One phenomenon I noticed again at my last get-together of young parents was the notion that optimism about the future behavior of a child is subtly taboo. By the same token, pessimism is encouraged and shared. Observing my boy's pleasant, quiet disposition, they assured me that he will be a holy terror when he can walk, adding of course that he will be worse when he is a teenager.
It wasn't notable for being unusual - I've been assured that having a son will make my life miserable since we announced the pregnancy. People are pretty disappointed to find that he sleeps through the night, that he has no colic, etc. What struck me as odd was that it happened in the same conversation as the obligatory mockery of a certain relative of one of the guests, who is "stockpiling weapons for doomsday, when Obama will take all the guns". I.e., socio-political pessimism about the state of the economy, the prospects for gun control given the Hurricane Katrina example, etc., is silly wingnut speculation, but assertions that a given infant will have behavioral problems is rock-solid logic.
What I saw, really, was leftist social ethics, or rather, what leftists have in place of social ethics. Lacking a firm hand, leftist mothers predict behavioral problems for all children so they don't have to do anything to prevent dangerous or inappropriate behavior other than constantly saying, "No!" and repeating the child's name.
Reduced behavioral standards are a self-fulfilling prophecy which allows all of us to let our children run rampant while none of us feels guilty for it. Apparently it is okay for us to feel stressed by our children's behavior, but remorse is out of the question because it implies that a better lifestyle - a more ethical, more thoughtful lifestyle - is possible. Raising children to be polite, engaged, and curious is a betrayal of the great sisterhood of harried mothers at their wits' end.
All going well, I predict the following conversation in eight years:
"What did you do with him? I've never seen a boy that age shake an adults hand, entertain himself with books, ask to go to the zoo instead of wanting to stay home with the television. Is he on something?"
"It's not what he's on, it what he's not on. He's homeschooled and he isn't allowed commercial television."
"Oh no! You can't do that! He'll never develop any social skills!"
"You mean like shaking an adults hand and saying hello? Not interrupting people?"
"Well ... ummm ... racism ... uhhh ... multicultural...."
I think I will enjoy that conversation.