Patterico's Pontifications


“Parent Shock: Children are Not Decor”

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 5:25 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The title of this post was taken from a February 14, 2008, article in the New York Times. A few people might read this article and wonder if these parents should even be parents. I don’t feel that way. It takes all kinds of people to make a world, and each of these parents seems to genuinely love their kids. Plus, it sounds like each family ended up taking good care of their kids.

Nevertheless, reading this article did make me wonder a little why they wanted to be parents in the first place. Given the article’s title, I suspect whoever wrote the headline was a little conflicted, too.

The Brown-Friedmans:

“Ms. Brown and Mr. Friedman — who of course were thrilled to have a child, like all the later-in-life parents interviewed for this article — were also determined not to let Harrison “take control of the house,” Ms. Brown said. They went ahead with putting in flat-front lacquered maple cabinets in the kitchen, even though they soon had to watch a professional babyproofer drill 300 holes in them for safety latches. (Ms. Brown still cringes.) They put up silk Shantung draperies in Harrison’s bedroom, knowing that they might well end up stained, as they soon did — with yogurt. And they held onto the molded-wood chairs, which were not an easy transition from the highchair. “They have a very sleek bottom,” Ms. Brown explained. “He slides off it.”

The Stratton-McLeans:

“[McLean] also refused to babyproof furniture when the children were younger. She was “never one of those mothers” who put safety corners on coffee tables, she said. “That stuff is just gross, and I don’t feel you have to sacrifice living space to that degree.” And she decided not to install wire railings on the open side of the floating walnut staircase Mr. Stratton designed to connect the first- and second-floor living spaces.

“We couldn’t bear it,” she said. “It was too ugly. So basically what we did was we trained the kids to hold onto the handrail, and it’s worked. No one’s ever fallen off.”

The Jarecke-Chengs:

“Among the most troubling matters was the fate of the Barcelona chairs, whose “corners are basically razor blades,” Mr. Cheng said. After much deliberation, they put three in the garage and wrapped the corners of the fourth in foam so it could stay in the living room. “It was just sad,” Mr. Cheng said.

As for the coffee table, they avoided doing anything until Beckett gave them no choice: while learning to walk last summer, he used it as his main training prop. “He’d cruise and trip and hit his face on the table’s edge,” Mr. Cheng recalled.

Mr. Jarecke initially refused to discuss parting with or altering the table in any way, but they eventually compromised and decided to wrap the edge of the top in foam. “As I’m taping it,” Mr. Cheng said, “I’m saying, ‘I’m taping over what makes the difference between this being a Noguchi table and a Kmart table.’ ” Mr. Jarecke was even more distraught. “It transformed this beautiful modernist piece of furniture into a piece you’d find in a ’70s rec room,” he said.”

There used to be a time when parents bemoaned the loss of their “adult” lives in a humorous way. This article wasn’t that humorous.


34 Responses to ““Parent Shock: Children are Not Decor””

  1. I do believe that we go overboard on the “baby-proofing” concept at times, but I object to it as excessive coddling and overprotectiveness … not because of any aesthetic sense.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  2. Does it mean anything that all these families use hyphenated last names (I assume combining husband and wife last names)?

    My parents had plenty of expensive furniture (at least, for them it was expensive) and expensive dishes, and somehow both the furniture and me survived in good shape. In fact, most of it is still in use, several decades later.

    kishnevi (93ccaa)

  3. Same here kishnevi, we learned how to behave rather than be protected from ourselves. A few things are going to get messed up or broken… that’s what kids do until they learn better. I wonder along with DRJ about why they had kids in the first place.

    It reminds me of buying a truck and one of my NCO’s borrowing it to pick up some soldiers from the airport. He was upset because it got a scratch from one of the bags. I told him that anyone who bought a truck and didn’t expect it to get scratched really shouldn’t have bought a truck in the first place. Anyone who isn’t prepared for kids to act like kids probably should reconsider having them.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  4. Kishnevi,

    I used hyphenated names in this post to delineate the various family examples. So while I think some of them may use hyphenated names, I don’t know if they all do.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  5. DRJ–Thanks for the clarification. I had assumed the hyphens originated with the NYT article (I refuse to register for their site).

    kishnevi (202292)

  6. Children are not projects, they are human beings.

    nk (798403)

  7. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced I wouldn’t have wanted my kids to go to a play date at these folks’ homes. It’s way too likely to end up in a lawsuit.

