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?
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.