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.
Moshing in the Sandbox
By: Rebecca Woolf
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.”
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.