Thursday, June 02, 2011

Parenting: June Issue

There’s one person in this house who greets the arrival of Parenting with unabashed glee: Lucia. “Baby!” she cries out, and we then spend some time turning the pages of the magazine, pointing out pictures of babies. “Cry,” she says seriously whenever she sees an infant, even if the infant is not crying. If she sees a picture of a toy similar to one of hers, she excitedly points it out. We name things on the pages and all around it’s a good fifteen-minute activity.

Unfortunately, as usual, that was all this month’s issue was good for. If possible, this issue was even less informative than usual—providing not only no useful information but also very little absurd information. In fact, it gave…very little information at all. Seems the editing staff (except for the overzealous copyeditor, as we’ll see) has taken their summer break a bit early. It’s hot today, so enough chitchat. Let’s get right to it.

The first “article” or “column” or whatever after all the front matter is always something called “RIGHT NoW.” This installment was about World Oceans Day, which falls on June 8. Nothing wrong with featuring that. But I found the opening lines of this article just laughably strange:

“You’d better applaud the Atlantic and give props to the Pacific: They and other oceans cover 72 percent of the earth and provide most of our oxygen, so let’s not tick them off. One way to get on their good side is to observe World Oceans Day.”

COMMENTARY: Who knew oceans were so vindictive? If this was a smarter magazine I’d speculate that the writer was casually referencing Greek or Roman mythology and the capricious nature of the gods, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t. In any case, let’s definitely not “tick off” the oceans. Who knows what revenge they’ll seek?

Next, I just want to give a nod to the overzealous copyeditor, hard at work on page 30 while her colleagues are at the beach. This bit was about the danger of young children dying because they were left or trapped in hot cars:

“Hot-car deaths can also occur if a child climbs into a parked car and can’t get out, so keep car doors locked even in your driveway (after you first make sure the car is empty).”

COMMENTARY: Keep up the good work, O.C. Those parentheticals are what keep me reading.

This next bit has to be one of my favorite instances of insipidness yet—and that’s a bold statement. It’s in an article about surviving your child’s first overnight trip to Grandma’s house:

“Emphasize the fun stuff your child can look forward to. Maybe Grandma plans to take her to a special ice cream shop or the zoo. Find something to excite her, but make sure it’s okay with the host, of course.”

COMMENTARY: “Lucia, guess what: this weekend, Grandma and Papa are taking you to Rome! And buying you a horse!” I just love the idea that you’d get your kid all riled up about something so grandiose that the grandparents would balk. What on earth could that realistically be, among normal people? I’m genuinely curious about what this writer had in mind. I smell a funny real-life incident behind that warning.

Next up, we have an example of Parenting trying even harder than usual to be useless. As you know, there is little actual content in this magazine to begin with. But this month, with the entire staff clearly at the beach, the editors were so hard-up for text that they stopped having things written altogether. To whom or what did they turn? Facebook. Of course. They seem so proud of their idea, too, in this article called “Tame Your Toddler”:

“So here, with the help of a host of Facebook moms with in-the-trenches experience, we share our best tips for toddler taming.”

COMMENTARY: Anyone who’s been pregnant knows that random people on random message boards are rarely helpful. That fact does not change just because those random people have had their two cents printed in a magazine. Because of this we get suggestions like getting your toddler to sit at the table to eat dinner by “turn[ing] on a bubble machine.” What a stellar idea for inside the house, as long as you have a live-in maid.

Finally, best headline ever: “App Your Fam Out of Debt.”

COMMENTARY: First there’s the creative use of “app” as a verb, which is perhaps even more grating than the actual noun itself. Second, there’s the erroneous foundation of this article: that an app can help you do anything with your debt but waste time you should otherwise be using to make a budget and pay it off. As a saver myself, I cringe at the $1.99 and $.99 these apps cost. Save that money! Pay off the debt! “App” something else!

Until next time.

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