Children as Fashion Statements

By | April 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

Local TV news usually includes at least one report of a Hollywood “personality” who is pregnant or has recently given birth. Supermarket magazines are filled with stories of starlets “showing a bump.” It is unusual to pick up a newspaper and not see pregnancy reports in the entertainment section ‒ an interesting juxtaposition.

The only sections of the paper that are roughly comparable are the automotive and fashion sections. In the fashion section, we see photos of dresses, shoes, and bags that are expensive, ostentatious, and often impractical. The automotive section is similar − it shows cars that are expensive, ostentatious, and often impractical.

Would women really prefer to wear comfortable, inexpensive shoes that still looked good? Would people really prefer to drive a practical car that still performed well? No matter. People who have the money, and many who don’t, feel that they must be seen in showy clothes and a flashy car. Otherwise, they fear that they might be seen as unsuccessful or unfashionable ‒ that is, losers. The clothes, shoes, bags, and cars are not bought for their actual virtues, but for their appearance.

The clothes, shoes, bags, and cars are not seen as things, but as extensions of ourselves. It is unwise to see our possessions as essential to determining how others see us, or ‒ even worse ‒ how we see ourselves. But it is more unwise to see our children the same way.

The next time you are waiting in the checkout line at the market, look at the covers of the magazines. You will see photos of women with pregnant bellies, and women holding babies. But how is this any different from the auto magazines, with covers showing the most expensive, most flashy, most impractical cars? Both types of magazines appeal to narcissists. Both types of magazines extol the advantages of having things to show off.

If we see our bag, our shoes, or our car as extensions of ourselves, we are materialists and egotists. But if we see our children − or more likely our one child − as an extension of ourselves, there is profound harm.

Many people would rather drive a reliable, economical Honda, but they feel constrained to drive a BMW that they can barely afford. The car is cared for by others. Its purpose is to impress the world with their affluence and style.

But for many, a child is much the same − an extension of themselves, a thing to be shown off, boasted about, but cared for by others − from nannies, to day care, to pre-schools, to kindergarten, to primary school, to middle school, to high school, to soccer coaches, to math coaches, to music teachers, to SAT coaches, to the inevitable therapists.

And there will be therapists, a result of the lack of parental warmth, plus unending pressure to excel. Kids are pushed to get into the “best” pre-school, the “best” primary school, the “best” middle school, the “best” high school − all to get into the “best” university, and often the “best” graduate school, so that the kids can make more money to pay off all the student loans, and be a further source of boasting for the parents. And, of course, the kids will have to pay for further therapy, during which they can complain about their narcissistic, micromanaging parents.

As if this weren’t enough, mothers often sexualize their young daughters prematurely. They buy them revealing clothing. They teach them to go around with bare midriffs and to pull their jeans down low. And the mothers wear juvenile, revealing clothing themselves. Clearly, this has nothing to do with the needs of the daughter, but everything to do with the needs of the mother, who wants to look and act like her daughter’s older sister. The child’s need for a mother is forgotten in the rush to fulfill the parent’s need to feel “young.”

We often walk in one of the most affluent areas in the nation. We see babies in carriages, toddlers in strollers, and small children being walked by nannies. The children are cared for by others. The parents miss many of the greatest joys of parenthood. They come home from work in time to put the child to bed − and tell themselves that a half-hour of “quality time” can substitute for many hours of actual time.

Both parents are likely to work, to keep up the expensive house and the two luxury cars, and pay for the nanny, the day care, the pre-school, the gardener, the pool man, and all the others needed to maintain their lifestyle. And they must pay high taxes, which require them to spend even more time away from their children. So in the limited time the family has together, the parents are likely to show off the child to colleagues, friends, and family as prized possessions − things.

Many women are now immersed in the business or professional world, but − for appearances − need a husband and a child. The husband and child are mere checkmarks on an imaginary report card. In effect, the woman is saying, “See? I’m not only a successful career woman. I also have a husband and a child. Now don’t bother me. Can’t you see I’m working?” The child is like the Louis Vuitton bag or the Mercedes − a badge of success, not valued for himself or herself.

So we should not be surprised when 17 high-school girls in a small town become pregnant. They returned repeatedly to the school clinic for pregnancy tests, then were upset if they were not pregnant. Apparently they viewed pregnancy as a way to gain prestige. Perhaps they had seen too many magazines at the market and watched too many “entertainment reports” on TV.

But that’s the good news. The bad news is that if babies are merely objects that give us status, what happens when they become inconvenient? Then a high-school girl smothers her newborn in a restroom trash can, and returns to the prom to eat a salad (how healthful) and dance with her boyfriend. She learned that being slim is important – but human life, not so much. She learned that a child is a fashion accessory, to be shown off if it is in style, or discarded if it is not.

And when the children become adults, will the parents (or parent) still be in control of their lives, entitled to tell them what they can or cannot do? And they will still be part of the parent, usually the mother − an appendage, like an arm or leg, which exists to do what she wants, but has no independent existence of its own? This, regrettably, is quite possible.

In many families there is no father in the picture. All around us we see the effects of absent fathers on family life. But what about the effects of absent − or ineffectual − fathers on national life? If fathers do not guide boys to mature into men, rather than merely adult males, who will be the responsible husbands and fathers of the next generation? And who will defend our lives and our freedom from mortal enemies?

But fathers or father surrogates are important for girls as well. How else will they form an image of what kind of man – if any – they wish to marry? How else will they form an image of what they want to raise their sons to become? From tabloids and entertainment magazines? From feminist teachers and professors? From gurus who want to eliminate “toxic masculinity” but in fact are trying to eliminate any masculinity at all?

If we have the insight to perceive it, there is a connection between the supermarket magazines with the show-business women showing off the “baby bumps,” the careerist women with the “report-card” child, the pregnant high-school girls, and the over-controlling “helicopter” parents raising 18-year-old infants.

Children are not seen as unique individuals, each created in God’s image. They are not seen as entrusted to us to bring up to be independent adults with strong moral values. No, they are viewed as mere extensions of ourselves, mirrors to reflect our own image.

And that is quite a demotion.

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