Parenting Actually Is a Boring Subject (but It's Worth Writing About Anyway)

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The other morning, when I dropped my daughter Sasha off at pre-K, I witnessed something amazing. After Sasha had hung up her coat in her cubby, a troop of her classmates marched in, yelled "Sasha!," and surrounded her for a huge group hug. Sasha smiled and accepted their love, almost as if she was used to it, while I stood there, stunned. Then I went to work.

My other daughter, 5-month-old Sandy, is not quite there yet. In fact, she's not quite anywhere at all. She kicks, she cries, she will smile at you if you smile at her, but mostly she just sits there and looks cute. She's wonderful, and I love her. As a source of entertainment, she needs work. But OMG—cute!!!!

Neither of these observations is particularly new or unique. Millions of children have had the same experiences; billions of parents have made the same observations. Were I to leave it at that, you'd be entirely justified in deriding the "rearing of children" as a subject best ignored.

Unfortunately, too much of the writing about parenting—mom blogs, dad blogs, grandparental blogs—does kind of leave it at that. There are too many tales of "Here's this cute thing my kid did," and too many stories full of fake or willed wonder, all creating a bland miasma of cheap entitlement, as if the mere fact of procreation meant parents suddenly had the right to force their clichés on a public busy with more important matters. Also, most of the stories just sucked.

They were boring, as all subjects are boring when poorly discussed. We each have our own beloved topics (I will read anything about running or Taiwanese food, no matter how amateurish), and our annoyances (as great a writer as Roger Angell is, I won't read a word he, or anyone, writes on baseball). But to elevate those personal peccadilloes to the level of manifesto bullet points is to embrace the same kind of blinkered presumption displayed by the very parent-writers being condemned. (And I'm not sure framing the manifesto as coming from a "queer, white, self-flagellating middle-class Marxist perspective"—as the author of the New Inquiry post put it—works either as justification or explanation.)

The point is, everything is boring until a writer makes it not-boring. This was part of the idea behind DadWagon.com, the website that Nathan, Theodore, our friend Christopher Bonanos, and I created a few years ago. Rather than simply rehash what we, then still new fathers, already knew would be stereotypical tales, we sought to put them in context, to connect them to the larger issues faced by anyone—or any straight, white, self-flagellating middle-class gentrifier—in a major American metropolis: money (the getting and spending of it), work (and its pointlessness), the endless opportunities for distraction and entertainment, and, of course, baby yoga.

I won't claim that we were (or are) ever entirely successful. Unpacking the entire web of forces that determine how we parent, eat, travel, labor, and live in 600-word blog posts is a fool's mission. But usually, if it was Nathan apologizing for his son's fecal blowout at a restaurant or Theodore trying to make sense of his divorce, it was not boring. At the very least, reading and writing those posts let us ignore our own boring, clichéd kids in order to spend a few more minutes staring at glowing computer screens. Which is all anyone really cares about anymore, right?

–Matt Gross

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Presented by

Matt Gross, Theodore Ross, & Nathan Thornburgh

Matt Gross, Theodore Ross, and Nathan Thornburgh write for the website DadWagon. Theodore Ross is the author of Am I a Jew?

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