Lara Schwartz

Stuff I think

Lara Schwartz

Lara Schwartz
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
December 24
Personal Capacity
Lara Schwartz lives in Washington, DC. She has been a civil rights advocate and political writer for long enough to have two ulcers.

JANUARY 21, 2011 12:52AM

Masturbation, Taco Bell, and raising decent human beings

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I recently did a phone interview with a nice reporter from the Washington City Paper.  This article was one of the results.   I think it's a great article, partly because the author quotes me comparing my favority mommy website to masturbation and Taco Bell.  There's more, though.

 Author Kathryn Masterson took on my favorite hive of scum and villainy --DC Urban Moms (and dads).    For those of you who just joined our program already in progress, DC Urban Moms is where (putative) DC metro area parents go to provide support, answer parenting questions, and c all one another whores for using paper window shades.   The thoughtfully explores the frightening underbelly beneath the pregnant bellies and the postpartum bellies.  The author’s own pregnancy makes the piece all the more interesting--- soon, she will be a member of the not-so-secret society of nurturers, nursers, judgers, and nutters.


  • Did you know?  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “thoughtful” is another way of saying “quotes the Adequate Parent comparing a website to masturbation and Taco Bell.”



I encourage all of you to have a look—and don’t forget to leave a comment. As of this writing, some strange poster with at least three usernames is arguing about whether DCUM’s owner/moderator is on a covert mission to undermine various candidates for public office.  Crazy—meet meta-crazy.

The second product of this interview was a long, hard (giggle) look at where I am as a parent.  I told the reporter that I was amazed at how seldom any of the competitive parenting literature—be it DCUM, the New York Times, the Post, any of the other mommy blogs—talks about raising nice children who become  decent people. 

In fact, most of what I read (thank you, readers, for sending me so much food for thought) focuses almost entirely on mothers.  What we expect from ourselves.  Our alleged guilt.  Are we doing enough, providing enough, stimulating enough?  Our kids are the passive recipients of everything they need, need, need, and parenting is a contest to provide it all—and if there’s time left in the day, let someone else know where she fell short.

My dear husband (note that he is not my DH; David Ortiz is my DH, and he’s on a 1-year, 12.5 million dollar contract.  According to my dear husband, David Ortiz is the second most overpaid DH in the MLB, after Travis Hafner.  According to my child, David Ortiz is SO AWESOME.  WHOO!)…..

Excuse me. My dear husband, who is an advocate for educational equity, says that when the adults are fighting, that means we’re not thinking about the kids anymore. 


  • Did you know? Being a nice guy really can get you laid.  So can a love of baseball. 



But AP, you offer.  Don’t you think that the kids are what these breastfeeding and stay-at-home/work outside arguments are all about?

Well, no.  I understand that many people have deeply held beliefs about the relative merits of a variety of parenting choices.  I also know that these ritual blood lettings don’t change anybody’s mind.  They are adult fights.

But let’s concede that sometimes these fights cause someone, somewhere to do something that benefits some child or other (and please note—some of the non-acrimonious material on DCUM and sites like it is enormously helpful to the parents who seek it out).  

You will still have to work very hard to find anything that deals with children’s character, bravery, decency, and generosity.  

There’s no shortage of material on how to make your child competitive in today’s fast-paced preschool, kindergarten, college, and medical residency environment.  If I felt like looking it up, I could give you a specific dollar value for the child-improvement and child competitiveness scene, which includes but isn’t limited to Baby Smarty videos; learning toys; “enrichment” activities; and SAT prep courses. I’m going to guess that the offspring competitiveness industry is worth something like $34squijillion dollars, give or take.

But what about the things that that keep me up at night:  how can I help my child understand how lucky she is?  I want her to be brave—how do I instill courage in her without making her think that she’s really on her own?  She always notices racial difference lately—how do I navigate race with frankness when I’m petrified that she’ll embarrass me in public with some bizarre statement?  How can I explain what it means for all children to be equal—but for her to be the most important one to me?   What does it take to raise as fine a person as my husband or my best friend?  When will she be old enough to watch “Talladega Nights” with me?

I read minor flashes of interest in children’s character. Occasionally some writer claims that helicopter parenting will result in wimpy, self-centered kids.  I’ve scrupulously avoided weighing in about that, but I’ll also say that watching the helicoptering in progress annoys the living shit out of me.  I’ll just call it Chihuahua Parenting from now on, because it inspires a visceral loathing in me that’s both irrational and irrevocable.

Overall, I don’t read much about raising good people, and this interview was the first time it came up for me.  The resulting article got closer to the idea than anything else I’d seen—which made me glad to have contributed. 

Which gets me to the other thing that came out of the interview.  I’m going to explore the real point of parenting—helping little ids develop admirable superegos, and do what I can to apply it at home.  It’s scary: I am sincere about this, but if I were good at honoring these high-minded commitments, there would still be six Pop Tarts in my pantry.  How do I do a better job with my child’s character than with my own ample seating area?

More importantly, how do you? 

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Many years ago, when I first became a parent, I asked myself what being a parent meant. "Raising children" was the obvious answer but after some serious thought I likened being a parent to growing a garden. When we plant little seeds and nurture those freshly sprouted seeds into little plants and from there into larger plants we eventually wind up with vegetables.

At that point in the thought process I asked myself what I was raising my children to be. That line of thought led me to the belief that being a parent means raising my children to be decent adults who are capable of functioning in society as opposed to merely "raising children"
I never thought about it this way--we get so caught up in the rights and wrongs and minutia about BPA-free-breastfeeding-organic-live-and- active-cultures level of parenting. Koo-koo. When my daughter gives her stuffed duck a sweet hug--that's the shit right there.
I just found your blog and have spent the better part of my evening reading it (and laughing too). I even signed up for an account so I could comment. I'm 31 and I don't have kids, nor do I want them (although I have my on the fence moments). Motherhood is something that I respect, fear, deride, wonder about and feel like is being shoved down my throat at times. I've had this vague image in my head of "moms" as a cult. You drink the kool-aid as soon as you get pregnant and suddenly you're not the same person anymore, oh but it's the best accomplishment you've ever done and ever will do in your entire life!

I say all of this because in reading your blog I see sanity. I see a woman separate from being just a "mom," breaking through the myths that built up in my head, and suddenly motherhood isn't the brainwashing enterprise I've come to think of it as. It's possible to be a real person with personal goals and desires and have children. You've given me a different perspective, and I want to say thank you. I don't know if I'll change my mind and have kids (there's a lot to consider, like am I really up for the job), but I can at least rest easy knowing that if I do I don't have to drink the kool-aid.
@Thinking Violet: thanks for your thoughtful analysis from a child-free perspective. I'm finding that since I started this blog, and even moreso since the DC City Paper piece, people are coming out and saying thank goddess/deity/Taco Bell/Good Vibrations that not all parents are like this. It's partly because nobody wants to hang out with Sanctimommies. It's also because dipshits reap dipshits.

My motto: there might be a mommy war, but there is no draft. Plenty of us are card-carrying non-dipshits.

Welcome, hope you stay. Don't believe anyone who assures you that you will change your mind. You might not. You might be a very cool crazy aunt or intermittently cranky neighbor. Not everybody experiences Cranio-uterine Shackle Syndrome (CUSS).
Just read the article, and really loved it. Also loved the comments, lol. I thought things got bad on OS. I may have to check out DCUM just for the giggles.