The Parent Trap–2010

I’m quite sure that parenting has become an impossible job. 

The other day I went to the dentist and while sifting through the pile of two year old National Geographic and Women’s Weekly magazines, something caught my eye.  It was a newspaper called “Tot’s To Teens—For Parents Focused on Raising Children Aged 0-12 Years.”   There was a big red sticker that said “FREE,” so I didn’t have any qualms about helping myself.

I took the paper home and read it.  And that’s when I realized how challenging it is to be a parent.  One of the headline articles was “First Day of School—Are You Ready?”  It was about preparing a 5 year old for his or her real first day of school.

To be honest I don’t remember my first day of school but I’m pretty sure I was traumatized.  Now I know why.  My mother hadn’t read “Tots to Teens!”

The article was broken into four basic categories with a checklist sort of thing in each category.  One category was “Toilet training.”  One of the items was “Does she know not to pull down her knickers until she has closed the door to the cubicle?”

If you were a parent and answered that question “No,” what would your next steps be?

How Could I Have Forgotten That??

Or how about the “Lunchbox” section:  “If you bought a new lunch box, does your child know how to open it?”  I pictured the headline:  Kindergartner Can’t Open Lunch Box—Starves to Death.”

There is a list of contingencies for which you should give your kid an action plan.  One contingency to be prepared for:  “The child they usually play with is off sick and she has to make new friends?” 

Who is thinking up this stuff?  Moon mission pre-launch checklists are less complicated.  And the trouble is that buried in all this stuff is important advice like “don’t take candy from strangers.”

But it gets worse.  There is advertising.  Lots of it.  For example, a kindergarten is selling their programme for 4 and a half to 5 year olds with the statement:

Highly qualified and motivated teachers encourage and nurture our children to be risk-takers, enquirers, thinkers, communicators, reflective, knowledgeable, caring, open-minded and balanced.

How do you do that for five year olds?  

You see what I mean about the challenges of being a parent?  You are not only supposed to make sure your kid can open his or her lunchbox and know how to cope with fluid social situations.  They must also be a risk-taker, creative, reflective, knowledgeable and caring.  Good luck with that.

But it gets even worse when you look at the advertisements, which are conveniently put at the end of the magazine in something called the “Directory.”  There are 52 playing card sized ads for various goods and services. 

Two of the ads stand out.  One is for a clothing store that sells “Designer Childrenswear.”  The other is for an organisation called “Kids Love Gifts.”  What do they do?  The ad explains:  “Needing gift ideas or too busy to get to the shop?  Kids Love Gifts can do all the work for you . . .” 

Here, in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, you can find advertised in a free magazine, designer clothing for (growing) children and you can also hire someone to buy their gifts for them because you as a parent are too busy, or don’t communicate enough with your kids to know what they might want.  I knew they had a service like this for busy adults, but I didn’t know parents need it to manage their kids.

But one kind of service seemed to predominate in the directory.  So I counted them up and found that 31% of the ads are for party services.  (Second place is for products like bedwetting mattress protectors and photographers). 

I don’t remember any of my birthdays or birthday parties, but today’s parents are under the gun to make each birthday “The Birthday of a Lifetime” for your caring, reflective, open-minded and balanced child.  But don’t worry.  You can hire a service to handle it all for you. 

The top of the line service (and let’s face it, why settle for second best) includes “Party Planning, Entertainers, Catering and Event Creche.”

Can anyone help me out with the concept of an “Event Creche?”  As far as I understand it, a creche is where you put little kids.  I’m assuming you don’t spring for a party for your kid and then put the kid in the crèche while you enjoy the magic show.   So I’m guessing this is for younger siblings who may not be ready to party hardy.  I don’t get it.

There are a lot of things I don’t get.  Like why kids attending birthday parties today expect a “goody bag.”  This is another service that can be provided.  I would have thought ice cream and cake would be sufficient reward.

But no.  And neither is socializing apparently.  The parties have to be themed and there are companies that specialize in various themes such as magic, fairies, sports, clowns, laser tag, bowling, rock star, and the worrisome “Tarzan Tree Adventures.”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to know.

