David Beckham is in the spotlight for allowing his 4-year-old daughter, Harper, to use a pacifier. (Photo: Getty Images)
Say what you will about his marriage or his lavish lifestyle. But criticize David Beckham’s parenting choices and he will fire back. The married father-of-four spoke out on Instagram on Monday after photos emerged of his 4-year-old daughter, Harper, using a pacifier.
Beckham posted a screenshot of the Daily Mail story that kick-started the controversy for his 10 million Instagram followers. He captioned it, “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent…”
On Sunday, the paper ran a story titled “Why does Harper, four, still use a dummy?” (the British word for pacifier) and posted a photo of the little girl wearing a pink sundress and sucking a pacifier while walking with her father. “Isn’t she a bit old?” the paper asked. In the story, “parenting experts” pontificated about whether Harper had a condition called “last child syndrome” and questioned whether Beckham and wife, Victoria, were reluctant to allow their daughter to grow up. They warned of pacifier-related afflictions like delayed language development and tooth damage.
“It is an easy option for parents, because if you give them a dummy they shut up and are quiet. It’s the same as giving them an iPad really,” commented a “concerned” expert. And the paper ran several photos of Harper with her pacifier, taken since the girl was three.
The Daily Mail posted an article wondering whether David and Victoria Beckham wouldn’t allow their 4-year-old daughter, Harper, to grow up, since she still uses a pacifier. (Photo: Instagram/David Beckham)
Women have long been been victims of “mommy shaming” as part of the “mommy wars,” a decades-long face-off between working and stay-at-home mothers that’s evolved into a lifestyle blood sport involving birth, feeding, child rearing, and education choices. It’s a phenomenon that, in the media, routinely pits women against each other while ignoring the underlying issues: lack of subsidized daycare, inflexible workplace policies and, at heart, a society that doesn’t support families.
Daddy shaming is a more recent concept, partly triggered by the emergence of male primary caregivers — the Pew Research Center reports that the number of fathers who stay home with their children has doubled since 1989 — and the rise in paid paternity leave. And celebrities, from Ryan Reynolds to Mayim Bialik, aren’t immune to judgment. As Reese Witherspoon told Southern Living magazine on Monday, “No one’s really doing it perfectly. I think you love your kids with your whole heart, and you do the best you possibly can.”
Ultimately, David Beckham, like all parents, will continue doing what he and his wife believe is best for their children. As for Harper? After spending the past few months sitting front row at Fashion Week, she was reportedly offered $45 million in modeling contracts. She just celebrated her fourth birthday with a Cinderella-themed bash. Her parents donated her hand-me-downs to a London charity (her designer clothing sold out in just 40 minutes), and her dad commemorated his daughter with a new tattoo.
She’ll be just fine.