Dara Lynn Weiss recently recanted to Vogue the stories of how she proudly took control of her daughter’s life. Concerned about the threat of obesity for her 93 pound 7-year old, she quickly implemented a strict diet plan. There would be no pizza, treats, or uninhibited binge eating for her reined-in preteen.
In a NY Times Article outlining the range of responses Weiss’ parenting ideologies received, we hear the concern of those who say Weiss has put her daughter on the path toward eating disorders and the praise of many who commend her efforts to combat her daughter’s potential future struggle with the “obesity epidemic.” Weiss has recently received a book deal. A fact many online bloggers and commenters point to as evidence of a twisted culture that gives “sexy media attention” to “mean mommys.”
Reading about Ms. Weiss’ extreme views on parenting, I am reminded of our society’s need to regulate, research, and enforce “ideal parenting.” I wonder about this mother’s fierce need to help her daughter to be “normal,” and I imagine the reaction her daughter Bea will have in twenty five years as she re-reads this blurb and thinks about raising her own kids. I think about the conversation I had with my Irish housemate Helen yesterday as we watched the tantrums of children on “US Supernanny” and the valiantly consistent use of the “time out” chair. Helen was fascinated by this practice. My fellow American housemate Megan and I told her this was a normal occurrence in US households. Helen told us when she was a child she was left mostly alone. She told us that to her it seems like American parents are obsessed with being constantly present. They read books and come up with rules and do research about how they should “raise” children. It fascinated her. Listening to her anecdotes of running with sheep and exploring the local petrol station, I realized that we don’t give children nearly enough credit. It’s true that the modern world is arguably more dangerous than it has been for any previous generation. The worries about obesity and illness and Amy Chua’s infamous fear of “underachievement” are understandable. But I also think we are taking things too far.
Reading about the latest slew of Barnes and Nobel texts laying out everything from controlling the weight of your child to making sure he or she has just the right level of multi-cultural exposure, I’m beginning to share Helen’s philosophy. Maybe we ought to leave these kids alone.