In much of the modern – and often very heated – discourse on parenting methods and choices, the subjects of our angst over flashpoint issues like swaddling, the children themselves, are silent. Sure, many of them are still babies or toddlers, whose sole form of language is gibberish, but a new post on the New York Times' Motherlode parenting blog is a thoughtful reminder that they'll speak up sooner or later. And they may not fit handy generational stereotypes.
Under the provocative headline "I'm spoiled, but I'm not a brat," 21-year-old Maria Yagota ventures to explain how a relatively pampered childhood hasn't necessarily made her a jerk.
Yagoda is an editorial assistant at Saveur.com who also "makes sandwiches at Dépanneur in Brooklyn," according to the blog's tag-line. She explains that as a kid, her parents didn't push her to do chores; instead, they pointed her toward extracurriculars and academics.
"You could say I was spoiled. And thanks to the recent discourse surrounding my generation's upbringing, I've just discovered that I'm one of millions of 21st-century American kids who have been shielded from hardship by overprotective parents," she writes. (She's likely referring to a recent New Yorker piece, "Spoiled rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?")
"I don't dispute this claim. Being in an upper-middle-class suburb in the 21st century, my friends and I spent our summers attending field-hockey camp and after-school hours laboring at SAT prep."
She admits that's she's a fairly naive college grad, one prone to turning loads of laundry pink, neglecting to take out the garbage and even begging her mom to send candy care packages. But she argues pretty convincingly that privilege or a protective upbringing alone doesn't make for a full portrait of any person.
"We can't help being spoiled; our parents did that to us. But what our parents can also do to us is instill a sense of social responsibility and humbleness that will prevent us from becoming adult brats," she writes.
What's more, she writes, the real world has a way of beating back brats, anyway. "If you don't take out the trash, the mice will come for you. If you can't take public transportation, you'll spend your life savings in cabs. And if you act like a brat, everyone's going to hate you."
I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
What do you think: Can "spoiled" and "brat" be mutually exclusive terms?