Second to the New York Times

Ed: I know I wasn't going to post here for a few days BUT bear with me...

The following piece is something I wrote and submitted to the New York Times Op-ed section last week in response to David Brooks' piece. I never heard back, obviously, so I've posted it here, below. Because I wanted to "respond" to the piece with something other than sarcasm. Ahem.

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Moshing in the Sandbox
By: Rebecca Woolf

Once upon a time none of us were parents. We went to rock concerts and smoked weed, and made out with each other on college campuses. Some of us even fell in love. Got married. Moved in together. In cramped studio apartments with two dogs and a futon. Some of us planned our pregnancies, while others (like me) did not. Some of us could afford to move into cookie-cutter neighborhoods. Some of us didn’t want to.

Once upon a time our parents went to rock concerts and smoked weed and made out with each other on college campuses. And some of them fell in love. Got married. Moved in together. In cramped studio apartments with two dogs and a futon. Some of them planned their pregnancies, while others did not. Some of them could afford to move into cookie-cutter neighborhoods and some of them didn’t want to…

My mother, like me, got pregnant young. She listened to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor. I knew the lyrics to “You’ve Got a Friend” before I learned the alphabet.

In those days I got on the yellow bus to go to school in my rainbow Op shorts and jelly shoes. My mother dressed me the way that came naturally to her, and on the way to school I hummed what words I remembered of “The Only Living Boy in New York.”

At a certain age, I realized that my parents were complete nerds, so I rebelled against their “lack of style,” their music and dorky Op shorts.

No! No! I will wear fluorescents, not pastels!

There comes a time in a child’s life when she must blaze her own trail. For me that meant throwing my rainbow barrettes to the wind, just like my son will soon tear the Misfits tee off his back because “skulls are so uncool, mom. Jeez.”

Fair enough.

Whatever the “hipster parenting” trend has become--which I am apparently part of (although I do not live in Silverlake… but close enough)--it isn’t anything new. And just as my parents chose to raise me in the San Diego suburbs, I choose to raise my son in urban Los Angeles, not because city living is a “fad” but because I like living in the city.

I disagree that it is selfish of me to want to rock out once in a while. Or ditch Mommy and Me class for an art opening on La Brea. I happen to love music. And fashion. And art. I want to share with my son the things that I love, not because I want to manipulate him into becoming my clone, but because I’m a parent. And that’s what parents do.

A woman doesn’t give birth and suddenly forget who she is. A man doesn’t become a father and trade his record collection for a plastic bouncy seat. And why should he? Why should I? Why should we?

Parenthood isn’t a color-by-number experience. It is not a book you read and memorize. It is not an academic sport, or a class, or a column expressed by a man who somehow believes he has the authority to tell others how to dress their children. Because contrary to what the cookie-cutter columnists suggest, life is fun. And parenthood is about experimenting with many different techniques and styles and yes, ENJOYING the ride.

Our children, no matter how “hip” we supposedly are, will find their own way by watching us find ours. And compromising our taste and work and lifestyles sets a poor example for future generations of children who will look to their parents as people, not just as mom or dad. What better reason to exert a strong sense of self?

Maybe “moshing” doesn’t have to end. I believe that a mother can still enjoy a night of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Polyphonic Spree. A dad can rock out on his guitar while his kids drum empty boxes beside him. Everything doesn’t have to be so literal. So serious. So anti. “This” isn’t a generational rebellion. It’s a lifestyle. Which is why it’s so interesting to see our actions frowned upon by middle-aged men who were never interested in “moshing” to begin with. Who have instead decided to label us as something that isn’t so different from what our parents were.

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GGC

33 comments:

Aurelia Bell | 12:33 PM

My daughter is a pre-teen, which means that I was a teenage statistic. I was trying desperately hard to just not break her that I didn't even notice the types of parenting wars that went on around me at 19. Now, at 31 with a new-ish baby son, I feel as if this parenting racket, this thing I thought I had such a handle on, is so drastically different. Even though my daughter walked at 9 months, my son, at 13 months shows no interest and somehow I am told that I am doing something wrong. Look, I didn't break the first one, so I'm fairly confident I can get this baby through to adulthood fairly well.

