Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Parenting: The May Issue

Though it wearies me to deliver yet another COMMENTARY on Parenting, I’m able to do so this month without taking valuable time away from other things because Mom is here to entertain Lucia. So this month I will not be sacrificing crucial baby-rearing time to provide my withering critique. And withering it is.

First, though, a bright note. Perhaps someone, somewhere, is reading these missives and taking them to heart: for the second issue in a row, there is no “Modern Parent Handbook” (i.e., the series of sidebars peppered throughout the magazine without rhyme or reason or note in the table of contents), and this month the Style section has also gone by the wayside. No more baby or mama fashions, and, more importantly, no more suggestions on where I can buy clothes so my baby can dress like Gwen Stefani’s. Perhaps one day Parenting will get rid of all its fatuous content. Of course, then there would be no magazine. And fifteen minutes of my life every month would once again be mine.

But onward. The very first “article” in the magazine this month, “What the Plush Are These?,” suggests encouraging your child’s creativity by having him draw a monster and then turning that drawing into an actual stuffed monster by purchasing a Make My Own Monster kit—for $249. Once your child uses this kit, which contains paper and pencils, to draw his monster, you send it away and, eight weeks later, an actual stuffed creature that looks like what your kid drew is sent back. If you haven’t been following closely: you’ve just paid $249 for a stuffed animal.

It’d be one thing if this was an ad in the magazine—but this is the first article in the “Right NoW” section, actual content. There is a mention that some of this company’s money goes to charities, but it’s vague (“And over the past three years, a good portion…has been used to support…”), with no indication that any of my $249 would actually be charity-bound. Don’t get me wrong. My house is filled with ample evidence that Lucia is a privileged, lucky child (a $7 rubber ball; too many JellyCat animals for Lucia to hold). But there is no way—not now, not ever—that I would spend $249 to turn one of her drawings, which she’ll forget about an hour later, not to mention eight weeks later, into a plush toy. It’s just…unseemly. Unless, oh, 70-80 percent or more of this money goes to charity, I’m hard-pressed to find this justifiable.

Unfortunately, there is more territory to cover. In an article about the benefits of letting a four-year-old spend some gift money on something she picks out herself at the store, the author advises discussing with the child beforehand what she might like to buy. The author says:

“Thanks to the Internet, you can get a good sense of the cost of the items she identifies.”

COMMENTARY: “Thanks to the Internet?” What is this, 1998? Really. Chances are high that this four-year-old won’t even care about going to the store but will want to buy something ON the Internet, like, oh, pet food for some sort of virtual animal (does anyone do that anymore?). “Thanks to the Internet…” Overzealous copyeditor, you are clearly well past your prime. Time to cede your role, perhaps, to someone for whom the Internet is, like it is for the rest of the universe, a fact of life.

Lots of ranting this time. But we will persevere. In the “FAMiLY” section, in an article called “High-Fiving High Teas,” we are given three suggestions for tea parties what will appeal to both boys and girls, mothers and fathers, or no one in their right mind. We are encouraged to drink goji berry tea, rooibos tea, or dried-fruit tea. Sigh. Goodness; these aren’t even the crazy parts. There is so much to COMMENT on here that I don’t even know where to start.

For the Cavemen tea party: The hangout should be “Mom’s bedroom ‘cave,’ complete with houseplants.” For the snack, “boil eggs in black tea, then crack for a stonelike look.”

COMMENTARY: What? What? What? I have a pretty good imagination, but why is Mom’s bedroom called a “cave”? Is it dark in there? Dim? Small? I don’t get it. And I’ve been in a few caves in my day, and not one of them contained a houseplant, or a green plant of any kind. Pointy rocks I forget the names of, yes. Plants, no. And hard-boiled eggs? For a snack? Eggs boiled in tea? Is this article meant as a joke?

For the Rock ‘n’ Rollers tea party: The hangout should be the “ ‘nightclub’ living room, with colored holiday lights.”

COMMENTARY: One time, Molly and I decided we’d turn our living room into a nightclub. This was probably back in the late eighties, and there was a weird chandelier-type lighting fixture in that room. In the kitchen cupboard we found a stack of plastic margarine containers in different colors, red, orange, yellow. We stood on chairs and put the containers over the bare bulbs of the lighting fixture (it was a pretty hideous fixture). The containers promptly melted over the bulbs, releasing a noxious mix of chemicals that I’m sure were what irreversibly harmed my sense of direction. Hanging holiday lights isn’t really a great alternative—it would look more like an Indian restaurant in the East Village than a nightclub—but at least plastic won’t be dripping from the ceiling.

Whew, this is a long one. (Can you tell I have a Lucia companion today?) One more and I’ll call it quits. Just a page after the stunningly inane tea party ideas is an article “full” of suggestions of new and interesting places to have picnics. I say “full” instead of full because unless you live in a major metropolis, these suggestions are completely meaningless. Here’s the gist:

“Head to a place near the airport…Your local botanical garden…Take him to a harbor or dock…Venture to an outdoor sculpture garden…”

COMMENTARY: I live in New York, so I have easy access to all of the above (but I don’t think taking my child to sit anywhere near JFK, or Newark, or LaGuardia, would be a wise parenting decision). But really, who else can do these things? The article advises us to “skip the obvious parks and playgrounds,” but if you’re lucky enough to have a nice park or playground nearby, you’re probably better off just skipping this article.

Until next time…

1 comment:

Sara said...

these are always amusing to me. seems like there is a market out there for an actual useful parenting magazine. hm....