Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parenting: September Issue

Though I am tired, wearily I take up my keyboard to COMMENT on this month’s issue of Parenting. This month, the bulk of my COMMENTARY focuses not so much on editorial carelessness/ridiculousness but on suggestions I find just…wrong. Granted, this sort of critique is quite personal, and many other readers might feel differently, and I would have to accept their opinions as valid (though behind their backs I would be rolling my eyes). In any case, onward.

First we have an article whose headline should give you fair warning of what COMMENTARY is to come: “Tablets for Tots.” Unfortunately, this is not a discussion of notebooks or pads of paper on which toddlers can draw; “tablets” refers to “tablet computers”—iPads for the under-fives. Here’s the intro:

“Buying your 4-year-old an iPad? That may seem excessive, but giving her one of two new tablets just for kids might be a totally worth-it splurge. […] [They] both boast […] loads of learning and fun.”

COMMENTARY: Anyone who knows me well knows how opposed I am to this sort of thing—or any sort of technology or screens intended for children. In my ideal(ized) world, children explore, play, imagine, create, without the help of electronic devices. As the mother of a toddler, however, I understand that there is something inherently captivating for them about iPads and so on—and Lucia does enjoy looking at pictures of herself on my phone or Papa’s iPad, and using a draw-with-your-finger app on Andrew’s tablet when we’re on a plane. Each day she is permitted (if she requests it) to watch approximately fifteen minutes of Elmo videos on SesameStreet.org, streamed through our TV. But just because technology is alluring doesn’t mean I need to give in to it and turn my child into a zombie-eyed, empty-headed shell of a toddler before she hits kindergarten. No, thank you, Parenting. I shall pass on this and everything related to this.

But oh! You are insistent, Parenting. Turn the page and we see this shiver-inducing headline: “Hey, Mr. Computer, Read Me a Story!” What follows is an endorsement of a site that lets kids listen to a free book online that’s “narrated by professional actors.” This is supposed to “entertain” and “encourage them to read.” The brief blurb concludes with the wide-eyed, ain’t-the-internet-grand reiteration, “Did we mention they’re free?”

COMMENTARY: Free does not always mean good. Sometimes it means sinister. And this is how I view such sites. Wouldn’t it break your heart if your toddler, instead of rushing up to you with a beloved book in her hand and the loud demand of “BOOK! BOOK!”, sat down in front of a computer and said plaintively, “Book.” Or didn’t say anything at all. And then pressed a button and let her eyes glaze over as she stared at some sort of hideously animated tale preselected by…whom? Who cares? Awful awfulness.

Hands-down the worst of the worst this month was an eight-page spread (eleven, if you count the ad pages too) devoted to dressing kids like characters in the show Glee and giving them little personality write-ups like “About Quinn: My Style Is…Always on trend and completely feminine.” The featured clothes include a $62 shirt, an $89 ID bracelet, a $135 cardigan, and a $190 jean jacket. Seriously. Remember, this magazine is supposed to deal with children age four and under. An aside: I was confused by this article because I don’t watch Glee and I was unclear on whether the little write-ups referred to the child models or the characters on which their getups were based. Who cares, really?

Another bit to gripe about: An article called “What We Don’t Tell Our Husbands” seems to assume all wives tell lies, white or otherwise, to keep the peace—or, as the writer says: “I don’t think of myself as a liar; I think of myself as a normal wife, sidestepping and spinning to keep the peace.”

COMMENTARY: None needed.

And, lastly, I have now been advised to purchase my cosmetics at Payless. Did you know they sell makeup? Neither did I. But though I’ve never seen nor touched nor used such makeup, I feel like I already have a sense-memory of how such makeup smells: like melted dollar-store candles.

Besides all of this objectionable content, I do have a general editorial beef this month. WTF is up with taking up so much valuable (well, it’s relative) content space by including comments by people on Facebook?? This happens twice this issue. First Facebook posters tell us their views of allowing a child to “go in the bushes” if you’re “at the park with your recently potty-trained preschooler.” Then Facebookers tell us how they speed up their morning routines. Isn’t it sort of “against” the whole point of the internet to use “content” (generous) from said internet as part of a print publication? Shouldn’t they be…separate, or something? Tonight on the Weather Channel, one of the hosts was reading Tweets out loud from random people all over the country, evidence that she really had nothing to report yet about Hurricane Irene. And so it is with this irritating Parenting trend: when there’s nothing to write about, just repeat what’s been nattered about online.

With relief I’ll conclude this post. Until next month.

PS: More age-illogic in this issue. In an article about how to make your child’s packed lunches more appealing, the writer suggests leaving a love note in the lunchbox. I’m quite sure my own genius child will be reading long before kindergarten…But isn’t it kind of a lot to expect of most ordinary children under age five?

1 comment:

Sara said...

I'm with you on being totally against the computer/iPad/CD player/whatever read to my children. I don't think it helps them learn to read, and I don't think there is a substitute for an actual person sitting down and reading a book to a child. When I was actually working outside the house, at a university, colleagues with pHDs would talk about research that showed that the single most important thing parents could do to help their children succeed in school was to read out loud to them every day--starting in very early childhood. So there Parenting! And the Glee spread--just ridiculous. And inappropriate for the under-4 set. The under 14 set, really...