What a disappointing issue for Lucia. Her excited cry of “Babies!” soon weakened as we turned page after page only to find very, very few pictures of babies. On the other hand, there were pictures of Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, Julia Roberts, Sofia Vergara, Nicole Kidman, and someone named Brooke Burke. Her boredom was relieved only by a large advertisement featuring Elmo.
I recount this anecdote as a way of underscoring the problem that seems to be worsening in this magazine month after month: any actual parenting advice is sneakily being sidelined to make room for watery celebrity and “style” nonsense. I like celebrity gossip as much as anyone, but that’s not why I subscribe to Parenting. It’s why I’d subscribe to Us Weekly, as I happily used to; but, alas, I rarely even recognize whoever’s on the cover these days, such is my immersion in Toddlerland. But I digress.
Let’s begin. The main cover headline this month was “Best. Birthday. Ever. A year’s worth of fresh ideas.” And the opening letter from the print content, strategy, and design editor recounted her trials of planning a $750 birthday party for her young son—which, in the end, paled in comparison to the $15 party she’d once thrown him. She says, “It’s not the hours you spend planning the party, or the money you spend bringing it to life. All you need to do is think about something your kid loves and get creative with it.” Fair enough. She then directs us to page 54, where we can find “super-fresh, easy, and inexpensive party ideas.”
Let’s follow her there, shall we?
The first thing that jumped out at me was this headline:
“A Year of parties. Whether your kid is a Leo or a Libra, these seasonal ideas will be a big hit anywhere on the calendar.”
COMMENTARY: Where to begin. At the beginning, I suppose, with the inconsistently capitalized “A Year of parties.” Overzealous Copyeditor, where art thou? It just gets worse. The “a Leo or a Libra” bit is clearly here to utilize some nifty alliteration, but this is at the expense of meaning. This headline writer surely wants to convey that no matter where on the zodiac spectrum your kid falls, he’ll find something fun here. The problem is that Leo and Libra are just one sign apart on the zodiac calendar—so if she was going for an A-to-Z kind of thing, this falls flat. Finally, the piece de resistance: The very definition of “seasonal,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “of, relating to, or varying in occurrence according to the season.” So how can “these seasonal ideas” work “anywhere on the calendar”?
Indeed, they can’t, really. There are four ideas here, clearly linked to—yes—seasons: Summer Scoop (ice cream cones), Woodland Wonder (fall leaves, s’mores), Blizzard Bash (penguins, snowflakes), Just Say Gnome (mushrooms, garden gnomes). The only one with any potential for intra-seasonality is Just Say Gnome, and this is a stretch. But come on. Can an ice-cream-theme party really work “anywhere on the calendar”? A blizzard-theme party? The whole headline seems to have been written by someone who understands subjects and verbs but has no comprehensive of the actual meanings of words.
Moving on. Once I got past the headline, I began reading with curiosity, expecting to find some clever DIY ideas that are “easy” and “inexpensive,” as the print content editor promised. Instead, I found store-bought favors and a surprising emphasis on $5 cake pops.
COMMENTARY: Though I haven’t had a cake pop myself, I read about them often when I peruse articles about all the cool Brooklyn foodie events I no longer can go to since I have a toddler and no standing-by babysitter. Cake pops seem to be the new cupcake, precious and delicious, and, of course, exorbitantly priced. If you have twenty kids from your kid’s class over to this birthday party and spend $5 on each cake pop, that’s $100 already, just on cake pops. And you can’t put candles in a cake pop, not really. Two of the four party themes—blizzard and gnome—had cake pops as central elements. So much for inexpensive.
There were some DIY elements here as well, mainly the invitations. And though they were cute enough, again the definition of “invitation” seems to have eluded this craft-creator. An invitation is, after all, something you give someone else, either by mail or in person. In a nutshell, here are the invitation suggestions: a 3.5-inch Styrofoam ball glued onto a paper soup bowl; a paper-bag hand puppet; four jumbo ice-pop sticks glued together into a snowflake; a regular square invitation card speared with a large lollipop.
COMMENTARY: Unless you’re willing to pay a fortune in shipping, none of these can be mailed. And with the exception of the card/lollipop, none can easily be toted to school for personal handing-out. Even if your kid were to bring them to school in a gigantic tote bag, what’s the likelihood of the invitation actually getting to the invitee’s home and, thus, onto his or her parents’ calendar? Nil, I’d say. Nil indeed.
SUPER-COMMENTARY: Let’s harken back to the very title of this magazine: Parenting: Early Years. The magazine targets very young kids up to about age four. So if you’re planning a party for your one- or two-year-old, the invitation problem becomes even more acute. Toddlers don’t tote bags of invitations to school and hand them out! And mamas with the time and wherewithal to actually make said invitations (does such a mama exist, with a toddler??) are certainly not able to hand-deliver them! This whole article seems more relevant to older kids. Not useful!
And not enough babies!
Until next time.