It sort of makes you wonder what these kids are going to expect for their 16th birthdays.

About these ads

23 responses to “The Parent Trap–2010

  1. Have you not had the pleasure of witnessing MTVs ‘My Super Sweet 16?’
    Parenting at it’s worst. My god.

  2. I have a photo of my 4-year old grandson with “Monty” the python wrapped up on the top of his head at his “wildlife” birthday party. I must say it was well conducted by the facilitator, she kept the rabbit away from the python, but when the python was allowed to repose on the floor in the middle of a circle of thirty kids, while they passed around a centipede that was big enough for me to wear on my wrist as costume jewellery … What a way to make a living!

  3. Hi Tom:

    I remember when I started kindergarten…my lunchbox had one buckle to close it…easy-peasy!

    Sadly, businesses of this type seem to be doing well…there are lots of people too busy to pay attention to their own kids! They find it much easier to throw “things” at them, and call themselves “good parents.”

    Wendy

  4. When I was in kindergarten (back in the Dark Ages of 1952) we didn’t even have a lunch box because we only went to school half days. We had graham crackers and milk for a snack (provided by the school for free) and a mid-morning nap. We played with blocks and were read to by the teacher. Now, if the kid isn’t into pre-calculus by mid-term and reading at the fourth grade level, he/she is considered an abysmal failure. Whatever happened to that thing called “childhood?”

  5. Vodka and Ground Beef

    Great post today.

    I recall a time when I was in second grade. I was wearing my brownie uniform and then it was time for PE. I just thought my PE uniform would be underneath my brownie (girl scouts) uniform, but it wasn’t. There was only Strawberry Shortcake underwear and a whole lot of laughter.

    So I guess my parents should have read this free book.

  6. The designer clothes thing kills me. I see kids with outfits that cost more than my entire dresser. It makes me shake my head because I remember what a 5 year old can do to clothes.

    While I’ve got you, I just went out to get breakfast. They put my bagel in a paper bag and rolled the top down really tight. I know my food is in there, but i can’t get it out because the hole at the top of the bag is gone. I’d appreciate whatever help you can give me. I’m hungry.

  7. Lunch boxes today- all combination locks, deadbolts, and time-release latches. How can anyone expect a kid to figure out how to get their PB and J out?
    Wait a minute- it is a simple latch, and my kid isn’t a moron. Problem solved.

  8. Time released latches? Like bank vaults? I guess that is to ensure the kid doesn’t eat their lunch before it’s time. But wouldn’t they just do that once after having learned a valuable lesson?

    Also, last I heard PB and J is off the menu because some kid might get a whiff of the peanuts and have an allergic reaction.

  9. Parents these days are ruining life for their kids. They force these big events down everyone’s throat 3 or 4 times a year, totally obliterating the importance of just enjoying the simple things of day to day life.

    • Yes–it’s like an arms race to see who can top the last party. Not only that, though, in the same magazine was an ad for a place called “MyGym.” It is a fitness centre for little kids and their tagline is “Award Winning Classes for Children 6 weeks to 13 years.” A gym for 6 week old kids? I thought they couldn’t even roll over at that age.

  10. When I came across a copy of the monthly The American Cheerleader, I realized that the magazine market is simply out of control. I do, however, admire the creativity it takes to keep filling gazillions of insipid publications with useless information.

  11. Any advice on how to extricate a kindergartner from a small trash can in Tots to Teens? That was one I had to figure out on my own. Who could have imagined that she would crawl in there and get stuck? She’s probably still suffering from the psychological damage that was done.

  12. I used to go to Showbiz Pizza (now Chuck e. cheese). That was super fun (i still like to go sometimes for real).
    I was scared the first day of school, so if a magazine can tell you how to ease your kid’s fears more power to them. And to this day i prefer an ice cream cake.

    May I suggest instead of a service, just get the kid a gift card to Toys r Us if you’re really too busy to shop (but I’d still want something to unwrap). Shoot, everywhere carries toys, they ain’t all gotta be educational. Besides, when kids play they’re prepping for adulthood w/o realizing it, so it’s all educational. Even a video game is helpful for co-ordination.

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