We’re Raising a Nation of Incompetent Narcissists

Katy Perry’s version of Not Cool.

As Zach got up from the dentistry chair this afternoon, the orthodontist said, “You can take that off now, Zach.”

He was referring to Zach’s headgear, and I was surprised.  “He’s supposed to wear it all the time that he’s not playing sports, right?” I tried to confirm.

“Well, yes, but.,” and he trailed off.

“You’re good, Zach,” I said. ” You can keep it on.”

As we left the room, the assistant remarked, “He’s good.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, most kids won’t wear the gear out of the office.”

Zach went outside while I made our next appointment.  The receptionist remarked, “Wow.  He’s so confident.”

“What do you mean?” I asked again.

“Well, you used to see kids in headgear.  But not anymore.  None of them want to be seen with it on.”

Despite the fact that I write a parenting blog, I rarely dole out a bunch of advice.  I try to share stories and ask questions.  Today’s events, though, pushed me over the edge, and I’m feeling a little rant-y.

We are raising a nation of incompetent narcissists!  Precious little darlings, who can’t skin their knees or end a season without a trophy.    Future college applicants, who are reading by five and adding fractions by six, and who are nonetheless unable to tie their shoes or eat in a restaurant that doesn’t serve chicken tenders.  Four-foot consumers, who demand that their parents’ mini-van purchases meet all of their entertainment needs.

That’s not you, you protest.  Well, here’s a small screening that might help you decide if you’ve got a problem:

  1. If your five-year-old does not clean her room, you have a problem.
  2. If your ten-year-old does not do his own laundry because he’s too busy, you have a problem.
  3. If you decided to buy all the children in your home their own iPads so they won’t fight over one, you’ve gone insane.
  4. If your child is never the one who causes any of the problems at school, or on her team, or at the playground, you are deluded.
  5. If you won’t take a long car trip because your kids are nightmares in the car, your kids are nightmares.
  6. If you are wondering about the potential impact of your twelve-year-old’s service project on his college applications, you are a nightmare.
  7. If you let your child take off his headgear to drive from the orthodontist to your house, you are raising an incompetent narcissist.

Anyone who knows me knows that I struggle with much of this list, so I really do understand.  But we can’t just give in.  When an entire generation’s headgear goes underground, something is not right.

Zach cried when I told him he had to wear his headgear to the park or stay in the house.  And for two days, he chose to stay inside.  But on the third day, he relented and went to the park, where, to his great surprise, the world did not end.

He cried last week when I made him wear the headgear to the Museum of Fine Arts.  He buried his face in my back on the walk from the garage to the museum, but then he got over himself and forgot he was wearing it.

He may still turn out to be an incompetent narcissist, but it won’t be because I agreed with him that his image mattered more than the money and time I was spending to help fix his teeth.  And it won’t be because I gave in to his tears and tried to protect him from all bad feelings.

We may have to swim upstream for a while. but we can do better, folks.  No one wants to see a headgear-less generation run the world.

About Tara Edelschick

Right now, Tara is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is sleeping more, and exercising and flossing every day for the first time in her life. She is enjoying her husband, her boys, and Nafisa (the daughter she never had) more than she ever has. And she is learning to rest in the arms of the one who doesn't rank you based on how many things you can cross off your list at the end of the day. Follow her on Twitter@TaraWonders.

  • Pshaw

    My questions would be these: do the kids who don’t wear the headgear end up with straight teeth as well? Does it cause a more lengthy treatment? Does it cost more money? If the answers are yes, no and no, in that order, this is not a battle I would fight. There were many, many instances in raising three boys that required towing the line. I would gauge the consequences (as I would want them to do in adulthood) and balance whether it really makes a difference or not. And if it doesn’t, that dentist should stop making rules for treatment that he does not actually expect to be followed! If it’s important, SAY it and EXPECT it to be done. If it’s not important, stop setting it up as the standard.

    • Tara Edelschick

      You’re right here, on so many counts. As for your questions: The headgear corrects a bite that left untreated will wear away his teeth. (His current bite also makes it hard for him to chew his food without it spilling out of his mouth.) We pay a flat fee, but the length of treatment is directly related to how much time he spends in the gear each day. So letting him only wear it when he wants to would result in me spending extra months (and gas money and parking meter fees) taking him back and forth to the orthodontist.

  • michael

    I really appriciate the article. If we are a nation of incompetent narcissists we can thank Wal-Mart for also making us a consumer nation as since so little hard or manual labor is done in this country. It would be great to include training in these areas of the modern business world in America. But…in Asia the schools teach wushu (washing) for stronger bodies and minds. George Washington hemp farmer would have approved.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I find this article ironic. Children are worried about their image so much that they can’t find time to repair that same image?

  • PS158

    No one wants to see a generation of homeschooled children rule the world either. Look in the mirror.


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