A few years ago at a holiday party at my brother’s house one toddler began hitting another toddler. After a few minutes the parents of the boy being hit asked the parents of the hitter if they wouldn’t mind telling their kid to stop.
“No. We can’t. We don’t believe in telling our son ‘no.’ We believe kids need to figure out these things themselves.”
A little shocked and a little annoyed, the parents of the boy being hit picked up their son and walked away.
Mayim Bialik is a pretty cool Jewish woman. Not only is the actress, who managed to remake her career after becoming a teen star on 1990s television series “Blossom” successful, but she is also successful in a unique way. She earned a doctorate in neuroscience and has made a career out of being that sharp, funny, nerdy character many of us can relate to and identify with. She currently co-stars on “The Big Bang Theory” as neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, and has managed to write a new book on holistic parenting, slated to come out soon. On top of all that, Bialik is deeply Jewishly engaged, which makes her a real on-screen Hollywood rarity.
So when she recently announced on her blog at Jewish parenting site Kveller that she and her husband of nine years are getting divorced, the news ricocheted around the Jewish web faster than nova gets scarfed down at kiddush.
For all her cool Jewish cred, Bialik has also been controversial, mainly for her extreme practice of attachment parenting, which she touts in her book, “Beyond the Sling”. My friend and colleague Allison Kaplan Sommer has written a spirited analysis of just what makes Bialik tough to stomach as a model of motherhood.
Like “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik, I am an observant Jew, and had my first child while completing my Ph.D. (Mine was in experimental psychology; the actress’ was in neuroscience.) And like Bialik, I endorse and practice many aspects of ‘attachment parenting’: breastfeeding and late weaning, baby-wearing (using a sling), bed-sharing and positive discipline. So I thought I’d be a big fan of her new parenting book, “Beyond the Sling.”
And, indeed, there is much that drew me to her book. For example, I like the idea of being part of a community of parents struggling with how not to bribe their kids. But there are also aspects of “Beyond the Sling” that pushed me away.
Bialik explains in her book that she achieves her high-touch, high-attention parenting without the nannies or babysitters or personal chefs that you might expect from a TV star. But the author seems oblivious to the fact that her version of attachment parenting requires families to forgo a second income and to have either one parent who works a flexible schedule (like her husband did when their children were young) or outside help. And she bypasses altogether the reality of single parenthood.