The XX Factor

The Parody Twitter Account That Gets 21st-Century Progressive Parenting Pretty Right

Los Feliz Day Care does not accept immunized children. One of its classrooms is called the “Ohm Sweet Ohm” room. Please don’t use the word teacher at LFDC; the school prefers “emotional/spiritual/ethical guides as your children explore the cosmos of independent learning.”

Los Feliz Day Care also is not real. It’s the Twitter handle of a 27-year-old Los Angeles–based comedy writer named Jason Shapiro, who is a script coordinator on the ABC show Cristela and was a writer on the Betty White show Off Their Rockers. Shapiro’s not a parent himself, but a lot of his co-workers are, and his girlfriend is getting her Ph.D. in education. That’s how he gets some of the really funny, well-observed details about the fictional Los Feliz Day Care—like the tweet about allowing princess costumes only if they’re “okayed in advance” and everyone (girls, boys, teachers, and helpers) gets one.

In real life, a recent Los Angeles Times look at kindergarten vaccine data showed that wealthy California communities, like the trendy Los Feliz neighborhood, are leading the pack in “personal belief vaccine exemptions.” (More than 21 percent of kindergarteners at the very real Los Feliz Charter School of the Arts have personal belief exemptions from their vaccines.) In fact, @LosFelizDayCare is so believable that many readers don’t realize it is satire at first. “I had a state regulator in Indiana reach out to me because she thought the regulations sounded very different from state to state and she wanted to learn more,” Shapiro said in a phone call.

There are two parts of the current culture of parenting that Shapiro says he’s sending up. One is the fact that some parents are treating their children as props, dressing them like tiny fashionable adults (“We’re still sorting out Friday’s unfortunate fedora tossing incident”) and indoctrinating them with stylish adult tastes (“The kids don’t seem to care about Taylor Swift’s new album, but don’t get them started on the new Flaming Lips and Ting Tings. STRONG views”). As Shapiro puts it, “If the kids are wearing cool Lou Reed T-shirts and little spiky mohawks, that’s an extension of the moms and dads,” and their tastes.

The other part of what Shapiro is parodying is our particular mode of risk management. Modern parents are much more risk-averse than their parents were, as Hanna Rosin and I showed in a survey we did of Slate readers earlier this year. That risk-aversion shows up in the obsessive monitoring of food and allergies (@LosFelizDayCare is littered with jokes about “raw, living water,” goat yogurt, and hypoallergenic binkies), and also an insane level of emotional coddling. For example: “New parents: please do not dress your children in the color red. We feel that its energy is too violent for our community.”

Though this kind of parenting is obviously concentrated on the coasts, Shapiro, who is from Minnesota originally, says he thinks a lot of the principles are pretty common among middle-class parents all over the country. I’d have to agree. One of my pet peeves is moms on Pinterest from all over who dress their toddlers in circle scarves, elaborate fishtail braids, and motorcycle boots. You know those kids are just going to tear their braids out and get mud all over their scarves about five minutes after those artfully arranged photographs are taken. But Shapiro doesn’t seem as annoyed as I am and insists that his satire comes from a place of “love and understanding.” It’s just “too much fun” to ignore all the ridiculousness of 21st-century parenting, especially yoonique baby names like Pixel and Anais.