    EDIT: It wouldn’t be me suing them. It might be them suing me for something my kid broke.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  8. Say hello to three future spree killers, folks…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  9. I’ll bet that these kids, years later, will trash their houses with wild parties while their parents are vacationing in Europe.

    Paul (236e0e)

  10. Heh. Except I picture them buying antiques and fine collectibles in Europe.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  11. ““Among the most troubling matters was the fate of the Barcelona chairs, whose “corners are basically razor blades,” Mr. Cheng said. After much deliberation, they put three in the garage and wrapped the corners of the fourth in foam so it could stay in the living room. “It was just sad,” Mr. Cheng said.”

    Who are these people and what planet are they from?! Honestly, if the fate of a few chairs was troubling and it was sad to have to protect their child by wrapping foam on said chair, how in God’s name are they going to cope with the really troubling and sad parts of parenting – like, oh I don’t know, being strong and wise enough to successfully navigate them through the minefields of teenage rebellion, including sexual temptation, drugs, alcohol, etc. If the fate of these people’s furniture and aesthetics is giving them distress, lets hope they get a grip on reality soon.

    Dana (ddd5ec)

  12. Children are not projects, they are human beings.

    Which would also make a good sign to hold up at a rally for Mrs. “It takes a village”

    kishnevi (93ccaa)

  13. Only child-proofing we did was to cover electrical outlets…we did what most of you did here, we taught, and watched, and disciplined…

    And, for the most part, it worked…

    reff (99666d)

  14. True, Reff. We didn’t cover the floors and walls with mattresses, although there were days we considered it. Nevertheless, as well-behaved as our kids were, I would think twice about toddlers with razor-blade encrusted chairs and open-sided staircases.

    Kishnevi #12 – I like the way you think.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  15. Only child-proofing we did was to cover electrical outlets

    We put child latches on the cupboard under the kitchen sink, plastic plugs in unused electrical outlets, and “Mr. Yuck” stickers on a ton of stuff (detergent, WD40, etc…) My oldest son learned how to open the cupboard quicker than my wife, the plastic plugs became part of the LEGO collection, and the Mr. Yuck stickers wound up decorating the bathroom. To my knowledge, he never got shocked (then again, my parents never found out how I learned to avoid playing with electrical sockets so, who knows), he never drank anything poisonous, and all the stuff under the sink remained intact. You protect as best you can, but teaching is the most effective protection.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  16. When your home is essentially a museum, certain compromises are necessary, I suppose, to have sufficient “kid raising space”.

    Or it sure could be a good idea to turn the museum into a home for a few years.

    vnjagvet (d3d48a)

  17. These people are sick. Fortunately these kind of liberal-yuppie-OneChild types are not procreating enough to continue themselves, and will soon go extinct, while normal family-oriented groups will expand. Evolutionary dead-ends is what they are.

    jack (e9a2a0)

  18. We made the whole first floor “child-proof”. 1,300 square feet. We took out all the doors. We took all the breakable knick-knacks away or put them up high. Locks on the kitchen cabinets and drawers, caps on the outlets, and gates on the stairs.

    We were in the kitchen and we saw a little head poking around from the doorway to the dining room. She had learned to crawl. Not long after, I found her sitting like a little Buddha on the end table in the TV room. She had climbed up on the couch and crawled across it and over the arm.

    The CD cabinet would not fall down on her so we left it alone. She would “rearrange” the CDs on the floor every day.

    nk (798403)

  19. I love the Buddha image. Don’t they have great posture at that age?

    DRJ (3eda28)

  20. They grow so fast. I never got enough of her. Her first sentence was “I love you”. To me, on St. Valentine’s Day, five weeks before her first birthday, as I was leaving for work. She could not walk yet but she rose up on her knees and hugged mine as she said it. I have the nanny as a witness.

