can eat anything you don't grow yourself.
If you want to immediately spur eye-rolls, utter "Jenny McCarthy," "vaccinations" or "autism" to a bunch of moms, but be prepared for some vehement reactions. This year, Amanda Peet got reamed on the internet for calling non-vaccinating parents "parasites," while Dennis Leary's jokes about autistic kids' parents backfired bigtime, and singer Kimya Dawson (of Juno fame) provoked the ire of commenters with an off-hand comment about not vaccinating her daughter. CHEERS for promoting conversation, JEERS for celebrities undermining accepted medical science. (Go ahead, send me the hatemail, I am ready).
The passing of any young man is a tragedy. The passing of a young man just as he is beginning to really get noticed for his craft, even more so. The passing of a young father just as his child begins blossoming into her young life--the biggerst tragedy of all.
The images of little Matilda being hugged by her devastated mom brought home an obvious truth: It doesn't matter how much money or fame you have...you can still drop dead at any time.
Hug your kids.
JEERS to the Most well-intentioned legislation that utterly backfired: the Nebraska Safe Haven law
Nebraska legislators thought they'd make life easier on desperate parents when they passed a blanket safe haven law. Little did they know how desperate some parents were. Parents traveled hours--to abandon their teens. One dad dropped of nine kids before the law was amended. What started out as a way to decriminalize parents who were responsible enough to take steps to ensure the safety of their newborn children, even when they couldn't take care of them themselves, turned into a "get out of child-jail free card," making regular parents everywhere scratch their heads in amazement.
CHEERS to the Best Sesame Street guest star ever: Feist
It's not easy to find something or somebody who transfixes parents and toddlers alike, but Feist did the trick.
If you can't tell yet, I am obsessed with Tina Fey.
A mom who is witty and self-deprecating, accomplished and humble.
Her interview in Vanity Fair, full of tidbits about how a "regular" girl achieved the sort of confidence and comfort in her own skin to serve as a moral compass through life, has informed my thoughts on how to raise children--and especially girls--more than anything else I have read this year.
And she just seems so normal. CHEERS to normal moms...!
Happy New Year! Look out tomorrow for fun ways to ring in 2009 with your kids...