Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parenting: March Issue

Here we are, with another issue of Parenting in its new, weird design. Something new from last issue is the new “Modern Parent Handbook,” a series of five or so small sidebars that appear throughout the magazine. Last issue, though a “Modern Parent Handbook” was promised on the cover, it referred only to a few articles on “useful” topics. This month, there were dedicated sidebars all on the subject of Etiquette. Note that there’s nothing about them in the table of contents. You have to read the issue with an eagle eye to find them—and even then you might not. I missed some, and I was reading thoroughly to find material for my Commentary. Come on, designers. Take a page from the overzealous copyeditor’s handbook and take your job too seriously.

Needless to say, my Commentary will exclusively focus on “Modern Parent Handbook: Etiquette.” Because if you’re going to make me search for the tips, they had better be worth my while—and, of course, they were not. Here, a selection of my top tips.

“Tip #1: Practice phone etiquette using a banana, then let him answer the next call.”

COMMENTARY: Does this writer even have a kid? Because if she (an assumption on the she here) does, she might have known that even a child as young as Lucia doesn’t care a whit for a banana as a toy phone if there’s a real phone around. Sure, use imagination, etc. But Lucia has two loves in life: our cell phones, and her toy phone that looks exactly like our cordless phone and makes realistic sounds when she presses all the buttons. A banana would fall far, far short.

“Tip #2: Make a game out of germs. Encourage your kids to ‘catch’ their sneeze in their elbow and trade it in for points (and tissues).”

COMMENTARY: I have no words for how ridiculous this seems. Oh, wait, yes I do. Seriously? “Catching” a sneeze for points? I don’t yet have a child old enough to engage in a points-based game, but would such a child really find this interesting and fun, and motivation enough to cover their mouth? Finally, does anyone actually use their elbow to catch a sneeze, even though this is the going recommendation for reducing the spread of germs? Am I alone here in spreading germs the old-fashioned way? Perhaps it’s time to do some soul-searching. Thanks, Parenting.

“Tip #6: Teach them ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in other languages. Adults will appreciate the classiness; kids will think it sounds funny.”

COMMENTARY: Right, because what I want to encourage in my kids is disrespect for and ridicule of other languages. “Mom, ‘gracias’ sounds so dumb! English is the best!” I’ve never thought Parenting had any kind of political agenda—in fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find a first-person article in this issue about a same-sex couple in Park Slope—but this just seems so xenophobic, teaching all the wrong lessons. Also: classiness? Encouraging a child to name-drop French terms seems a bit too…precious. A bit too Alex from Real Housewives of New York City.

Well. I know I said I’d focus exclusively on the Etiquette tips, but I just have to note a couple of other things as well.

First, a suggestion in “FAMiLY,” in the article “Backyard Olympics, says, “Have everyone collect sticks and spell out letters, words, and special messages. Want to make the task tougher? Have them build a tunnel of branches to crawl through.” Even an enthusiastic fort-builder like myself simply can’t piece together the logistics of building a tunnel with branches. How about a pile of branches for a bonfire? Now that’s good fun. (I’m serious.)

Second, there was a kids’ clothing fashion spread in this issue. Hideous. Over-prompted, over-dressed children modeling $68 skirts and $72 boots. Lucia enjoyed looking over my shoulder at the kids as I was paging through this issue, and I promised her I would never, ever dress her like the little girl in the spread. Too, too much.

See you next month.

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