Enough With The Experts Already.
There is a woman who calls herself “The Potty Whisperer.” For $250 dollars, you can send your child to “Booty Camp,” where, in four hours, she will teach him to use the toilet. Perhaps you saw her last week, on the Today Show. But don’t confuse her with the Baby Whisperer. The Baby Whisperer has two bestselling books, which help clueless new parents deal with newborns, and bewildered, not-so-new parents deal with toddlers. Then there’s the Sleep Lady, who consults with exhausted parents to help them get their kid sleeping through the night. She’s also been on the Today Show, and she’s got books, too. In case dads are ever feeling left out, they could always read the syndicated column of Mr. Dad, who answers father-specific questions in newspapers around the country. And then, of course, there’s Super Nanny. Flying around prime time, network television in her mini Cooper, she’s saving the world from unacceptable behavior, one naughty step at a time.
Not to get too Carrie Bradshaw on you here, but it all kind of makes me wonder: have our instinctual childrearing skills been selected out of the gene pool? When did we, as parents, become so helpless that we can’t make a move without the advice of an expert?
Lest my tone sound cynical and judgmental, let me fully disclose that I have often been lured by the parenting experts, and their promises to solve all of my problems in five easy steps. When my first child arrived, screaming and colicky and impossible to soothe, I read the Baby Whisperer cover to cover at least a dozen times. For fifteen months, I attended a mommy and me taught by a local guru, covering such topics as feeding, sleeping, napping, potty training, and age-appropriate play. When we had food issues, I turned to books. When we had discipline issues, I turned to Super Nanny. But more and more, I’m starting to think that it might all be getting a little out of hand. I mean, did I really need someone to tell me how to play with my baby? And do people really need to pay someone else to potty train their kids?
Part of it, I’m sure, is that the support system for raising a family has broken down in modern society. We no longer live in tiny villages with our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins, so we no longer have people we trust to show us the ropes, or a steady stream of infants to practice on. And even if we do live near our mothers, their child-rearing wisdom tends to be, um, outdated. Back then, if your baby wouldn’t sleep, you didn’t call the Sleep Lady; you slipped a little brandy in the formula. Kid won’t listen? Who needs Super Nanny when you’ve got the back of your hand? It’s no wonder that “Parenting” has turned into a multi-million dollar industry, complete with its own trade show in New York City . This wouldn’t be America if somebody didn’t come along and fill the gap.