    I can talk about my daughter forever. Do you want to hear about the fight I just had with my wife over Tylenol vs. Motrin for a runny nose and sore throat? 😉

    nk (798403)

  21. Our stories all involve John Wayne or pro wrestling superstars. You always have the perfect father-daughter stories that make me yearn for a (grand)daughter.

    As for the last part, I vote for Mentholatum.

    EDIT: And Dye-Free Benadryl.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  22. DRJ…

    Well, your boys ARE in college, so careful what you wish for. 🙂

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  23. Once they hit 21 they get to live the lives they choose, and I go from coach to head cheerleader.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  24. this is bullshit. i acknowledge that all the hyphenated surnames aren’t real, but…i particularly liked “mr. jarecke” and “mr. cheng” and their son “beckett”…imagine growing up with two gay interior decorator daddies! i’m one of the very few voters in my area who actually supports gay marriage, so i need to be insulated from this garbage in order to maintain my inclusive, civil rights for all bonhomie. it’s a fragile thing. what happens when beckett jarecke-cheng marries one of the stratton-mclean girls and sires kids of his own? will his son be beauregard jarecke-cheng-stratton-mclean? we will live to see surnames collapse into abbreviated forms “joe jc-sm” if this keeps up.

    assistant devil's advocate (c08424)

  25. #24 – Too funny!

    The only thing I could think of is attaching those swisher mop rags to the kids diapers. At least when they sweep across the living room, you get a free cleaning.

    Vermont Neighbor (c6313b)

  26. (then again, my parents never found out how I learned to avoid playing with electrical sockets so, who knows)

    I managed to accidentally stumble upon the glory of the “zorch plug”* when I was 8 years old or so, my mother was not amused.

    *Take appliance of your choosing, cut off the electrical cord at the far end, plug cord into wall, watch breakers flip as you short every circuit in the house.

    Taltos (4dc0e8)

  27. I understand that the name hyphenation thing lasted only one generation. Along with women not taking their husband’s last names. Partly counter-reaction, but I think some people also figured out how impractical that would rapidly become.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  28. We deliberately left one or two safe no objects in our house. It may not be a good idea to totally no-proof a house. This way, with attentive parenting, visits to non-baby proofed friend’s homes are possible. That is, if the parent respects the property of others by monitoring the child and enforcing that two letter word.

    The objective is to raise a child, not to live in the lap of luxury. Parents temporarily sacrifice one thing for a far better thing. I have never heard folks in retirement homes volunteer information on the Barcelona chairs they once owned. The lack of real planned parenthood, that is actually thinking through what it will take to bring forth the next generation for the benefit of the future, is endemic in a culture of immediate gratification and no idea of sacrifice. People today seem to plan their decor in far more detail.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  29. DRJ–NK should get the credit.

    I would think twice about toddlers with razor-blade encrusted chairs and open-sided staircases.

    But before you got that far: would you even have razor blade encrusted chairs in your house?

    kishnevi (7a9e8b)

  30. The whole concept of “baby-proofing” obviously never arose in my parents’ house, maybe because this was back in the 40’s. I don’t have much by way of eyebrows, and my mother claimed it was because when I was learning to walk, I smackled my head so often on the coffee table that it’s all scar tissue. 🙂

    bud (46e4bf)

  31. Is it just me, or do you all notice that every one of these asshats are hyphanated? Except for the fags, who cannot get married, and so have a pretty good reason for keeping their names.

    Is this what the NYT thinks is typical?

    martin (86a2e8)

  32. martin,

    Take a hike.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  33. Wow…the rich are just like me…only more clueless about child rearing!

    MunDane (d3328f)

  34. “Under the strictest controls of time, temprature and pressure…
    …the organism will do as it damn well pleases.”
    Harvard corallary to Murphy’s Law
    pertains greatly to child rearing.
    Stashiu is right on the money, teaching is best.

    paul from fl (12026e)

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