When I was growing up, my family had an empty Arrowhead water jug that we would fill up with spare change. And when I say “we” I mean my parents, given I was too young to participate in the ways of the money world, aside from, you know, benefiting from it changing hands on my behalf. After a year or so, maybe more, the opening of its narrow neck would be brimming with pennies, nickels, dimes, and a dozen cherished quarters. It was then, and only then, that we were able to take a trip to Disneyland, having scraped together the $100 it cost to treat a family of four to a few rides on Splash Mountain in the late ‘80s. Still, the bottle never provided enough to eat on site. Those funnel cakes with coagulated preserves and powdered sugar weren’t in the budget, and the fancy restaurant we snaked past while riding The Pirates of the Caribbean was completely out of the question. And so, at lunchtime, we would walk back to our RV in the parking lot and eat sandwiches my mom made and drink from cans of soda kept in a Coleman cooler.
My childhood, for the most part, looked very much like this. Summer camp was paid for, unconditionally, via my dad’s bartering. A few lawnmowers and chainsaws provided my brother and I with a couple days a week at Camp Whatever-It’s-Called. The same went for my two years of private elementary school. We didn’t go out to eat very often, save for the post-baseball game splurges at Chile’s, where my mom would drink bottomless Diet Cokes until her hands shook.
As an adult, my life has changed quite a bit, with the opportunities my parents provided for me with their own sacrifices having opened up a different, more moneyed world. Still, my rather stringent, though no less wonderful, childhood has scored in me a deep sense of responsibility and an abhorrence of spoiling.
That’s why when I came across a post in mom blog NYC Taught Me titled “Mother Daughter Weekend: The Carlyle Hotel,” I balked. The hotel had apparently asked her to review their “Sophie Experience” package, based on a book I have never heard of that must be popular enough to merit such an expense (the “Sophie Experience” clocks in at $540 per night accommodation for two, the “Super Sophie Experience” takes things up a notch for $835). There, they ate cupcakes, took bubble baths, painted toenails, played air guitar. Pretty much everything I liked to do as a child, only in a tony space with white bathrobes and stately writing desks.
Given that Sharon Beesley, the blogger behind NYC Taught Me, didn’t actually pay for this trip, I couldn’t fault her for its lavishness. Who wouldn’t want to spend the weekend at the Carlyle gratis? My problem is perhaps this era of too-precious, too-pretty blogs, a sort of lifestyle porn that comes with the unstated expectation that your life should look a certain way — all roses and petunias, ribbons and rainbows – when, for most people, this is absolutely not the case. Where are the blogs that make parenting look real? Where are the scraped knees, the tantrums, the kids outgrowing their small bedrooms, the reheated leftovers, the Arrowhead bottles filled with loose change? — Jenny Bahn