Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


Be Fruitful and Multiply

DrawingYou are not what

you own." That

bumper sticker, on

the rusted fender of an old Volvo, hit

me between the eyes as I walked to

the last of five baby showers, (yes, five)

for a friend who was being fruitful and

multiplying. I wanted to scratch out the

sweet nothing I'd written on her gift card and scribble instead, "You are not what you have." I was sick of

buying her presents, anyway.


This is not a condemnation of my pregnant friend, or of children, but an observation on

the latest out-of-control trend in excess among people who can afford excess. The adoration of

rich offspring has become an industry in itself, with enablers galore who seductively feed the

addictions of the acquisitive. What I see more often than not, though, is little "Madison" or

"Jacob" at their birthday party, sitting in the corner with their imported nanny, who is called

their "caregiver," but who in fact is actually raising them. They look across the tables of catered food,

and piles of presents, at Mom and Dad, wanting only some love from them. "Mom, I don't want a

Louis Vuitton backpack for school" a 12 year-old daughter shrieks at her mother with me in the

room. "I told you! I want LL Bean! Can't I please just have what I want?" The mother fumes to

me, "She's so ungrateful. What do I do?" I look at the cool but unwanted article in question and

volunteer, "I'll take it."


But here's the thing, and you don't have to be a parent to get this: children are not a means to

an end. They are the whole package, with unique personalities and needs and wants. They are not

status symbols, a social advantage, an excuse to work the other parents on the sideline at soccer

games or a reflection of your power - or lack thereof - because you could, or could not, get

them into the school that you felt would most advance your business and social

ambitions. If you indulge them enough, they will become like the eighth grader who, when admonished by a teacher

in science class for calling another student a word he shouldn't have, shouted back: "You can't tell me

what to do. My father paid for this science lab!"


I could fill pages about clothes, allowances, cars and other perks, but it's the "right school" phenomenon

that most spirals out of control in this town.


Another true-life moment: the "Smiths" have three lovely children - two older girls and a

younger boy. They are attractive, interesting, lively and loving young people. Any parent would be

proud. But little Gregory Smith didn't make the cut at a lofty local boys school last spring, and the

father said to us, "I can't help it. I'm so damned mad at him. I know I shouldn't be, but I am.

I actually can't speak to him." I asked my dear husband with the two law degrees, "Would I go

to jail if I kidnapped Gregory?"


Funny that soon after, my dinner partner was the headmaster of that same school, where the

application rate is fifteen to one. Perhaps because I am without children in the pipeline, he felt

comfortable to let down his guard. "You wouldn't believe the admissions process," he spilled. "The

degree of coercion, manipulation and influence peddling that goes on would get an elected official

thrown out of office." I asked him to what ends will a desperate but well-connected parent go?

"Would you believe we get letters from Supreme Court justices recommending nine year-olds for

our fourth grade?"


Mention the words "Bar" or "Bat Mitzvah" to managers of our bigger hotels, and you will hit

the jackpot of parental indulgence. The cost can start at half a million. At a recent Four Seasons

Bar Mitzvah, when the big band was momentarily hushed and the hired Redskins and Wizards

stepped aside, and the grown-ups in black-tie and ball gowns took their seats, the father made a toast

to his son. "My dear boy, you should be grateful to your mother for your being here tonight, and not

only for the act of birth. Before I even laid eyes on you, she sent a message out with the nurse: Call

the Four Seasons immediately and book Saturday night for 13 years from now."

I say good luck, children, and you better hope the well doesn't run dry. WL


Readers wishing to get in touch with Michael can

email her at: mstrange@washingtonlife.com


 < Back


Home  |   Where To Find Us  |   Advertising  |   Privacy Policy  |   Site Map  |   Purchase Photos  |   About Us

Click here to go to the NEW Washington Life Magazine