For some reason, though, our culture wants more and more to associate different choices with morality. Smokers and drinkers are not people with a vice or bad habit, but they are bad people. Mothers who do not breastfeed are not mothers who prefer not to have sawed-off nipples, but are bad mothers.

And this is my long-winded way of saying that this is a fabulous response to the piece in the Times.

~Aurelia

Loukia | 12:46 PM

Well done, Rebecca! Maybe you'll hear back from them soon? I hope so! You rock!

Mel | 1:17 PM

Bravo! That was amazing, intelligent, and so very very good.
I hope they do publish that.

toyfoto | 1:46 PM

When I first read about all this stuff I really scoffed at it. Who are these people? Are they really "reading" the people they're writing about? Because if they are I don't see how they could come to the conclusions they are drawing.

Folks like you -- and granted I only know you from your writing -- are kind of doing the opposite of self aggrandizing if you ask me. You are emptying it out on the carpet, and going through it with a fine toothed comb. You are learning, growing and sharing.

It makes no sense that what someone wears or listens to would be substanative to the extent these critics would make it seem.

I think you are the next Erma Bombeck, my friend. For your generation.

shel | 2:56 PM

that was brilliant. i can see why they didn't want to publish it. because it would make them look like idiots.

well done. well done.

motherofpearl | 4:05 PM

You are my hero. Can we make out?

Misfit Hausfrau | 5:47 PM

Well done, GCC. Well done.

mothergoosemouse | 8:29 PM

My favorite part?

will find their own way by watching us find ours

Brava. We don't know all the answers. We're still open to learning and growing and experiencing what we haven't yet seen or done - and in this way, we're setting a good example for our own children.

It's not rebellion. It's honesty and openness and confidence - traits I'd expect we all want our children to embody.

The Mad Momma | 10:36 PM

:) yeah.. i knew the words to 'you've got a friend' before the alphabet too....

i dont know why you bothered to reply to these columnists... you and i are doing a great job with our boys and hopefully they will look back on us fondly when they grow past the embarassed teenage stage!!!

you go girl!

mo-wo | 11:46 PM

I see the break is going well. Get thee to the wine bar!

ahemik! (a most apropos word ver.)

Andrea | 7:27 AM

This? Is perfect. Well thought out and not sarcastic. Just an explanation (though David Brooks didn't deserve one as spiteful as he was) of a point of view.

Of course they wouldn't publish this. The Times is behind the times and you are the new times they don't want to embrace. Their loss.

jchevais | 7:37 AM

Very well said. Bravo.

You Are My Sunshine | 7:50 AM

You’re amazing with words! This is so true.

Martina | 7:52 AM

Brilliant reply! It fits perfectly!

PunditMom | 8:06 AM

I agree with mothergoosemouse -- that was my favorite part, too. I've always thought I had to be the voice of experience on all things with my daughter, all the while feeling like a fraud on the inside. Maybe it's OK for her to see me finding my way, even in my 40s, so she'll know it's OK for her, too.

GGC, you rock!

mrs. Q | 9:20 AM

Amen, chica. This is better written and more persuasive than the original article. Between 'sanctimommies' and mommy wars and the hipster parents label, I think we have enough dividing us and making us question how we raise ur kids.

Jaelithe | 10:15 AM

I think, unfortunately, that the NYT will not ever publish this piece or even acknowledge its existence. The MSM in general is too busy patting itself on the back for yet another poorly researched, poorly constructed article on why the bloggers who threaten their hegemony are LAME, and the Boomers on the editing staff are too busy patting themselves on the back for writing yet another poorly researched, poorly constructed article purportedly demonstrating their vast moral and cultural superiority to all succeeding generations, to even notice that there has been any internet response.

Meanwhile, you and other talented bloggers will continue writing well-reasoned arguments in tight prose, and people like me will keep reading blogs instead of the NYT "Home and Garden" and "Fashion and Style" sections ;)

creative-type dad | 12:08 PM

Nicely said-

suzanne | 12:23 PM

There is nothing more depressing to me than seeing my little cherub dressed in exactly the same Old Navy outfit as others in the park, so I dig in second-hand stores and work Ebay to get what I think are neat clothes, and I don't care if Mr. The Weekly Standard thinks I'm overdoing it. Given that, I do live in a seriously urban setting and I feel like if he's wearing clothes that are too nice we're "fronting."

