Thursday, February 08, 2007

On so-called "hipster parenting"

Oooo, scare quotes? Are you suitably scared yet? You shouldn't be. If anything, you should be rolling your eyes at how ridiculous this whole, um,"debate" is getting.

Look, maybe it's not my place to say anything. But I've been following this debate closely (or as closely as could be managed by someone who's spent the past two weeks cloistering herself so she could finish her thesis presentation.) Maybe it's on account of all the new parents in my life?

So I'm sure there were discussions before, but the publication of Neal Pollack's latest book, the parenting memoir Alternadad, seems to have occasioned everything coming to a head.

Now, admittedly, I am very much on the outside of this debate, having neither read Pollack's book nor borne any children. But I really like what Doppelganger over at 50 Books has to say. This post provides what seems to me a well-reasoned, often humourous, take on the issue, as well as the debate initiated by Pollack's book. I especially think she hits the nail on the head re: hipsters calling hipsters "hipsters" (something that Andre Mayer hints at in his review of Alternadad when he lumps in the parenting site Babble, self-appointed host of much of the hipster parenting debate, with parenting memoirs like Pollack's.) I mean, who wants to be called "hipster" anyway? Certainly not anyone who could be classified as one! Hipsters are annoying!

But let us put problems of definition aside. Let us set aside even the supposed hipster parenting trend. Neither of those things is, I think, the real problem here. It's the tone of the debate that, as both a future parent (God willing) and a person who actually uses her brain, bothers me.

Debate in itself is good. You can look at parenting irreverently. Or you can treat it like a sacred office. You can impart your tastes to your children--I mean, face it: even despite your efforts not to, your child is growing up in an environment permeated by your taste. I don't see a problem with trying to share your interests with your child, so long as you don't spoon-feed them to him or her and the child is allowed to have his or her own say. Parents, talk about it; discuss parenting choices. Everyone is going to see parenting differently, and in the long run, everyone needs to do what he or she thinks is best for his/her own child. But ultimately, it's in genuine debate that new, interesting ideas--whether those be ideas about parenting that stem from conversations with other parents, or ideas about art and music and Barney that come out of your children (or their tantrums)--arise.

But this hipster parenting debate isn't so much a debate as a bunch of holier-than-thou mud-slinging (EDIT: That book review has so little to do with Alternadad itself it's not funny. Review the damn book, not Neal Pollack!) That's not debate. That's really not even critical in the genuine sense of the word!

And that is what I find most offensive about all this: further proof of the dumbing-down of North American culture. How can we expect parents to allow their children to think critically for themselves if we adults can't do that ourselves?!

Engage with the world around you. (Whether you like Pollack or not, it seems to me that you could never rightly accuse him of not engaging with his son, or even parenting philosophy itself.) Let your children engage with the world around them. But whatever you do, however you decide to raise your children, just don't perpetuate the disengaged, self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual bullshit that's passing for social commentary and debate these days!

Maybe I wouldn't find this whole "debate" so annoying if I were a parent. Or if all of you debating weren't a bunch of hipsters. ;)

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