Times were simpler once. There wasn't a guru on every corner spouting unproven twaddle; everyone did what they had to do with the time available, and that didn't leave much left over for analyzing life too deeply.
Take parenting, for instance. There are all sorts of "methods," claiming to raise the most well-adjusted child who won't blame his parents in twenty years for creating psychological trauma.
The question is, what happens when these variety of styles clash, vis-a-vie friends' parenting techniques (or lack thereof).
I was once at a Shabbos meal when I was not that close with the other guests, a couple with a five year old daughter. The mother measured out her portion, and told her, "Don't throw it on the floor."
The fact that had to be said could not be good.
Immediately the girl began to snivel, intentionally shaking the food off her plate. I reacted immediately, my mouth unattractively stuffed with challah, when I roared at her, "We don't throw food on the floor!"
She stopped, and contritely padded off to the kiddie table. As for her mother? Not leaping to her defense; if anything, she seemed happy that someone else was doing the dirty work, her eyes focused on the other side of the room.
(Aside: If your kid would rather throw her food on the floor than eat it, then she doesn't have to be given any lunch.)
But what if she had leapt to her child's defense, which is what other people face when their friends' children are rat-finks?
New parents bring their own childhoods to the table, some wanting to provide their offspring the direct opposite of their own experience.
Ms. Dederer believed that many of her generation’s parenting practices stemmed from the fact that they were nursing psychic wounds from the family disruption and disengagement that had swept through their own homes in the 1970s.
Take, for instance, a mother cited in the article who does "attachment parenting"—her children are pretty much glued to her side, all the time—because both she and husband had felt abandoned by their own parents.
She referred to her method as "healing" for her. But then she is making parenting about her, not about her children. That is the crux; one has to examine their motives very carefully. It shouldn't be what makes us feel good, it should be about how to raise a competent mensch. But I digress.
Then there is the mother who, while perfectly able and stable, feels inferior as she doesn't have a fellow mother-friend's slavish devotion to her progeny.
“I’m feeling inadequate with her ‘I-do-everything-for-my-children’ example,” she said of the first friend, who has curtailed her own creative, prestigious career because she’s rarely able to find a baby sitter who meets her high standards. “I have these pangs of ‘maybe she’s doing everything right and I’m doing things all wrong.’ ” As for the second: Around her, Ms. Smith Rakoff feels like an undisciplined slacker. “I almost can’t see her because she makes me feel too bad about myself.”
I would actually feel the reverse, I think. If a woman was remolding her identity through her children, I would actually be awash in superiority.
Raising children is not rocket science; youngsters don't crave much more than stability and seder. And as I have said, I would be the type to get aggravated if a parent ignored bad behavior. If a "method" advocates that, maybe the friend has a point.