David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Mommy, Mommy!

I am not proud that I remember the following unfortunate jokes from junior high. Nor am I gratified to admit that I found them amusing 50-something years ago.

“Mommy, mommy, I don’t want to go to Europe!”

“Shut up and keep swimming!”

But when I hear of families who communicate that their kids are not okay as they are, that the kids need to be somebody else, that the kids have to make substantial changes to be accepted and appreciated, I think of these inappropriate anecdotes. Yesterday’s appalling anecdotes about horrific parenting are no longer the stuff of inappropriate humor. It’s happening.

The college admissions picture of my youth was a horse of one color. Everybody seemed to know that where we went to college didn’t determine who we would be. Our parents encouraged us to do well in school and seemed pleased if we were successful in the classroom.  If we went to college, our parents were again gratified to know that we wouldn’t be hanging around the house anymore and tried to remember where we were matriculating so they could send modest tuition checks. Under no circumstances did our parents insist that we become competitive—swimmers or tuba players. If we did go on vacation—to Europe, to grandma’s—the thought that we could write our admissions essay on “I went to Europe and noticed that the food was different” was the furthest thing from anyone’s itinerary.

Things are hyperbolically and absurdly more competitive today although as I pointed out in a Miami Herald article in 1994, the vast majority of colleges still admit virtually every qualified applicant. In the three intervening decades, nothing has changed. I can still place a B+ student is any number of wonderful institutions and glow with pride and satisfaction as these good kids grow up to be contented, well adjusted, professionals. That there is no differential outcome between “top” school and State U is lost on only a small fraction of families. But those families are becoming increasingly more disconnected from the reality that how your students do is infinitely more important than where they go.

How bad has the situation gotten? What are parents willing to do to “change” their kids into something else, into a child who might get a lucky roll of the dice at a “top” college? Parents help their kids cheat on exams. Parents help their kids cheat in athletics. How long will it be before parents deliberately cut off their children’s feet of because the kids might be able to run faster and win races on carbon prosthetics?

Like a malfunctioning elevator, harming your children to help them get in to a “better” college is wrong on so many levels.

The latest “you can’t make this up” regards parents who—having heard the absurd assertion that trans kids are admitted differentially to highly rejective schools—have encouraged their son to refer to himself as “assigned male at birth,” to let his hair grow, and to use she/her pronouns. That the son was getting along just fine as a male doesn’t matter to these obsessive parents.

That our culture encourages competition is not a headline. How deeply engrained is the antagonism is perhaps best personified by the following picture. Unpleasant parents bragging that “my child got a better Apgar score” is no longer the stuff of urban legend. Now we are racing our babies? (This author acknowledges that there could be some aspect of hilarity and affection in baby races. In the sense that the Irish Potato Famine of the mid 19th century was good for English landlords.)

The fundamental definition of good parenting is accepting our beloved children for who they are, not for what they accomplish, certainly not for where they go to college, and definitely not for whether they can “beat” other babies at crawling.

Mommy, mommy. I don’t want to walk in circles.

Shut up or I’ll nail your other foot to the floor.

Surely it is quite a distance from yelling encouragement as your six-month-old tries to “beat” other “tumblebugs” across a ten-foot mat to chopping off your child’s feet (or other body parts) so that your child can beat other children and be admitted to the University of I-Got-Here-First.

Or it is?

If someone’s parenting style reminds you of the most offensive jokes you can think of, it’s time to make some changes. Allow your child to stop swimming, help them to walk a straight path and, whatever you do, don’t even think about cutting off body parts so that they will be admitted to this college rather than that one.

Picture of David Altshuler 2

David Altshuler 2

Copyright © David Altshuler 1980 – 2024    |    Miami, FL • Charlotte, NC     |    (305) 978-8917    |    [email protected]