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:07 PM

Thanks, dudes. And I have to agree with you all.. Someone needs to open the windows at the Times offices and let some sunshine in. Or at the very least, some wind.

mfk | 4:00 PM

nice. awesome. tight in every sense of the word.

Jenn | 4:09 PM

Amen sister-mama!

I don't know if I'm hipster parent (I lean towards not). I tend to fluctuate between cool, nerdy, individualistic and traditional and I realize that makes no sense at all, but that's me.

Yesterday while divulging in some Coldstone (a reward of fat and sugar for my daughter who scored a perfect on a state exam) a song came on the radio and my six year old son looked at me with eager eyes and exclaimed: "OHHH, a Guitar Hero song"! as if he'd just recognized Einstein's theory of relatively. I was so proud.

These mommy wars/parenting labels are driving me absolutely mad. Who the fuck are these people making them up? I have half a mind to run out and get a commemorative tattoo proclaiming my right to be a mother and still rock g'dammit! Besides, I am so much "cooler" now than I ever was as a teenager. I am not giving that up merely because I'm now a board member on the PTA.

So there.

Mom101 | 7:53 PM

This is simply outstanding and the Times should be honored to let your words have a brief home upon their pages.

Parenthood isn’t a color-by-number experience. It is not a book you read and memorize. Just perfect. Perfect.

You will be missed in your absence but we're excited to have you back, recharged, refreshed, and ready to wow us all again.

Leigh C. | 6:46 AM

"A woman doesn’t give birth and suddenly forget who she is. A man doesn’t become a father and trade his record collection for a plastic bouncy seat. And why should he? Why should I? Why should we?"

Amen.

Donna | 5:31 PM

Excellent essay. As my generation would say, right on.

Mardougrrl | 9:34 PM

Brilliant response. I haven't read the original article, but it's David Brooks. I can just imagine...

I'm...not sure where I fall on the hipster/nonhipster divide...but this? "Our children, no matter how “hip” we supposedly are, will find their own way by watching us find ours." is perfect.

I am keeping this one around for when I am feeling miserable and stifled, to remind me there IS a better way.

BOSSY | 7:40 AM

Great letter. Bossy knows that when you are a mother you have to carry on a parallel adult life all your own - one with great friends, outings, booze, music - or else our kids will have no example of how to be in their own adult lives. These days things are growing more and more kidcentric and frankly, Bossy is very underimpressed with the latest batch of kids.

Sandra | 5:19 PM

I have so much to say about this letter. But the easiest way to sum it up is ... THIS is why I heart Rebecca Woolf!

Now get back to vacationing :)

JamesMommy | 10:37 AM

Beautiful, Rebecca! It's a timeless reflection on parenthood. And this is from one who was labeled "of advanced maternal age" during my first pregnancy at 35 :o)

P.S. Can we do anything to help lean on the Times?

Stefanie | 10:41 AM

DAmn bitch! My sentiments exactly! Put it in your book! Make it the intro!!

Sarah | 4:14 AM

Thank you. Really, thank you. I am so bored of the whole mama bashing spree everwhere I look.

bridget | 9:22 PM

WOW... just found your blog and dam your one smart cookie.... just like me.

I too am a james taylor fan due to my parents and I love love love how they did it. THey still rocked the ABBA, still smoked whatever, still hung with their friends till late in the morning. And I am honoring them by doing the same, being the same cool as shit mom they raised that has grown into a mom.
You have to be you- or you suck!

Antonia | 10:50 AM

Amen to that! I was raised in London by parents and step-parents who had hobbies and talents and hash plants. For six years we lived just off swinging Carnaby Street, down a side road where every other doorway said XXX GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS. I loved it! I was glad my parents didn't compromise their lives entirely. I would have felt their boredom and been miserable for it.

Enough about me, though. You're a fantastic writer AND you look hot in Ugg boots. Thanks for putting that letter here. I love it.