A Diminution Revolution: Call to Arms

I never liked the term “Mommy Wars.”

The first half hits us below the belt. However much affection we may have for that endearment from the lips of our babes, large or small, it’s a diminutive.  The diminutive— this one is of Scottish origin—not only involves diminution, a making smaller, but I would argue further, a kind of disarmament. As a child who calls you Mommy, I possess you. When I call you “mommy,” I downgrade you from, metaphorically, “cat” to “kitty.”  You may have authority over me, but I temper it with that loving suffix.

“Mommy” is technically a form of address. It has migrated by osmosis, like a wispy Dementer, into nounhood, if not even further into the realm of AP style. “Mommy Wars” as a headline vaults mothers and motherhood into a tangle of kitties batting each other with their cute paws. I have no problem being called “mommy” by my daughters. I have a big problem being called “mommy” by the media or other third parties.

Whether or not you’re equally irked by that, do join me in protesting the second half of the phrase in question—wars. Many political and cultural conflicts may be tagged as a “war,”  but “Mommy  wars,” implies mothers are fighting each other to death, perhaps—in that hallowed tradition of all oppressions—even that they ought to do so.

The history of women’s discourse over the role of motherhood in our lives  hasn’t been hand-to-hand combat between mothers who work for pay and mothers who don’t. It looks that way through a certain lens—say, the Atlantic Magazine’s lens. Apply some defogger, and you’ll see more than Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg vs. State Department ex-official Anne-Marie Slaughter, the two juxtaposed recently in a nice piece of writing by Rita J. King. Plenty of institutions, cultural movements, and men, as well as women, are flinging javelins, constraining troop movements, and laying siege to households, families, and children. I’m not at war with any mothers, working or otherwise. There is far too much to be done for that.

In fact the whole construct smells awfully like reality TV, deftly deconstructed by one Jennifer L. Pozner. I’m also with Sandra Tsing Loh, whose 2006 Atlantic review essay named names and made delightful fun of the women media professionals (and their luxury brand accoutrements) who have dominated the published debate about “having it all.”

Along with the “Mommy Wars” we’ve now got some other terms to contend with—”Mommy Brain,” with several authors brandishing that catchphrase like Virginia Slims. But let’s arrest that encroachment. Let’s bring “Mommy” back where it belongs—into the mouths of babes. And refer to me as a mother, or better yet, as a woman or a parent, if you’re not my offspring.


From the Book Drop

Time to drop off the over-dues. Kids cranky, me crankier. The car’s been cluttered with these things for days. Almost late to meet babysitter at home. Arrive at branch library, tell kids to stay in car,it’s only a dropoff. Oldest kid demands copy of a classic she’s read repeatedly. Mumble vague assent.
Enter library. Do not find item requested. Grab 3 new books on top shelf display with uncharacteristic flash judgment, plus a Fancy Nancy (not my fave) for the younger one. Kismet, jacket appeal, title: whichever of these got my hand to reach out, there was certainly no input from my voracious yet picky tween reader. I’ll report back.

Killer App Slays Dead-Tree Books, Reports Big Bad Wolf

I ran across the phrase “dead-tree” books for the first time today (Nov. 24, 2011), in a Parents Magazine blog post. The magazine replayed a Nov. 20 New York TImes business story about parents—even those whose reading habits have migrated to the screen—avoiding e-books for kids under eight.

I submitted a comment to Parents Magazine about the e-book piece. I asked if “wired parents” could maintain “non-wired values” in the household. I haven’t seen it appear yet. (By the way, the month-old NYT article about Silicon Valley types putting their kids in decidedly non-wired Waldorf Schools was in the back of my mind.)

My attempt to create a conversation on the Parents Magazine site wasn’t my first. On Nov. 23, I commented on its “GoodyBlog” (blotto: “Must See. Must Do. Must Have Right Now”). That puffpost advertises a new “enhanced e-book” product created by Kideo with the collaboration of the PBS kids show “Between the Lions.” The post, “He Huffed, and He Puffed, and…He Learned How to Read!” reports that the product “allows young readers to follow along with the story using a “Read” mode that highlights each word as it is being narrated.”

Let’s pause to note the four different verbal phrases that the puffpost uses for the concept “reading:”

1) following along with the story;

2) using “Read” mode;

3) highlighting each word as it is being narrated;

and last, but not least,

4) Learning how to read (from the post title).

Parents has not yet printed my comment, in which I put the value of the product in the context of what a child would otherwise be doing. Is it a substitute for TV? For reading a p-book with an adult? I thought I was doing the conversation-creating thang pretty well by ending with “What are your pro’s and con’s?”

I’ll be waiting to see if whomever vets comments on the Parents site wants readers to “follow along with the story” of how parents make decisions to transfer stock from dead-tree reading to e-reading. Isn’t debate, or at least a judicious hand on the “approve” button for moderated blog comments,  the basis of a healthy readership?

And I’m not even saying no e-book shalt ever sully my child’s eye-scan.