Dear Matt Lauer and Today Show staff,
Against my better judgment, I watched part of your segment this morning on the so-called “No Rescue” parenting trend. I was frustrated with it for a number of reasons.
First of all, I don’t know who came up with the title “No Rescue” for this style of parenting, but it seems totally extreme and inappropriate. From what I gathered, these are parents who allow their children to experience the natural consequences of say, leaving your homework in your locker or your soccer cleats at home. “No Rescue” implies that if their child were about to get hit by a car these parents would cheerfully stand by, knowing that little Suzie would get a great life lesson out of their time in the hospital. “Next time honey, I guess you won’t be riding your bike in the middle of the road! What’s that? You’re in pain? Well, get your own morphine! No rescuing from me!” Parents like this would rightfully be getting a call from DFS. As far as I could tell, this is not the tactic that supposed “no rescue” parents are taking.
Secondly, while you may not have coined the term “no rescue” yourselves, you did choose to put the tagline that ran something along the lines of “these are parents who allow their children to fend for themselves.” This description again conjures up an image of parents throwing their children to the wolves, setting them out in the woods or on the street to, as you say, “fend for themselves.” Which also does not seem to be the case for this type of parenting style.
There are probably as many ways to parent as there are people. You would have us believe that we are all divided into a handful of categories, from Tiger Mom to Helicopter Parent, and in doing so create a manufactured controversy about which is the best way to raise our children. It is hard enough to parent, to not question your choices and decisions, without the Today Show and other media outlets trying to force us to choose, to pit us against our friends and neighbors, to rain down judgment on us for choosing this or that way to raise our kids.
For example, you describe a Tiger Mom as one who is strict and sets high standards. Well, my husband and I definitely are strict, and yes, we do set high standards for our kids. But I have actually read Amy Chua’s book, and while I found a lot of her parenting style did resonate with me, much of it did not. So I wouldn’t say I’m entirely a “Tiger Mom”. A “snowplow parent” apparently wants to get all the obstacles out of their child’s way, so they have no difficulties. I would say there’s a little bit of that in every parent who loves their child. We all know what Helicopter parents are like, and again, I think that there’s a little bit of that in all of us, as we worry about the world we send our kids out into every day. And then of course now the “no rescue” parent, who, gasp, might not rush over to school with their kids’ forgotten flute or horror, not drop dinner making to run over to the school to get a forgotten math assignment. This is really a thing? Why is this a thing? Why is this a thing worth talking about??? Who there is deciding that we need to have an entire segment on parenting to create yet another way for us to feel bad about ourselves and criticize ourselves and, in turn, criticize and judge those around us?
It’s like the media wants everyone to be pitted against one another. I guess “Everyone in this town gets along really well!” isn’t a very compelling news story, but “Wow, all these people are SO DIFFERENT in the way they parent!” is? When did “live and let live” go by the wayside?
Now, I’m not saying that everything is entirely relative when it comes to parenting. I do believe there are certain pretty black and white issues that are right and wrong when it comes to how you raise your kids. (Starving, beating, ignoring, abusing…yeah, all bad.) But most of those “black and whites” are at the far ends of the parenting spectrum, and everything else is pretty gray in the middle there. At the end of the day, the majority of parents love their kids. And they do what they do out of love for their kids. And we are all just trying our best to get through the day without hurting anyone and losing our ever-loving minds. All of which is hard enough without some morning talk-show segment that emphasizes our differences and makes people feel like “YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!”
I’m pretty sure most of us feel like that all the time anyway. So why don’t you do a piece on something more positive and encouraging and people-bringing-together instead of continuing to drive us all apart?
Tiger-Snowplow-No Rescue Mom,
It’s the same old story. You’re a little late, the buzz of hundreds of conversations reaching you as you walk down the hall, before you even get in there. You walk in to the cafeteria…of course you forgot your glasses again so you can’t see where everyone is. You lean casually against the wall, hoping that no one will notice you before you get your bearings. Scanning the crowd for a familiar face, you finally see your friend at a table across the room and breathe a sigh of relief. You feel so much less conspicuous as you slide in next to her at the table.
Sound familiar? If you think I’m talking about high school you’re wrong. I’m actually talking about going to some parent event at the elementary school. One thing I’ve learned this far in life–high school never really goes away.
I don’t know about you, but I walk into every school function with a major chip on my shoulder. I peg people for who they probably were in high school…it’s actually pretty easy to figure out. Who the cool people were, the nerds, the quiet ones, the stoners, the smart kids, the nice ones who everyone liked…I don’t think our roles change that much as parents. I think we slide right into the same roles we filled when we were kids. The cliques we fell into are still alive and wel. It’s hard to reinvent yourself. My college roommate was hell bent on being a totally different person in college and failed miserably. I have grown and changed for sure of course-thank God. But in so many ways I’m still that same person…perched on the edge of not-quite-popular and still looking for my big break. I don’t care as much about how I look…I have no problem showing up to things in my big fleecy pants and Wyoming Soccer sweatshirt. Still, it disgusts me though how much I still care about being one of the “cool kids.” I hate how I sort everyone out into their assigned roles, myself included.
