Glorified Child Abuse

Or, “Why My Blog Was Born.”

When my children were six months old, a commercial producer saw their pictures on my brother’s desk at work and thought they had potential. He said Jacob and Zachary’s big bald heads, expressive eyes, and winning smiles would be perfect for ads involving baby food and diapers.

“We’ll take a few pictures, put them in the background during infomercials and before long,” the producer said, “Jake and Zach will be earning more than me.”

I looked at my babies and wondered if the producer was smoking crack. Sure, I thought they were the most adorable kids in the world. But did this guy in his expensive suit really believe two six month-olds, who drooled on themselves and were already giving me attitude, would be able to smile on cue and draw a salary?

I didn’t have to think about it.

“No thanks,” I said.

“Why?” he asked. “We’re just talking about a few pictures.”

“It’s a slippery slope.” I shook my head. “Today we’re talking about pictures and tomorrow my boys will be selling sex tapes online to bankroll a meth addiction.”

The producer was frustrated. “These pictures could pay for their college tuition.”

“That’s my job,” I said. “That’s Marc’s job. And if we’re broke, they can always work in a bar like I did, making customers bark for body shots.”

The producer didn’t mean to set me off, but I had long been convinced that putting children in front of cameras is glorified child abuse. Shows featuring kids trying to win the Little League World Series or spell words correctly in a spelling bee are so unhealthy for the children involved that the parents and organizers should be brought up on charges. Even commercials featuring kids smiling next to a bottle of butt paste while their parents talk about ass rash should be kept as a defense for future murder trials.

Exposure doesn’t come by itself. When a child is faced with scrutiny, applause and the flash of cameras, all that attention and pressure can be overwhelming. Adults have a hard time dealing with high levels of adulation, what makes us think our children can handle it?

Parents – please stop this nonsense. I’d love to meet the mom who says no to Ellen.

If we raised a stink and stopped allowing our children to participate in any activity that takes place in front of cameras and microphones, adults would eventually find their entertainment elsewhere. Maybe watch porn, like the good old days.

Such public pressure could lead to a healthier society, one that is safer for kids.

My boys are growing up in an age where youth is a commodity to be marketed, and mistakes are forever available on YouTube. This scares the shit out of me. Does anyone think child stars end up okay? Then why are we condoning it?
Lots of moms and dads pretend their children are the ones who crave the spotlight and they are simply helping their kids live out some dreams. They’re being supportive.


How did the children come to crave that kind of spotlight in the first place? Perhaps it has something to do with parking them in front of the television or computer and bombarding them with image after image until the kids believe that they, too, can rock it like the twelve year-old sexpot in Sia videos.

I said no to the first offer.

Then, years later, I received another offer. This one, I thought about.

You see, my literary agent really loved my parenting guide. She loved it so much she thought the best way to get it published was for me and my family to audition for a reality television program.

Hear that? Several dozen people who’ve seen my hair in the morning just laughed out loud all at once.

I wanted to see my guide turned into a real book, these are precious stories to me that I worked hard to produce, but I couldn’t justify pimping out my kids – we aren’t allowed to get what we want if the price is paid by someone else.

“No thanks,” I said.

Now I need a new agent.

Some people would say that turning my guide into a blog, writing syndicated columns and building an audience on my own is just as bad. After all, I’m writing about my family, the ups and downs of this parenting adventure, naming names. And getting paid for it.

Perhaps, but my boys are no longer babies. I’m selective about the stories I share, believe it or not, and this guide is meant to help rather than harm.

My sons are still relatively anonymous. They aren’t being photographed in a dance club, snorting coke off a hooker’s ass. Not until maybe grad school.

As it should be.

Put the cameras and microphones away, everyone. And keep reading.