When I was 20 there was no greater objector to the practice of plastic surgery than me. I’d declare that I would grow old gracefully. I would not cover my gray hair, I would embrace every wrinkle. Today at 34, I think that girl was more than a little naive. I haven’t gotten any work done, nor have I colored my hair, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someday I might. And I definitely don’t judge others for it as I may have once. I get it now–why people would make those choices–in a way I didn’t before. In a way, it’s hard to understand the aging process until you start living through it. And it’s easy to judge other people’s decisions when it’s outside your realm of experience.
I thought of my judgmental 20-year old self when I read this National Review interview with conservative provocateur Laura Ingraham. She may be a mom, but she definitely doesn’t sound like one in the article.
(Before anybody believes my issues with her comments are merely ideological, I’d like to officially come out as a total right-winger. I imagine there are very few issues on which Ingraham and I disagree, and she was perfectly nice, welcoming and kind when we met once through a mutual friend. I’d also scratch Ed Schultz’s eyes out if he ever called her a “slut” in my presence.)
But Ingraham’s comments here recall the naive 20-year old girl who just doesn’t understand. Asked if she wrote about “one bad habit or bit of nonsense” that truly drives her crazy in her new book “Of Thee I Zing,” Ingraham responded by ripping into moms:
“Parents’ failure to parent. Remember, you’re not Jr.’s friend. You’re not Bethany’s BFF. You are a mother or a father — act like one. Forget “snakes on a plane” — have you seen children running wild on commercial flights? Admit it, sometimes the chaos and noise is so out of control, you wish that “water landing” were not so “unlikely.”
Or how about mothers who beam about the fact that they “can wear my daughter’s jeans!” Sweetie, you’re middle-aged, and your midriff looks like day-old Activia yogurt. Your daughter doesn’t need competition, she needs a mother. We have an obligation to guide the next generation toward what is acceptable — what is best for them. She shouldn’t be emulating Lindsay Lohan. And you shouldn’t be emulating Dina.”
This really got to me. Laura Ingraham adopted both of her children. Adoption is a blessing for everyone involved. It is amazing and impressive that Ingraham adopted her daughter from Guatemala and her son from Russia. I’m not trying to minimize that in any way. But it’s kind of rich to have a woman who has not given birth, who is a size 2 on her fat days, to tell women who have had their bodies changed completely by carrying a child how they should feel and behave. I don’t have a grown daughter whose jeans I could fit into but I remember the feeling of fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans: elation, joy, relief. It that was almost a year after giving birth. At the time, I felt like such a failure that I wasn’t one of those celebrities rocking a bikini 3 weeks in. It’s a sensation that if you’ve never had a baby, and sometimes even if you have, you can’t understand. I never felt the kind of despair I felt about my body after giving birth. For Ingraham to criticize women for wanting to fit into tiny jeans, their daughter’s or not, is just off. If it’s a competition then it’s with themselves, pre-baby and post-baby, not with their daughters.
The other part is equally mean-spirited. My daughter has only been on one flight, to Florida, at 14 months old. She didn’t cry, she didn’t scream and she didn’t run. And yet I still wanted to crawl under the seat and disappear. She was just starting to talk and babbled loudly the whole time and didn’t sleep for one minute of the flight. We also made the rookie mistake of not getting her a seat so she wriggled in our laps and played under our feet. I could not apologize more to the unlucky saps seated in our row in each direction. I can’t even imagine my deep shame if she cried or screamed or needed to walk–all things that babies and toddlers do sometimes.
We’re taking an 11-hour flight to Israel next week and my dread is not about my own comfort in dealing with our almost-18-month old but about how awful it will be if she inconveniences other passengers. She’s a near-perfect child, we almost never have problems with her, but she’s still a child so you just never know. Kids are annoying, I remember that from my pre-parent days. But sometimes they’re really not controllable. Ingraham has two children and you’d think that would make her more empathetic to other parents. Seemingly it doesn’t. It irks me that a mother wouldn’t have more compassion for other mothers. I don’t know Ingraham’s situation, but I imagine that when she travels with her children she has paid help. That’s not the case for many mothers and Ingraham should try to remember that.