Caitlin Flanagan made me shake my head with her latest Atlantic article, but it took Slate to cause me write a letter to the author and blog about it.
Here’s the article:
My husband, Paul, and I started the book swap when Eli was 3. He recently turned 10, and Simon will be 7 next month. Over the years, the kids have not exactly embraced the book swap. Nor do they tolerate it as a mildly irritating but harmless parental quirk. They hate it. Every year their protests grow louder. The hard part for them is articulating why. They are old enough to know that greed is a hard position to defend. So they’ve taken another tactic. They just don’t want to be “different,” they say. Why, oh why, are we making them stand out this way?
Here’s the letter I wrote to the author, Emily Bazelton:
Dear Ms. Bazelton,
I think I can tell you why your sons hate the book swap and why you have difficulty articulating your position. It’s because you and your husband are using the occasion of their birthdays to show off. The birthday party is supposed to be about each son. Instead you make it about yourself and your so-called values.
Look, I get it. The outpouring of material blessings our children have is embarrassing and distasteful. But seriously, birthdays are not about showing off your social awareness cred. They are about, for kids, a time to get together with friends and make noise, play games, open presents, let it be all about them.
Can’t you show social awareness the rest of the year? Or do you just save it up to teach the kids a lesson about how blessed they are? That’s really mean.
At the end of the article I felt really bad for your son.
“Drama subsided into anticlimax. At the party, we did the book swap. Eli said not one more word about it, either of protest or acceptance.”
Dude, come on. You broke him. And that is worse than the fact he got one plastic toy too many. Seriously, it’s probably too late now to make things right, but I wish you hadn’t done this.
So readers, what do you think: too harsh? Not harsh enough? Where do you stand?