I’m not sure how to just quit doing it though. I try to just go about my business and I enjoy my life and my family and kids tremendously. Put me in a room full of other moms though…I’m nice on the outside but you do not want to hear my inner dialogue. Critical, judgmental, sarcastic, snarky, you name it. It ain’t pretty.
I don’t know what you imagine adulthood is going to be like when you’re a kid. You just see the grownups going about their business, orbiting around the universe that is You. You don’t really care who their friends are or what they think about the other grown ups, I don’t think that even occurs to you, that your parents might have the same peer power struggles that you do.
People might think I’m crazy or that I’m insecure or making it up, but I don’t think it’s all in my head. There’s plenty of one-uppmanship to go around, comparing your kid to others, backhanded compliments about someone else’s kid, gossip, rumor spreading…I mean, if you haven’t experienced this to some degree I don’t know where you’ve been hiding (or you’re one of those super nice people, that rare person that’s friends with everyone and always mangages to rise above the fray.). Really this is all just a slightly elevated level of high school drama. We just all have better jobs and drive bigger cars. We’re still trying to impress, trying to be important. Trying to find some way, one way, ANY way to be just a little bit better than someone else. It’s how we fill that blank, bleak hole sitting in the very pit of ourselves, how we shut up that voice that tells us we’ll never be good enough. And I think really, we all feel like we’ll never be good enough, even the most cool and popular among us. Some people are just better at pretending otherwise.
The thing is…I don’t think that voice is as loud as it used to be, that hole seems not so hollow. So maybe I am growing up some. Maybe it’s just I’m in the middle on some continuum of “Importance of What Other People Think” which means there has to be an end somewhere, right? Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to just let go completely and just be.
I really, really love the song “Secrets” by Mary Lambert. It’s so freeing and such a powerful message…”I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are…” And I don’t care so much, really. But I do still want people to like me. I wonder if that feeling ever totally goes away.
It is time for small boys to go to bed. And none too soon for this one, who loves bedtime. We’re at a movie, out doing something fun and “I just want to go to BED” gets moaned with slumping shoulders. I imagine him as a teen, sleeping til noon on a Sunday morning, the specter of who he will someday be lurking just behind him.
We head for his room, where he grabs all 5 of his special stuffed friends, his arms just barely encircling them. Climb into the cozy flannel sheets I put on a bit too early-“Was your bed nice and warm last night? I put on your flannel sheets.” “Yes, but maybe a little TOO warm…” says the sweaty sleeper. Always sweaty, hair damp and tousled, arms flung wide and head at an impossibly cockeyed angle. Fall is arriving in fits and starts as usual.
I lie down next to him, snuggling being one of his top activities, dad and I having tied in the “World’s Best Snuggler” category (although I daresay he is the best). I put my arm around his fuzzy back-he loves his feeties, sweaty or not-he is lying at a funny angle because his flu shot arm hurts and he doesn’t want to lie on it. The flu shot brought tears and an Oreo Coolatta from Dunkins, since I am a sucker for this one. He hugs Boonga, the favorite stuffed friend, extra tight and says “I wish Boonga was real”, reminding me of the Velveteen Rabbit. Boonga is still the most important friend, the one who sits on the stairs waiting for him to come home. He’s as real as a stuffed animal can get. I let him hug Boonga for his portrait this year, which got a raised eyebrow from Dad, but I know that it won’t be long before he is getting dusty on the dresser, Toy Story playing out for real in just a few short years.
I lie there with him and smell his “boy” smell…one of my favorite quotes is from “Incendiary” by Chris Cleave, where the protagonist describes the smell of her boy as a “cross between angel and tiger.” I have never smelled either but can’t imagine a more perfect description of how my boy smells. The last of his Old Spice shower gel (used for the benefit of “the girls”) still lingering on his head. He flings his arm across my back and his tiny fingers feel like when they were a baby, grabbing on to the lifeline of Mom. We talk about his day, and when I ask him what the best part of his day was he says “Seeing you when I came out of school” and it does not feel like the world’s most obvious pick-up line. He smiles sleepily at me and leans over for a kiss.
I watch him as sleep takes over, as his eyes stop popping open to see if I’m still watching him, as his breathing slows and his arm gets heavy and slides off me. I see this boy, who knows the whole Bastille album, and always has his nose in a book. Who is afraid to ride his bike but not to sing “Hard Knock Life” for Annie auditions. With his skinny, knobby legs and tiny teeth that refuse to loosen even a little bit. His skipping around on the soccer field and sometimes powerful shot on goal (when he feels so inclined). The way he loves his sisters and how they look out for him. Someday there won’t be any room for me on this little bed, when he fills the hollow made by his teenage dad, sprawling out across a too-small twin bed. So I get in all the snuggles that I can, with this boy and his eyelashes like spiders’ legs, my own little angel/tiger.