by Rob Schwarzwalder
June 26, 2012
The New Yorker is not my literary flavor of the month. It’s smug tone and retrograde, endlessly astonished liberalism make it, shall we say, an acquired taste.
That said, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, in proof of which this venerable if unpalatable publication has just come out with, “Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule the Roost?”
The author’s insight seems, in itself, pretty accurate. A lot of American kids are obnoxious, impolite, foul-mouthed, and preoccupied with life’s superficialities. Elizabeth Kolbert, the writer of the piece, attributes the fact that, according to one survey, two-thirds of American parents say their children are spoiled to excessive intervention and supervision, wanton materialism, and even evolutionary biology (she says rather baldly that humans are “unlike other apes” - a “speciest’ perception I choose not to share). Yet perhaps most striking is what this lengthy article does not say: That a mother and father are the core of any healthy family and are essential to the well-being of a child. (See Marri.us for more information.)
We live in an era of massive marital instability. When parents divorce, they compensate their children with “stuff,” as though expensive trinkets will make up for the absence of a father. Some parents surely over-intervene, as in the case reported in this article of the couple who sued their child’s high school because he did not obtain a high grade on a term project. This would tend to make any boy or girl feel not just “special” but, at a deep psychological level, both unaccountable and imperturbably arrogant. The still point of this child’s turning world would not be, per T.S. Eliot, Christ but rather his own incessant whine.
What “Spoiled Rotten” does not account for is something so basic that its very obviousness stands in stark relief to all the sophisticated reasons listed by the author: Children are not adults, and they need a male father and a female mother (in the era of homosexual activism, those are not redundant terms) who wed affection, discipline, time, instruction, fidelity (to one another and to their family), and moral instruction in the way they raise them.
The Psalmist reminds us that “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Ps. 127:3). If that’s true, then they deserve conscientious and prayerful parenting, things of which The New Yorker seems, quite sadly, oblivious.