Monday, May 07, 2007

Grupsters grow up! (MNA May 07)

While some parents are supposedly “getting cooler,” I’d like to know “what’s the point?”
Associate Editor

The Today Show ran a story this week about the so called “grupsters.” (Yes, I was watching the Today Show. My wife had it on, okay?)
Anyway, this group of people is supposedly full-fledged grown-ups with jobs in their twenties or thirties, who have families and mortgages, and, nevertheless, “refuse to be lame in the face of responsibility.” The responsibility that these people are afraid will make them “lame” is parenting their children.
They call themselves self-empowered — I say they are just self-indulgent. Their name "grupsters" is derived from hipster, yuppie and "Grups" — a term for grown-ups on a planet ruled by children in a "Star Trek" episode, according to a much-e-mailed New York magazine article last year.
Many of the parents who count themselves as part of this group consider it a "movement.” It sound more like a marketing ploy with the social power of a Hallmark created holiday. Apparently, there are clothing lines and other products designed for the trendy parent and child, and groups who gather to commiserate about how their children are robbing them of their “individuality.”
Grupsters call themselves “parents with street cred” — thirty-somethings who look, talk, act and keep up with trends as if they are still college students. As far as I’m concerned, they are thirty-somethings who pine away for the care free life of their college days, and refuse to grow up.
So, how can you determine if you’re a grupster? Does your daughter wear Dora the Explorer T-shirts or your old concert T-shirts of 80’s bands whose popularity waned a decade before they were born? Are you a Wiggles fan, or do you lull your kids to sleep with the latest Green Day album? Do you ban Barney from the house even if your kids love it? Let’s hear from one of these self proclaimed hip parents:
"Grupsters are parents who look cooler than people who call them grupsters," and that's about it, says Paige Maguire, the 29-year-old co-founder of “Rock N Romp,” a monthly independent music concert for kids and grown-ups. "I'm just parenting and living with my own identity and sharing who I am with my son, instead of wearing khakis and driving a minivan to Gymboree. I didn't have a kid so I could be a different person; I had a kid so I could introduce myself to him and learn who he is."
What? Now we’re introducing ourselves to our kids? How about we actually PARENT out kids? Maybe channel some of that “gosh I wanna be one of the cool kids in high school still” energy into developing our children instead?
And why do we assume that the other end of the parenting spectrum is khakis and mini-vans? There are a thousand shades of different parents and parenting styles in between these so called “cool parents” and what they consider the “sell out” crowd.
If we shed Barney, The Wiggles, and The Backyardigans from our kids’ lives, and instead replace them with 80’s punk rock and the latest music from The Killers, how are we doing our children a favor? Why can’t we let kids just be kids? Isn’t there a possibility that kids raised with an accelerated pop-culture awareness grow up too fast?
While I do enjoy the occasional Green Day song with my son, and we watch a show on the Versus Network about the world’s worst sports injuries together, or even “Pimp My Ride” on MTV, I still carefully watch what he listens to, screen out the sexual and potty mouth content, and let him enjoy songs from the popluar “Naked Brothers Band” television show, which are as innocent, innocuous and childlike as can be, while still hip for the eight year old set.
The need to be my kid’s friend isn’t as great to me as the need to be his father. There is a definite line of demarcation we’re talking about here. Kids don't want a cool parent/friend. They want – and need — a parent, first and foremost. Spending time trying so hard to be cool for me would only take away from coaching baseball, playing with my children, reading to them, heck, generally enjoying them – and letting them enjoy having a father who isn’t trying to be their buddy. To me, that is cooler than any $80 pair of jeans, $100 haircut, or $1,000 alternative CD collection could make me to my kids.
And what kind of message does this send to our children? That being cool is the most important priority? There is an inherent snobbery that comes from placing labels like this on any group of people, or of creating expectations of what is and isn’t “normal,” — especially when it comes to our kids.
What it all boils down to is that there is no one right or wrong way to parent children, no template to follow for success. Parents come in all shapes and sizes, and so do kids. Sure, let’s allow our children the freedom to be who they want to be, but guide them at the same time — and not worry so much about what kind of designer shirt we’re wearing when our infant spits up on it.
And in the same vein, we don’t have to give up our own dreams, ideals, and sense of identity when we have kids, but we do have the responsibility to accept that once we have children, we do become different people, whether we like it or not. These “grupsters” are afraid that their children are changing their identity, when they really should realize that their children are part of their identity, a fact that they should be proud of, rather than ashamed.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

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