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Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 1999 /6 Tishrei, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Econophone

Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
HOLD ONTO YOUR BASSINETS, the day-care story has a new twist, this time from the mouths of babes: Day-care kids are OK.

So say the kids themselves in a new book to be published next month. Written by Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, the book is based on interviews with 1,000 children across the nation.

"Ask the Children: What America's Children Really Think About Working Parents," promises once and for all to assuage the guilt of working mothers, despite the title's suggestion that we're talking about both parents. Though included in the surveys and statistics, fathers through the ages have managed to get through their work week without obsessive guilt. They were, after all, just doing their jobs.

Not so modern mothers. Having switched jobs mid-century, moms need regular doses of the kind of medicine only researchers can provide. No longer trusting of their instincts, moms turn to the latest study or book to tell them "You're OK, your kids are OK."

Galinsky materializes just in the knick of time bearing these glad tidings: Only 10 percent of children in grades 3 through 12 wish they had more time with their moms. That's not all. More than 90 percent of the 13- to 18-year-olds surveyed said that child care (non-parental) has positively or somewhat positively affected their development.

Talk about redemption. To think, if all those stay-home moms had dropped off their babes at day care, their children might have been happier, more positively developed and, no small thing, included in a survey. Who knew?

Sure, children need all the nurturing they can get, but the bio-parent is non-essential, according to Galinsky's findings. Any good "caregiver" will do, just so long as he or she is nice, attentive, loving and, of course, caring. Not much to ask of a minimum-wage earner. In Galinsky's survey, children reported that they don't need much, either. A typical wish list would look something like this: one caring, responsible adult, who preferably will provide an after-school snack and help with homework. Other after-school "wants" included Nintendo, television, play time with friends and "freedom," but not too much.

With Nintendo, snacks, television, freedom and friends, why would anyone miss Mom and Dad? Who?

When asked what they wished most for their mothers, 23 percent of children in grades 3 through 12 wished their mothers would earn more money (there's SUPER Nintendo, you know); 20 percent wished Mom were less stressed and only 10 percent wanted more time. Smart kids: More time with mom means less money for Nintendo.

As usual, I'm skeptical about new books and research that make guilt go away. Guilt is unpleasant, but it's the best information we have in determining whether we're doing the right thing.

I don't necessarily doubt Galinsky's findings or the children's comments. Children reared by caregivers under the mantra of quality time can't offer much insight into the concept of quantity parenting. You can't miss what you've never had.

Nevertheless, Galinsky's book is disturbing, not so much for her conclusions but for the premise itself. America has become a nightmarish Never Never Land, where no one wants to grow up and parents just wanna be friends. In such a culture, it is perhaps inevitable - though no less scary - that we would abandon adult wisdom and seek solace from the commentary of kids.

Children are notoriously cute and, yes, Mr. Linkletter, they do say the darndest things. But when adults rely on children to make them feel all better, we're in trouble.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

Up

09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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