This I actually have no quibble with. Having a child does not make you an expert on parenting. Raising a child for years—decades, even!—does not make you an expert on parenting. It is entirely possible that a non-parent could have sharp observations about child-rearing that many parents could truly learn from.
Alas, that is not the column Bruni wrote. Instead, over the course of 1,285 words, he rails at straw dads and straw moms, describing clichéd scenarios—a parent threatening "seven or eight" last chances, a discussion of child eating habits "within earshot of little Edwin or Edwina"—that, while certainly plausible, don't quite have the ring of truth. Not once does Bruni relate an actual scene he witnessed, with named (or even pseudonymic) participants. Perhaps he didn't want to offend the parents of his "11 actual nieces and nephews" by directly criticizing their behavior. If so, totally understandable! But then, why write the column at all? It's the equivalent of putting together a feature news story based entirely on anonymous sources interviewed solely by phone—surely something the newsman Bruni would never do.
Bruni's point, however, is that he's "confounded by the boundless fretting, as if ushering kids into adulthood were some newfangled sorcery dependent on a slew of child-rearing books and a bevy of child-rearing blogs." Why, he asks, do parents run themselves ragged trying to find and follow new philosophies when, in the end, nature will take its course and the kids will turn out as they will?
To answer that question, let me give you (and him, if he ever reads this) an actual story from my not-so-distant past. My daughter Sasha, now 4, was then 2, and one evening it came time to brush her teeth. Sasha, however, did not want her teeth brushed, and refused to open her mouth. The more I insisted, the more she refused, until at last I was yelling, and she was crying—with her mouth wide open. As the tears poured forth, I brushed her goddamn little teeth, and as I brushed I realized I had a solution: All I had to do, tomorrow night and the next night and every night after that, was make Sasha cry, and then I could brush her teeth unhindered.
This is the point at which I, like many parents, asked myself: Surely there's a better way? For the next 16-plus years, I'm going to be responsible for this fucking kid—in a way no aunt or uncle, actual or unofficial, ever will—and I'm going to have to make her cry so that her teeth won't fall out. What am I doing wrong? Who, if anyone, can help?
To Bruni, however, something else (and more clichéd) is at work here: "As the Me Generation spawned generations of mini-me's, our rigorous self-fascination expanded to include the whole brood and philosophies about its proper care and feeding."