Thursday, January 12, 2006

January 12, 2006--How Do I Adore Thee?

I love children. In fact I have been known to do a little boasting about my nephew and nieces. But when I saw a bumper sticker that bragged “Proud Parent of A Vegetarian,” well that felt like just too much.

The NY Times, reporting on this phenomenon of Competitive Bragging, cites a counter-movement, anti-bragging, that has spawned bumper stickers that archly proclaim, “My Kid Sells Term Papers to Your Honor Roll Student” (see link for full story). Now that’s almost reason enough for me to think about buying a car so I can have a bumper of my own.

One anti-brag parent, Amaechi Uzoigwe, says, “Let children be children. Let them enjoy whatever they’re doing. Stop living through them.” He’s right. But if I were Mr. Uzoigwe and my five year old could already spell his last name, now that’s something to consider bragging about.

Of course to spoil all this fun, academics have gotten into the act by studying the situation. For example, Dr. Arlie Hochschild published an ethnographic study in 2003, Unequal Childhoods, in which she posited, in the post-modern jargon of her trade, that this form of bragging is largely endemic to the upper middle class since they are the ones who believe in “intensive cultivation,” transporting their children back and forth to soccer practice, play rehearsals, and music lessons. These parents are eager to pass along to the next generation their own stations in life; but since “they can’t do it through land or money in a meritocracy,” they attempt to do it through their children’s’ skills, whether they have them or not. Thus all the bragging.

The Times, ever helpful, in case anyone cares, provides some guidance about acceptable and over-the top boasting. Here are a couple of examples:

Acceptable: Posting your child’s honor roll certificate on your refrigerator.
Over the Top: Posting the certificate on your front door.

Acceptable: Telling everyone that your child got a leading role in the school play.
Over the Top: Talking about this for longer than it takes to see the whole play.

Acceptable: Telling a friend that your toddler is successfully potty trained.
Over the Top: Dressing your toddler in a “Potty Trained and Proud!” T-shirt.

Or just maybe cooling it when your child says, “Enough Mommy (or Daddy) enough.”


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