Joseph Epstein on the Lavishing of Attention on Kids

Anything written by Joseph Epstein is worth reading. That’s why I read his latest Weekly Standard essay even though it’s on a topic that I think is a bit worn out by this point: how my generation – Gen Y or "millenials" – are over-coddled and over-cared for by our parents and how being the recipient of such an attention-fest leads to all sorts of undesirable consequences like an inflated sense of self-importance, arrogance, dependency, and so on.

Putting aside my wariness of generational arguments that overstate the collective experiences of those born in a same time period, I do basically with Epstein’s broad strokes, and always appreciate the flair with which he makes arguments, so do read it. Here’s the basic thrust:

Children have gone from background to foreground figures in domestic life, with more and more attention centered on them, their upbringing, their small accomplishments, their right relationship with parents and grandparents. For the past 30 years at least, we have been lavishing vast expense and anxiety on our children in ways that are unprecedented in American and in perhaps any other national life. Such has been the weight of all this concern about children that it has exercised a subtle but pervasive tyranny of its own. This is what I call Kindergarchy: dreary, boring, sadly misguided Kindergarchy.

Two years ago I wrote about The Emergence of Kids as Kings and noted how most of the Christmas cards I see from families only include the children in the photo, not the parents. It’s perhaps the most amusing sign among many that (at least in America) children’s needs and wants and likenesses preempt the parents at nearly every stage.

Perhaps it’s some internal fear that if I have kids they will come to dominate my life in ways I can’t control which contributes to my ambivalence about procreating in the first place, a sentiment I explore here (don’t miss the 40 smart comments at the bottom).

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