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So what if Smartmom ain’t so smart?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Smartmom is terrified. What if people find out what a bad mom she really is?

Will she be fired from the now-Murdoch-owned Brooklyn Paper? Will Dumb Editor accuse her of being a hoaxer? Will her readers finally stop reading?

Well, it’s not like she’s a really bad mom. It’s just that, as you know, she has this job writing a column called “Smartmom.” Which might lead people to believe that she’s smart about being a mom.

And maybe she is. Sometimes.

All of this came to mind the other night, when the Oh So Feisty One and Smartmom went to see the fluffy and fun, “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” about a college graduate named Rebecca Bloomwood, who writes a popular column in Successful Saving Magazine called “The Girl in the Green Scarf” about the economic perils of debt and instant gratification.

But Rebecca has a secret: She has $16,000 on her credit cards because of her incorrigible need to splurge on Christian Louboutin heels, knee-high red Pucci boots and a glittery array of designer handbags.

Smartmom could relate.

No, Smartmom isn’t a compulsive shopper (if anything, she pathologically hoards boxes of Amy’s frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese in the freezer).

And she truly is a mom; her children really are 12 and 17. And believe it or not, everything she writes in these columns is true — if sometimes amplified a bit.

But it’s the mistakes, the constant parenting mistakes, that lead her to wonder what she’s doing with her byline on a column named “Smartmom.”

It all goes back to that fateful day at the now-defunct 10th Street Tea Lounge, when Dumb Editor offered her the promise of fame and fortune as a Brooklyn Paper columnist.

During that hyperactive interview, Smartmom never pretended to be a great mom or anything.

She told Dumb Editor that she and Hepcat were just muddling through.

She didn’t soup up her resume to include degrees in early childhood education or psychology.

She explained to Dumb Editor that the column would not be portrait of successful parenting. Quite the contrary: Smartmom and Hepcat were making every mistake in the book — and their kids were thriving anyway.

He seemed to be OK with that. Something about Smartmom being the “everywoman, struggling with career, family, volunteer work, fame, need, anxiety, etc.” Smartmom recalls Dumb Editor being a bit more eloquent, but you get the idea.

Still, sometimes Smartmom wonders if the parenting police are going to come after her for all the big ticket mistakes she’s makes on a regular basis. The cops will be like Derek Smeath, the debt collector in “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” Like Smeath, the parenting cops could really have a field day with Smartmom’s recent transgressions:

• Smartmom actually likes those shorty-shorts that OSFO wears with the Aeropostale logo on the butt. She even allows her to wear them. But maybe that’s not such bad parenting after all. Smartmom believes in letting OSFO define her own style and be herself, which is actually good parenting (phew). Goodbye, 1970s-era feminist values. Hello, healthy self-esteem.

• Smartmom actually let Teen Spirit order a mushroom and onion hamburger from the Purity with extra BBQ sauce when he was hungry at 11 pm after missing dinner at 7 pm. Yeah, she knows, she’s reinforcing one bad behavior with another. But a boy’s gotta eat.

• She even knows that Teen Spirit is a smoker, but she doesn’t know what to do about it. It brings her pain and anguish especially since her father died of cancer. It’s not that she doesn’t talk to him about it all the time. But what’s a mom to do?

The mistakes that Smartmom makes are all over the map and she’s the first to admit them. There was the time she let Teen Spirit miss a day of school because he thought he needed a “mental health day.” Or when she encouraged OSFO and a pal to watch “Slumdog Millionaire,” forgetting just how dark and sad that movie can be.

And who can forget the time she went to the Grand Cascades, that hotel in New Jersey with OSFO and neglected to bring a first-aid kit and basics like children’s chewable Motrin?

And there’s more. She and Hepcat could be firmer in the discipline department. They could say “no” far more often. They could worship their children a little less.

Indeed, they are guilty of just about all the sins of contemporary parenting over-attachment, enmeshment, and too high an opinion of their spawn (a word Wise Gal would use).

So maybe there’s a lesson in all this. The fictional column, “The Girl in the Green Scarf,” struck a chord with her “readers” — even though it was written by a chronic over-spender.

In the same way, Smartmom strikes a chord with the readers of The Brooklyn Paper precisely because she’s not perfect and knows she doesn’t do the parenting thing that well.

Maybe the imperfection allows the readers to recognize parts of themselves in her, which enables them to empathize a bit. Smartmom discusses universal concepts and no matter how she deals with them, people can learn a thing or two about what they’re doing right — and wrong. They can sit back, relax and realize that maybe, just maybe, everything’s going to turn out alright.

Not a bad trick. Anyone want to make a movie?

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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Reader Feedback

Pam from WT says:
Ease up Smartmom! There is only one living person in the whole world who truly qualifies as an expert in anything and that is ...(drumroll)
Sully (of Hudson River fame.)
March 20, 2009, 2:22 am
Rocky from South Brooklyn says:
This fits:
http://www.slate.com/id/2213740/
March 20, 2009, 2:26 pm
jill from park slope says:
you just wrote a column about why your column is so good? Seriously?
March 20, 2009, 3:11 pm
Jaxxi from South Brooklyn says:
jill from park slope says: "you just wrote a column about why your column is so good? Seriously?"

Look, this is hardly "I Gotta Be Me" or "I Did It My Way." The way I read it, she listed a columnful of personal flaws and mistakes plus self-doubt, and said "maybe" there's a lesson, and "maybe" you don't have to be a perfect parent in order to write a parenting column.

Sheesh - even "Smartmom strikes a chord [w/readers]" doesn't necessarily read as "whoopee, ain't I great?" ... since it's about flaws eliciting some reaction.
March 20, 2009, 11:36 pm

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