Want to be seen by the masses as a terrible, misguided/deluded parent? Then get yourself on British TV!
This week alone we British viewers have been able to throw scorn on the following:
– Monday: mums obsessed with raising their daughters in a superficial world in Blinging Up Baby.
Cue dummies pimped in Swarovski crystals, 4-year-olds with hair pieces and fake tan and tears over a beauty pageantry performance involving a Hooters-themed costume.
– Tuesday: precociously intelligent children compete to see whose the most precociously intelligent in Child Genius.
Cue parents with various strategies for success and tears over their failure to remember more than 78 playing cards in sequence.
– Thursday: dads obsessed with guns encourage their kids to fully embrace the Second Amendment by teaching them how to put a bullet in things in the name of family bonding.
Cue 4-year-olds crying that they don’t like shooting after getting a rifle for their birthday, Barbies tied up like extras in Fifty Shades of Grey before being riddled with bullets and tears over a dead child.
Ok, these are examples of extreme parenting and everyone involved clearly loved their child, even if they were
absolutely nuts determinedly focused in their approach. I’m sure the psychologists who earnestly raised their daughter like some experiment subject – all organic juice blends, morning meetings and carefully selected sentence structures – truly believed that they were doing all they could do to raise a child to hit above her weight academically and to have psychological well-being. (Although I have to admit I desperately wanted the kid to rebel and in as passive-aggressive a way as possible tell her mum to fuck off).
I’m sure the paraplegic ex-serviceman truly believed that his daughter would bond over firearms the same way he had with his dad, although possibly counselling for him rather than firearms for her would have been a healthier choice.
I’m sure the mum from Essex truly thought her daughter was happiest being a mini version of herself, although I wanted to shake her to make her realise that what’s ok for a grown-up doesn’t necessarily make it appropriate for a child.
Things that seem to be ‘wrong’ in the eyes of TV producers therefore include:
– Being posh/well educated/high achieving as a parent and allowing this to influence how you raise your child. In Child Genius this means lots of shock at kids having access to Dickens and speaking with a posh accent.
– Being from a rough background as a parent and allowing this to influence how you raise your child. In Blinging Up Baby this means lots of shock at kids having access to Rhianna videos knowing how to twerk.
– Being precocious. Having a talent is seen as weird. The Child Genius parents who stand back agog as their kids spout Nietzsche, let alone spell it, come across ok. It’s then their children who are held up as being freaks, like some form of televisual bullying.
– Encouraging said talent. Being a pushy parent is the ultimate in bad. Whereas for parents of normal kids nagging, coercion and shouting are normal tactics for getting through the day, use these tactics in relation to their area of talent and you’re the worst parent ever. Kids are fickle, but it’s mum/dad who looks bad when they change their mind.
– Being pretty and vacuous, concerned only with pop culture.
– Being out of touch with pop culture, unconcerned with looking good.
– Being only concerned with shooting things.
– Niche spending on children. Whether it’s a crystal-encrusted frou-frou dress and oversized flower headband for baby or My First Shotgun in camouflage pink, if it’s bought online then it’s BAD.
As a one-off, as a ‘normal’ parent, it’d be a chance to wipe the brow in relief aware that you might mess up, but you’ve at least got some perspective. But such has been the breadth of ‘OMG! Look how badly they’re handling this parenting malarkey!’ this week it’s felt as if every parent must be screwing up. Television as Philip Larkin. To mis-quote him:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They might not mean to, but you do.
They fill you up with the faults they had
Then stick you on BBC2.
Want to know you’re doing all right as a parent? Do you have a film crew following you? No? Then you’re doing just fine.
If you do have a film crew following you though, you may want to re-consider your parenting techniques. Or lose the crew and disillusion yourself that you’ve still got perspective. If the nation isn’t judging you to the extent that you’ve gone viral then surely you’re all right. Right?