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Jewish World Review March 17, 2004 / 24 Adar, 5764

Betsy Hart

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The real problem of today's kids | When my dear mother was alive and I was expressing outrage or indignation over some issue, she would say that I was "getting on my high horse."

Well folks, stand back — 'cause I'm a saddlin' up!

There I was, rather casually flipping through the current (April) issue of Parenting magazine. It's the typical combination of promoting the latest technique to "solve" discipline problems, secrets to better organization skills and a cover article on the "second baby survival guide."

Mixed in are the pictures of the adorable babies and darling outfits, and ads for vans and sheets — the usual.

But on page 72, in a "Reality Check" advice column authored by former BabyTalk editor Trisha Thompson, is this little nugget of a question from a reader: "I'm divorced and have started to see someone. When is it okay to have him sleep over with my child in the house?"

Answer: "When you marry the guy."

Well OK, that was my answer, not the advice columnist's. More on that in a moment.

Anyway, the very question caused red lights to start flashing in my head. What is this mother thinking? Does she really believe she just "has" to have sex with some guy she's "started" seeing? Is this only the first of many relationships to which she might expose her child? Does she have any moral lessons at all she wants her child to learn? How can she know that she and her little one will be safe with this man in the house overnight if she's just "started" seeing him?

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And most important, does she have any sense that her life right now is not "all about her?"

Enough about the dopey mother.

On to the advice columnist.

I mean, at least this gal is supposed to have her head screwed on straight. So she starts out with a few pro forma caveats: "You don't want your child to wake up and find a stranger in the house, or worse, in your bed, particularly if you're not even sure you want to get into a serious relationship." And, "Of course, you're allowed to have a life, even a sex life — just not at your child's expense."

But "that said," she offers mom the advice of maybe arranging her "sleepovers" when the child is away at Dad's house. But, Thompson says, she knows that could be complicated, so "wise choices" are key: She then goes on to suggest Mom bring the boyfriend back to the house for a bit — i.e., a tryst, — when the child and a babysitter are there, but send the boyfriend off before the little one awakens, of course.

For starters, I can't help wondering, what if her child wakes up in the night, crying for Mom? What's the babysitter supposed to say? Mom's busy?

Or, Mom could always "use" a friend's house instead, says Thompson.

Then came the piece of advice that made me want to put my spurs on. Remember, we are not talking Cosmopolitan magazine, we are not talking "Sex in the City" reruns, we are talking about Parenting, a magazine whose advice is diligently sought by countless moms and dads (well, mostly moms). And here's what they're reading: "If the relationship becomes more serious, tell the child, 'Dave's going to be spending the night in Mommy's room, and in the morning we'll all have breakfast.'" But sometimes, "It might be nice if the three of you watched a movie or played a game before everyone turned in. . ."


No wonder so many kids are growing up so clueless. They learn early it's an "all about me" world, where no one should ever have to sacrifice whatever the person thinks personal fulfillment is, and where there's no place for one of those icky value judgments.

How about telling Mom that she's kidding herself if she thinks she can do what she wants in this area and not have it be at her child's expense — and that means she doesn't have the right to act any way she pleases just so long as her cover story is good? How about telling Mom it's not all about her — and what she wants at that moment?

Instead, in a widely respected magazine like Parenting, which is, ostensibly, about good parenting, we get the advice from the "expert" on how Mom can best usher her boyfriend into the bedroom, and in the process make her child feel a part of things by including him in the pre-game show.

Today's kids really do have a problem — today's "adults."

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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