By Bernadette Bowman, Comedienne and LuxEco Advocate who writes the LIFE GOES RETROGRADE series.

It all started when I updated my Facebook status this past week.

Bernadette Bowman thinks that children should be carded at Starbucks.

This bold statement after witnessing an nine-year old boy, who I honestly mistook as a “little person” speaking in tongues, spouting the following in rapid-fire speed:

“Venti half-white-mocha-half-caff-vanilla, easy ice, with 3 shots, pour affogato (this means: to drown) with extra whip, and caramel drizzle frappuccino.”

Parents, it’s three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon:


Hayley! KayLeigh! Bailey!

Step AWAY from the caffeine!!

We’re blaming texting, computer games, and cell phones for the epidemic of childhood ADD in country?  Sorry, but I believe it has more to do with the fact that our kids are imbibing in daily caffeine as if it were water! So what if there’s a cute green straw involved?!

Did you know that a sixteen-ounce (and that’s the medium size or Grande in Sbuxspeak) Caramel Frappucino has three times the caffeine as a can of Coke or Pepsi? The least these kids should be coughing up at Starbucks is a signed permission/responsibility slip from their parents.

Look, I didn’t have my first cup of coffee until I was eighteen.  Although I will admit that my favorite flavor of ice cream at “Robins in Baskets” (say it sloooowly…’ll get it) was always Jamoca, even at the impressionable age of three when a single scoop cone cost ten cents.

And then I walked all the way home, ten miles in the snow … kidding … I was raised in San Diego.  Fat chance.

What continues to intrigue and perplex me, more than anything, is where these kids who are mainlining Venti Macchiatos are getting the funds for these five-dollar drinks.

When I was eleven years old, I got (if I didn’t blow it with a bad grade or relentless picking on my younger siblings) fifty cents a week for my allowance which meant that I could (secretly) buy some Pixy Stix, Jolly Rancher Sour Apple candies, an Abba Zabba and maybe a bag of puffy Cheetos. Or I saved up for another new Bonne Bell Lip Smacker (the Dr Pepper flavor – with the lanyard).

By contrast (or to compare and despair), if today’s kids are already indulging their Inner Overworked Frazzled Business People every day after school at five bucks a pop, that’s well over one hundred and fifty dollars a month, which means that they’re getting $37.50 a week for their allowance. And there are probably many “kidults” who are hitting up their favorite barista for extra whip and caramel drizzles before school….so … I ask …

Is it just me?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Indulgence, that’s what.

Or as my dear friend, Peter, so lovingly calls it: Under-parenting.

And why?

Because when your goal is to be BFFs with your kid, it’s your job indulge them!

Hey!! Cool!

That’s the real issue here – and I witness it every time I visit Target. Or Costco. Or any other family-friendly hot spot where children who have wheels on their sneakers are not only welcomed but encouraged to zip around like Gumby by Moms and Dads desperate to be their child’s “cool friends” instead of their parents.

Again, what is wrong with this picture?

Wait!  Wait!  I know!  I can see it from my seat in the balcony (in Section “J” for Judgmental).

Kids don’t need their parents to be their friends.  They need their parents to be – shriek – parents!  Friends let you be obnoxious and get away with things; parents don’t.

And color me cranky, but it has been proven that children not only want, but thrive on being given boundaries and consequences, AND they NEED THEM in order to become upstanding, good citizens of the world who don’t break the law and, even scarier, make everything all about them.

So, where did so many Baby Boomers misplace this piece of the puzzle?

And do NOT blame The Brady Bunch. I’ve witnessed plenty of consequences for those Brady kids when they screwed up (“Mom always said don’t play ball in the house”). Despite a usually happy ending to every episode, there was also a lesson. The exception being Greg’s surfing accident (and bad perm) in Hawaii – but that was a three-parter.

Why do we, as Baby Boomers who longed for the approval of our own parents, now obsess over getting the approval of our kids?

