In Defense Of Kate Gosselin (Well, Sort Of)

Alright, that's it. I'm actually starting to feel bad for the Gosselins. *A little*.

And believe me, that's saying something. It was just a few short weeks ago that I reprimanded them for continuing on with their show in the face of what I shall gently and tactfully refer to as, ahem, marital dischord, and in the process publicly putting their children through the emotional ringer (among other notable ringers!). Believe me, I understand that there are all sorts of reasons the Gosselins should not be doing what they are doing relative to their TLC show. Those reasons may in fact be too numerous to list at this point, multiplying daily as they are (refer to the post linked above -- I do a fair job of hitting the highlights, I think). There's very little that I think could reasonably justify continuing on with their series as they have, and I have a difficult time understanding how, as parents, they get up every day and allow the obvious dysfunction and turmoil in their household to be documented and broadcast to millions. It's a legacy their children will doubtless spend the rest of their lives grappling with and living down. I get that. I do.

HOWEVER.

This? This here is just the sort of thing that would make me stop dead in my self-righteous tracks and question myself, though the intention of those who cobbled this infotainment clip together was clearly NOT to elicit sympathy. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kate Gosselin: (alleged) Child Beater ( I SAID ALLEGED!!!!)

There are so many things wrong with that "piece of journalism" I don't even know where to begin.

Let me start by admitting for the record that I am anti-corporal punishment. Staunchly so. I was raised, as many people born in the 60s and 70s were, in a home that still deployed "spankings" involving the use of inanimate objects as a legitimate form of parental discipline (I of course do realize people still spank their kids, but it seems to me that prior to the 1980s the culture, generally speaking, had a much more permissive attitude about the matter of smacking one's kids around). During that era corporal punishment was, if not outright expected, certainly widely tolerated, viewed as one tool among the many available to parents for correction, punishment, and altering childrens' behavior. Raised in that environment -- with parents who I believe thought they were doing what they were supposed to, had to, what was expected of them at the time -- I know first-hand how damaging corporal punishment can be. To the parents, to the child, and to their relationship. That is my experience -- I don't claim it to be everyone's, but I claim it as my own, and because of that I vowed at a very early age that I would never, ever, under any circumstances, hit my own child if I had one. And I haven't. My daughter is six years old, and has lived those six years blissfully ignorant of what it's like to have the people you love and trust most in the world raise their hands to you and strike you -- knowledge I have, and will never be able to erase.

But oh god, has it been HARD.

Kate Plus 8 enjoys a sunshine vacation without her husband Jon

And this is the truth, the truth that many parents will never allow themselves to utter aloud, even to close confidants. That we parents are human, and flawed, and can be pushed and pressed so hard and relentlessly by our adult lives -- and yes, the relentless needs and wants and psychotic tantrums of our very beloved children -- that we may find ourselves tempted to do, or even doing, something akin to what those photographs of Kate Gosselin depict. Which, and please correct me if I'm wrong here, appears to NOT be beating her daughter vigorously with a belt, but rather giving her a swat on the behind in a frazzled, breaking-point moment. I'M NOT SAYING THAT IT'S RIGHT. But what I am saying is that I can understand it, that I empathize. And I can empathize with her and understand it because in spite of my deeply embedded and strongly held beliefs about the issue of corporal punishment, I confess that I have had to very nearly physically restrain myself at times in the past to keep myself from doing almost precisely what Kate Gosselin is seen doing on this week's cover of In Touch Weekly. And, thank god, if ever I had that low moment it wouldn't be splashed in glossy technicolor on the cover of freaking In Touch Weekly. Man alive, can you even imagine having to live with that? I can't. I'm glad I can't.

And so despite not thinking much of Kate Gosselin, and being genuinely disturbed by what can only be described as her shameless familial exhibitionism, AND having strong negative regard for corporal punishment generally, I find myself, inexplicably, feeling for the woman in this instance. Perhaps it's a there but by the grace of God go I sort of thing, a recognition of our sameness, of the difficulties of childrearing that we all share, manifesting in a sense of kinship with any parent glimpsed in that moment when, despite the best intentions and great parental love, they -- as we all must at one time or other -- fall apart, crumble, go to pieces. Because God knows I've crumbled. Hell, I've been that scary woman you've seen rushing out of Target dragging a bloody-murder-screaming two-year-old by the arm behind her with an expression of barely contained rage on her face. I've been the woman you've heard snap discomfortingly at her child in a public place and thought to yourself, "Gee, I would've handled that differently." And you know what? I would have handled it differently too, had I not been sleep deprived and exhausted and had my patience worn thin by my daughter's skull-crushing three-tantrums-per-hour, every hour, schedule. I love my daughter, and I would never hurt her. Just like all of you love your children and would never want to hurt them. But we're lying to ourselves and each other if we deny we haven't at one time or other been, or at least come dangerously close to being, the parent scrutinized and judged in those photos.

Of course what's also true here is that the Gosselins signed up for this. They signed up to have their lives documented and detailed and made absurdly public, and of course that documenting should be expected to include their rock-bottom lowest moments, greatest mistakes, and biggest regrets. But perhaps this event doesn't fall into that category for Kate Gosselin anyway. Of the incident, she said: “I love my children and when they misbehave, I discipline them as I deem appropriate for the situation.” And that may indeed be how she feels, or it may be public justification for an out-of-control moment. In either case, I find that I'm increasingly unsettled by the media's microscopic scrutinizing of the Gosselins' parenting, invited or not. Under the constant pressure of a gigantic spotlight and the glassy, dead-eye gaze of a television camera, I can't help but wonder how well the parenting that any of us do would fare.

. . . . .
Tracey, aka Sweetney, writes about Pop Culture & Entertainment at MamaPop, and unlike just about everyone else on planet earth, has absolutely no desire to be on TV. [shudder]

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