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Not only are American moms and dads landing their offspring with bizarre monikers, they’re pushing kids in strollers until they’re school age and letting them decide what’s for dinner.
Unacceptable baby names:
In principle, I’m all for allowing parents to choose what to call their children. This is with the proviso that they go for something sensible and solid like Steven or Claire. I’m even sort of on board with this cute, olden days name revival where you choose something last seen in an 18th century spy novel. (Overheard at a Brooklyn baby meet up the other day: “These are the twins, Percival and Agatha!”). At least those parents aren’t making stuff up. Veering off message and inflicting tiny, vulnerable humans with invented names is just not on. Of course, U.S. celebrities are the pioneers of this heinous movement, but normal Americans are doing it too, naming their kids after Prisons (Stand up “Ryker”!) and dog breeds (Hello “Sharpay”!). Perhaps those countries that have seen fit to impose a baby-naming rulebook have got the right idea.
The kids make the rules:
More than once I’ve been held up in a U.S, supermarket aisle by a frustrated parent asking their three-year-old what he’d like for dinner and getting nonsensical replies. The child isn’t interested in this conversation, or equipped to answer. He’s just hoping you won’t notice the box of Lucky Charms he dropped in the trolley. This is a new(ish) breed of “empowering” American parent who, either consciously or without realizing, lets their children make the rules for the family. When this is enacted on purpose, I’m assuming the parents think this is a good way to turn their offspring into responsible, decisive adults. (It’s not. Please stop it so I can get to the frozen peas.)
Parents in the U.S. are weighed down, and not just by the emotional burden or financial stress of raising a couple of kids. Nope, it’s their children’s snacks. In playgrounds and parks all over the U.S., moms’ purses are heaving with tiny edible offerings housed in miniature Tupperware. You could be forgiven for thinking your average American parent leaving the house at any given time is loaded up for a picnic or pilgrimage to worship a very hungry deity. Of course, kids outside the U.S. eat between meals. But snacking in America is embraced with an almost religious fervor. Is the idea of kids getting a bit hungry and building an appetite for a big dinner so abhorrent? Sure, chuck a child an apple if they’re grumbling but what’s with the elaborate preparation and multiple snack choices?
Huge kids in strollers:
I’ve droned on before about the abomination that is American dog strollers. But what of the children virtually old enough to go to festivals on their own who get chauffeured along the sidewalks, knees forcibly drawn up to the chins because they’ve outgrown their Bugaboo? Of course, little legs get tired. But walking, last time I checked, is good for you. For whatever reason, big kids in buggies is something you don’t see nearly as much outside the States.
I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing to be nice to your children, and this can involve handing out compliments and loving feedback. It’s when that feedback morphs into an all out ego-inflating, positivity assault that we need to worry. But the most “attentive” American parents know no limits on this. Purring “Good job!” into your tot’s ear is fine when she gets a good mark in French class or keeps her cool at the dentist. But cheerleading every time she goes to the toilet or chews a toy? No. And children know this better than anyone. Tell a kid you’re proud of them after they commit a benign act like putting on their coat and they will, rightly, look at you like you’re deranged.
Too much emphasis on sport:
There’s no such thing as soccer mom in the U.K. Competitive, sport obsessed child rearing is the reserve of American parents. They’d have had to ship me back to Blighty if I’d grown up here, such was (and still is) my inability to throw a ball and have it arrive at the intended destination. I’m more than slightly worried that my own daughter has A) inherited my utter lack of motor skills and B) will be made to feel like a freak because she can only hit a baseball if it’s stationary.
Do you have any trends to add to the list?
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.