Obviously, I do not have children.  And this is not some kind of political statement. I honestly just forgot.  I was too busy DATING kids instead of having them, and all of a sudden, I realized that I was forty….ish, and it was too late.

But I have been around enough friends who do have them to see what works and what doesn’t. And guess what? Negotiating doesn’t.  Never has, never will … unless you’d like your child calling the shots, and since I never underestimate the brilliance of children and how sharp they are, this is a very slippery slope.  A little taste of power can be a dangerous thing. And I’ve witnessed this phenomenon at Target and Costco, too.

Okay, rant over. SCENE!

Breathe. Collect. Carry on….

All of this concern is coming from a truly sincere place.  I just became an aunt (for the first and probably only time) a few months ago. My sweet baby brother and his precious wife brought Baby Max into the world on May 8th, and I now have one more person in my life to be proud of, brag about, and one who is so deliciously adorable that I could eat him with a spoon.

So, where does my mind immediately go?

Picturing my nephew toddling into Starbucks on his second birthday, clutching his very own Starbucks card in his tiny little hands and ordering a triple shot espresso, straight up. With a nipple.

Even though Conway and Michelle promise me that this scenario will not happen, I worry.  What can I say?  When I see that gorgeous little bundle with a soul inside of him that is an empty slate and as good as new, this wave of what must be some sort of maternal instinct and protective energy comes over me.

I know (and thanks to this column, so do you) that I had these “mommy feelings” for my cat, Harry. If I didn’t, why would his every successful trip to the litter box have caused me fall to my knees thanking God with tears of joy streaming down my face, and promising to stop using “the f-word” forever?

But this latest maternal experience is an entirely different one. The moment I laid eyes on Max (and made his photo the screensaver on my cell phone), it felt as if I had finally taken my own (and very defensive) biological clock off of “snooze” mode, after nearly two decades of eye rolling over adults drooling (and annoying me) over the kids in their lives.

Not in that “oh-my-God-I-just-have-to-have-a-baby-right-now” way (lots of luck on that), but in that “can-I-please-borrow-this-baby’s-head-and-use-it-as-an-air-freshener-in-my-car?” sort of way.

And can someone please tell me what makes babies’ heads smell so good????

This same visceral maternal wave washed over me one other time in my life.

When I was twenty-five, dating a guy who actually had a job, and I was convinced that I just had to have a baby. NOW!

This feeling came and went in about two weeks. Soon after, I went on to become the devoted mother to two furry beasts with tails, whiskers, and attitude, who sassed me, didn’t clean their rooms, and basically let me know who was running the show.

So much for boundaries.  Guess I showed them.

But I loved my boys with the same passion, laughter, and tears that my Conway and Michelle will love their baby boy.

Love is love, after all.

But please, Max – lay off the frappuccinos for a few decades, will ya?

And please don’t ask Santa for a pair of those goofy wheely-sneakers.

All contents copyright © Life Goes Retrograde by Bernadette Bowman. All rights reserved. No part of this column or the related blogs may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author.


  1. Your most brilliant article to date!! Love it…amazing how you do that!

    Reminds me of my “Sav-On” story…might have shared this with you at one time…Remember the Sav-On store on Laurel Canyon? Rugrat ran down deodorant aisl…e with its arm fully extended & knocked every item onto the floor. Vitamin-enriched birkenstock mommy decided to “have a little discussion” with hell-child & while on her knees, explains why it was inappropriate behavior..Hell-child goes immediately to next aisle, extends arm and repeats its actions, this time involving hair products. “Reasoning with Rugrats” fails every time. Foot in ass more successful method of parenting in my book.

  2. Far be it from me to ‘compare and despair’ (is there a single human who doesn’t?) but this is your best blog ever. Why? Me thinks because you’ve mixed your passion with your humor. It’s funny with a bite. The fact that you’ve used your nephew for the Starbucks photo is deplorable, but I suppose all’s fair in narrative. Of course, I’m kidding. This is an insightful and inciteful piece of work, BB.

    Did you ever take James to the reunion, or did I miss a blog?


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