essay

Hyperparents

DRAGAN JURAK
www.zivljenjenadotik.si

The reigning model of hyper-parenthood makes parents extremely reduced people. All these people gathering around nurseries and schools may be perfectly interesting and nice. When it comes to their children, they absolutely identify themselves with their role as a parent and transform from complex persons into caricatures.



 

Everyone who has children in nursery or school keep on repeating this in a traumatized way: "Beware of those parent s gathering around nurseries or schools!" They run from those nice dads and child-focused moms like they would from Jehovah's Witnesses, they spread repeat anecdotes about them full of contempt, they even hate them and enjoy it like you do when you're politically incorrect.

When you go to pick up your child from nursery or from school, you need to be careful not to talk to or even make eye-contact with any of the parents. This is an extremely provincial act which was prescribed by those who are parents themselves but defend their integrity and build upon it with the contempt they feel towards other parents.

Children's birthdays are the most dangerous situation. Children can invite children from the nursery or school to the party but you have to be careful and maintain the right level of contact with their parents. When the parents bring their children to your door or to your playground, you have to invite them to come in and they have to say no in a nice way. Anything else would be a minor offence.

Things get more complicated when the child leaves. Their parents come pick them up, you invite them in, they say no, and if the child is not ready to leave yet, the situation gets tricky. That's when the parents enter the hallway and beg their child to get dressed as soon as possible, and they don't know what to do with themselves, just like you as you stand there with a cold smile in the hallway, grab the doorknob, and hold the door wide open.

Contempt towards parents is some sort of discrimination and self-discrimination. In theory, it's like contempt towards fat people or a modern discrimination of some other group of people. In practice, it's becoming very normal. Unlike fat people who come in all shapes and sizes and can't be blamed for being morbidly obese, parents are in fact awful figures.

The reigning model of hyper-parenthood makes parents extremely reduced people. All these people gathering around nurseries and schools may be perfectly interesting and nice. The mothers may be great in bed, the dads may be funny, they may be living an intense life in a Dionysian and intellectual sense. When it comes to their children, they absolutely identify themselves with their role as a parent and transform from complex persons into caricatures dedicated only to their children and to their role.

The system of mutual avoidance of these actors, dedicated to parenthood, is defined to perfection. If the children go to a better school which requires the parents to be involved more and to connect with the teachers, this means more contact with other parents. The school can organize group flower planting in the school courtyard. Children need to get to know other children's parents, parents need to get closer to the teachers and other children, and, as a consequence, parents have to get closer to other parents. And there they are, planting flowers in the school courtyard together, hanging around with a wide smile on their faces, and communicating through general and predesigned conversations about children.

To make everything even weirder, there's these Americans. They've organized everything. Their consulate is somewhere in the neighborhood and they wanted to bond "with the local community" which is why they organized to plant flowers and this resulted in the parents hanging out together.

Some of these parents forget the unwritten rules during such occasions. Once they break one, they soon break all of them because they get so involved in the role of hyperparents. That's how some mums (as I've said, their probably perfectly nice women, interesting, great In bed, and up for a laugh) join hands in a small parent team which determines which one of them will stay in school in the afternoon after planting flowers and clean up the children's classroom. The school cleaning ladies namely don't do their job like properly, the windows are dirty, the desks are not clean enough, etc.

This is how some moms stay in school late on a Sunday afternoon. They scrub the floor, clean the windows (which is done mostly by maids in their own home), spray away with disinfectants in the classroom until their hair, which has already been affected by the planting, gets completely ruined and their mascara gets smeared by sweat and age.

They are moms and shock workers. They don't conform. Rules on strict avoidance of other parents are a thing of past now. This new ideology could suddenly make them a shock working team of parents not just hanging out but joining forces to enable their children the best possible conditions and upgrade their hyper parent character with inter-parental team activism.

The thorough all day cleaning after planting flowers is no small thing. There's not much collateral damage in this case: lunch isn't ready, the weekend is ruined, psychic problems shown during cleaning have been given a new sanitation room, and instead of decent parents-citizens we have gotten activist hyperparents and members of the bourgeoisie.

It's interesting that the latter, with their desired parent role, often harass the nursery or school staff in a sadistic way. Maybe nothing is a coincidence and everything is seemingly connected. It's seems like no coincidence that moms-planters agree on their criticism towards the school cleaning ladies. At this point things can get more drastic.

The group of now moms-cleaning ladies rules over the classroom during a parent meeting in an ideological and political manner. This is based on historic events and not hypothetical models. A parent meeting changes into an endless session where parents compete in naming school and classroom problems and in seeking a common solution to the problems. There's no detail not worth mentioning, no performance changing into a lengthy speech, the introductory speech of the mommy who is the parent representative in the school board takes up more than half an hour alone.

There is long discussion about the quality of water in the school and the possibility of having a pool in class. When an agreement has almost been reached, the mom-doctor raises her voice and uses her medical knowledge to explain all the dangers of water which has been čeft for a long time in a plastic balloon, not to mention the dangers of the children spilling this 10 liter balloon unintentionally while playing. The parent congregation is confused for a moment. The water problems seem unsolvable. No one knows what to say and the meeting is coming to an end. And then the sleepy community gets awakened by a new topic.

The question arises on the incompetence of the kitchen staff. It's about a cook, some children complain a lot about her being rude to them and even calling them names. You have to believe what children say because they are the epitomy of our ideal. No need to doubt the parents' decisiveness to protect their children. After all, parents are the epitomy of what unwritten middle class rules expect from them as hyperparents.

At first you can only hear a few but soon a majority of the parents wants the cook to be fired.

From the reduction to a parent role to a too intense performance of the role they've changed quickly into a group of vigilantes who would gladly have all the cooks and cleaning ladies making 2000 kunas a month fired (and then sit into their SUV and drive home with a clear conscience).

You need to watch your words. If I were shooting a movie on the rise of fascism, I'd start it with this sequence of a parent meeting or a similar one, with an unexpected attack in the school cleaning lady or cook. Parents are dangerous. This unstable mixture takes care of its own and the fulfillment of its own social role.

It's good for a community to hang out. It's nice to see how close gamblers are, even the closeness of drunks is touching. But when parents hang out, many ideas are crated from so many reduced people in one place.

 

Dragan Jurak (1967, Zagreb) is a film and literary critic and a recovered poet.

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