Poor Britney Spears. Not poor as in broke, which Spears manifestly is not, but poor as in can’t get any respect.
Spears is a lightning rod for disapproval. With record sales approaching 100 million units, with guaranteed sellouts whenever she tours, with megabuck endorsement deals, she must be doing something right. Even so, music snobs are disdainful of her singing. Critics dismiss her as a homogenized Janet Jackson knockoff. Bluenosers condemn her for promoting the sexualization of pre-pubescent girls. There’s an industry grown up around dumping on Britney Spears.
She was even denounced by PETA for performing with an albino python slithering all over her half-naked body. Never mind that a lot of other reptiles would kill for an opportunity like that.
Now Spears is getting it in the gutter press for being a bad mother. Last week, she was photographed bobbling her eight-month-old baby as she emerged from a Manhattan hotel. It was one of those bobbles where the kid’s head lolls way back at an alarming angle. Of course, it was captured by the ubiquitous paparazzi at the very moment of maximum loll. This is something every parent has seen, but usually without the accompanying whirr of motor-driven cameras.
Spears can’t get away with anything. A few days earlier, she was caught by photographers driving with the kid in his car seat facing forward instead of backward as it should have been for a child that size. That’s an improvement from several few weeks earlier when she was photographed riding in a car with — horror of horrors! — the child in her lap. Thus have her parenting skills been called into question.
But not by me. I don’t know about her singing and dancing, but as a mother, Spears is getting a bad rap. I’m just glad the paparazzi weren’t around to document my own parenting skills. As with any parent, there are one or two moments that I’d just as soon did not appear in the baby albums.
The alarming head lolls, for example. You usually see this when a baby is handed off. In the exchange, someone forgets for an instant to support the infant’s oversized head (“I got it, you take it”) and whoa! Good thing their little necks are so resilient.
This happened at least once or twice with both of our kids. Fortunately, it never appeared in the tabloids.
We’ve had car seat incidents, too. The most notorious was when our fi rst-born was days old. Oh, so carefully we strapped him into his portable car seat — we called it the baby bucket — and installed him in the back seat. It was only when we arrived at our destination that we realized we’d forgotten to strap the baby bucket into the car. The whole time we were driving around it was just sitting on the back seat with the baby strapped inside. No harm no foul, I say. The tabloids are not so generous.
When one of our sons was just walking, I managed to dress him one morning with both his legs squeezed into one leg of his pants. It was only after he fell down two or three times that I realized what I’d done. I laugh now, but it would not have seemed so funny had my blundering been caught on film, published worldwide and subjected to critical analysis by parenting experts. What I’d like to know is how many of these parenting experts have rotten kids.
I certainly can’t hold myself out as a parenting expert. Not after bonking the head of one of our infant sons on a doorframe. But it’s not just me who occasionally mishandles a child. We’ve all done it. Even the great George Reed occasionally fumbled the ball.
My wife got two at once one time. For some reason, she had care of our two nieces, then around a year old. While carrying them both at once, she somehow managed to bang their little heads together. No serious damage was done, but the nieces howled. My wife felt so bad about it that she didn’t fess up until years later. She would not have received that consideration had the paparazzi been lurking with their pitiless telephoto lenses.
I’m glad they weren’t around when our kids were in diapers. So careful was I to avoid jabbing the baby with a diaper pin that I jabbed myself. It was after the second or third such self-inflicted wound that I refused to use cloth diapers anymore. While my wife continued to put them in cloth diapers, I thereafter put them in disposables. To hell with the environment, I recall thinking at the time.
Mercifully, the tabloids overlooked it.
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