Mama Madison: Watching celebrity culture

Stress relief, with covert parenting messages

Every parent has his or her "something"; that secret, little vice that gives them a welcome diversion from everyday life. Fortunately, my break from reality is legal, involves "reality TV," and is surreptitiously smuggled home in a grocery bag. I am hopeless gossip magazine addict. To me Star and US Weekly are a whole lot more than just OK!; I think they're pretty darn fabulous. While some might say this hobby is the epitome of lowbrow, I prefer to think of it as putting an "Enquiring" mind to work. Just last month the University of Chicago hosted an academic conference on Jersey Shore; I guess I'm not the only one who's heard of a Homer beyond Simpson that finds celebrity culture engaging.

But even if you're one of those high-minded types who never reads this stuff, you are probably familiar with last week's big cover stories. Jessica Simpson isn't just getting a bit zaftig (again)--she's due sometime early 2012. And Kim Kardashian, 72 days after a spectacularly televised 10 million dollar wedding, is filing for divorce. And the biggest shocker of the week (especially if you are an 11-year-old girl)? A 20-year-old woman has filed a suit claiming that her infant son is the product of a 30-second bathroom tryst with teen idol Justin Bieber. It brings a whole new meaning to that "Baby" song of his, no?

For gossip junkies like me last week was like Christmas in July (or at least November). But it did give me a "stop and think" as a parent.

Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be pop stars. Because I think watching your child's most private moments played out across the end-aisle displays at Copps would be absolutely heartbreaking.

I'm sure Mrs. Simpson got a thrill the first time she heard her daughter sing at church and probably encouraged her to develop her vocal skills. But one divorce, several failed romances and countless pairs of publicly strutted Daisy Dukes later, I wonder if her mom wishes she'd stayed true to her gospel roots. I can't imagine it is fun to see your daughter referred to as "sexual napalm" in the media.

Mrs. Kardashian (or should I say Jenner?) seems to revel in her daughter's fame and excess. She is huge part of urging us to Keep up with the Kardashians, yet says, "It's a tough time for Kim and everybody involved," (referring to Kim's failed marriage). Maybe if she hadn't encouraged her daughter to exploit her private life for the camera, things may have turned out differently.

And all this hoopla must be very painful for Mrs. Bieber. She was a teenage, single mom herself and raised her super star son in low income housing in Ontario. Sure the pop star's so-called baby mama may very well be proven a liar via DNA. But it's still got to be rough on Justin's mom knowing this woman's baby may be subject to the same financial struggles she and her son weathered early in his life.

I'm by no means saying that parents shouldn't let their kids follow their dreams. But I am saying that following them onto the stage of a local theater production might be a better option than onto the front page of Perez Hilton.

With excellent programs like Playtime Productions, now celebrating it's 25th year of quality theater for children, by children, your kid can get all the benefits that come from being on stage without all the pain of being a stage mom. Or if your kid wants to sing, let 'em join Madison Youth Choirs. It is possible to learn all about the beauty of choral music without turning your child into the next Rebecca Black. Think of all the You Tube ridicule that girl got--I don't know how her parents slept at night.

I am sure I will continue to be sickly fascinated by the trials and tribulations of the airbrushed faces I see across those glossy covers and Internet sites. But I will try to be a little more sensitive to the fact that these people are somebody's babies.

And I will be really glad they are not mine. Parenthood is hard enough without the paparazzi.

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