Alex McCord and Simon Van Kempen have been getting flack for their parenting style since season one of “The Real Housewives of New York City.” First there was the time their sons, Francois and Johan, misbehaved at a fancy dinner. They climbed on and under the table and even ate from a guest’s plate. Then, this season Francois was caught on tape climbing a stranger’s leg, which sparked controversy between Alex and Jill Zarin and LuAnn De Lesseps, who ridiculed Alex for his behavior. So it came as a shock when she and Simon inked a parenting book deal.
But a day before Alex and Simon’s book, Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City (With Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle), is released, Alex is making headlines less for her unique parenting style, but more for her admission of drinking while pregnant. According to Gatecrasher, Alex writes in the first chapter, “Throughout my pregnancy, I gave into every craving I felt. When I wanted to have a drink, I did.” She even admits to sipping some bubbly while in labor with Francois while Simon was bringing her to the hospital.
Now before you jump on the how-could-she bandwagon, realize that about 30 years ago imbibing while pregnant wasn’t the big taboo it is today. My own mother admitted to drinking red wine every so often while pregnant with me. She said doctors were more afraid the mother would get drunk, fall, and injure the baby, rather than of the alcohol itself causing physical damage to the baby. I turned out fine without any developmental issues, but I suspect she wouldn’t have gone harder than wine.
Maybe Alex had this old-school philosophy in her head when she was preggers. One thing is for sure, her and Simon’s approach to parenting is quite new school. Here are some other nuggets.
In a Q&A with Parenting.com, Simon said that he and Alex aren’t overprotective parents and “we have never been one to block the stairs.” I took this to mean that they allow their sons to experience the cuts, bumps, and bruises that come along with childhood. Children need disease and bacteria experience in order to build up defenses. Yet some parents would rather sterilize everything in their child’s path or have them floating around in a sterile bubble. This isn’t to argue that kids shouldn’t be protected from serious diseases, but they do have to learn to fall down and get back up. In some instances it’s the parents’ job to treat the ailment rather than provide preventative care. Let’s not forget that many of us ’80s babies sucked on toys covered in lead paint from time to time.
Another of Alex’s parenting rules is: Don’t condescend to your children. After the first season, she was applauded and criticized for explaining the meaning of cancer to Francois after her stepfather died. I agree that this was the best approach to the situation. Although Alex cautions against treating children like mini-adults, you also can’t “be all mushy and treat them like idiots,” she said to Parenting.com. I too experienced the death of a loved one when I was about 7 years old. Before my godfather died, my mom explained his illness to me in terms that I could understand. Our chats not only prepared me for his inevitable passing, but I was also able to cherish the few moments I had with him while he was still alive.
And on a similar note to Alex’s rule, nothing annoys me more than when I hear a kid ask a question and an adult dismisses the child or gives an overly simple answer. Yet I realize you should only allow children to make the decisions that are age-appropriate for them to make. This means not asking your child if she wants to behave, but demanding she do so.
Although my ideas on child-rearing are based on my observations and experiences from my own childhood and not on the experience of being a parent, I don’t think Alex and Simon are that far off in their parenting style. I’m excited to read their book, which is reportedly written in a humorous and down-to-earth way.