Posts tagged ‘parenting’
Plunking your kid in front of the TV won’t make her a genius.
File this under I can’t believe this is news but an article published on Yahoo Shine today claims that the revelation that the Baby Einstein videos are nothing more than, “a mind numbing way to occupy infants”, is apparently, “rocking the parent world.”
All I can say is…really? The idea that TV isn’t good for kids under two is “rocking” the parenting world?
I don’t have children of my own which in some necks of the woods qualifies me for nothing but withering looks when I issue an opinion on child rearing, but I do have multiple degrees in education and once upon a time I used to work for the largest toy retailer in the city of Boston. The Baby Einstein videos were on a constant loop on a small beat up TV in the infant’s department. Being within ten feet of them while I scraped gum off the floor, scooped candy into tiny cellophane bags or gift wrapped a $300 mohair teddy bear as a present for a toddler who would undoubtably gnaw the ear off of it was enough to give me, a grown woman, a migraine. People, have you ever seen these videos? They’re like bad acid flashbacks. Seriously, my mind hasn’t been bent so severely since the light show at that Phish concert I got dragged to back in college. Baby Einstein videos aren’t educational, in fact I’d argue that they have more potential to damage a kid’s attention span than make them smarter. They’re the equivalent of video catnip. In short, they are a shitty, stupid and ridiculous product that just happens to have a marketing scheme that plays into the vanity, insecurity and laziness of modern parents. My kid can have a head start over all the other kids and all I have to do is plop him in front of these videos!
As a sales associate I would constantly try to steer potential gift givers away from the Baby Einstein videos,”How about a monogrammed baby blanket? A set of handmade wooden blocks? A hardcover heirloom-quality edition of Make Way for Ducklings?”
Like an evil parent from a Roald Dahl novel the parent would reply,”Oh he already has enough books, let’s get him some videos.” Enough books? I grew up in a family where one could never have enough books. The idea that a parent would choose a video that was obviously garbage over a book was mind-boggling to me. Who are you? The Wormwoods?
“A child can’t have too many books!” I’d opine cheerfully. The Beacon Hill mom would dismiss me with a wave of a perfectly manicured hand decked with a diamond that was probably worth more than the house I grew up in and say in a tone that barely masked her contempt that a complete philistine who wore a name-tag and a polo shirt to work would dare to give her parenting advice, “The Baby Einstein videos were designed to be educational. It’s brain science. I’ll take two.”
Time and again people would ask me my opinion on the Baby Einstein videos and I’d tell them I didn’t think they were developmentally sound. Time and again people would tell me I was wrong, just because the packaging and the advertising told them it would make their kid smarter. Never mind that anybody with two eyes can look at the videos and see they are junk. Never mind that the parental wisdom that children under two shouldn’t be watching TV has been around forever. Why are we so quick to trust what advertising and packaging tell us are true instead of our own guts? Are we that insecure with our own judgement? Are parents that lazy?
I’m laughing to myself today thinking about all those condescending bitches who used to send their drivers around to the store to fill the family Cadillac Escalade with birthday gifts for their toddlers (I saw a lot of that, it was downtown Boston before the stock market crash) instructing their maids to purge all the Baby Einstein merch from the nursery. “Get that garbage out of here, I read on the internet that it isn’t educational! Now Blake Jr. will never get into Harvard! “
Ha fucking ha, bitch.
It warrants a mention that parents have been looking for a way to occupy small children since the beginning of time. And no, women in the work force or feminism is not to blame for this particular form (or I’d argue, any form) of crap parenting. Yes, parents of both genders are busier than ever so an excuse to plop your kids in front of the TV while you fix dinner is more seductive as it ever has been. But let’s be straight here people, my grandmother and her mother and just about every other mother who went before them were stay at home moms. Did they spend their days playing mentally stimulating, developmentally appropriate educational games with their kids? Hell no, they smoked, played bridge and got their hair done while the kids ran around and played outside. And out of those generations of children, plenty of them still were top in their class, got into ivy league schools and landed good jobs, no cracked out kiddie videos required.
Know what is developmentally appropriate? Building a fort with the couch cushions, coloring with those big fat crayons and playing in the sandbox. In fact, I’d argue that almost anything is more appropriate for toddlers than watching Baby Einstein videos. But how would I know? I’m not a parent, I’m just a person with common sense.
Sometimes I’m not so sure I want to have children, but articles like this make me want to breed just to make sure that another generation of children will grow up knowing what it is like to play in the mud, put on their own puppet shows and live with a life that’s not over-scheduled and inundated with pre-packaged crap before they’re even old enough to tie their own shoes.
Call it out of character, but I’m having difficulty mustering feminist outrage against the supposedly “new” phenomenon of pre-teens buying into the “Slutoween” trend by donning tarty costumes made especially for them.
Why? Well first of all, I have trouble with the idea that pre-teen girls trying to dress older than their years is anything new, or even necessarily something that adults should be overly alarmed about. Adolescent girls have always pilfered mom’s lipstick and changed in the bathroom at the school dance into that shorter skirt the ‘rents wouldn’t let them leave the house in. Yeah, part of that is pressure from society, but part of it is also natural curiosity. Trying to figure out what the hell to do with one’s newly morphed pubescent body is a big undertaking and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of experimentation (and plenty of fashion train-wrecks) to figure out your relationship with your budding body. Dressing older (and by association, sexier) is as much about independence to most teen girls as it is about fitting in and being pretty. Instead of trusting our girls to navigate the muddy waters of adolescence and make good choices why do we behave as if it only takes one pair of sparkley fishnets to turn a 13-year-old into a baby prostitute?
Case in point, when I was in seventh grade I saw the movie Clue and decided I wanted to be a French maid for Halloween. My mother tried to talk me out of it. She even tried appealing to my emergent feminism by explaining that French maids are sort of a degrading male fantasy. This tidbit was pretty much lost on me. At that point my budding sexuality did not include any awareness of dominance, submission or other kinks. All I knew was that French maids got to wear frilly costumes, carry feather dusters and speak in smarmy French accents. Who wouldn’t want to be a French maid for Halloween? All mom’s suggestions for other, more appropriate costumes for a thirteen year old (“What about being a bag of grapes!? We can blow up some purple balloons and stick them to a sweat suit!”) fell on deaf ears. I was dug in. I was being a French maid for Halloween.
Instead of locking me up and throwing away the key, my mother reluctantly took me on a field trip to the local costume shop to pick out the most conservative French maid outfit we could find. She also insisted that I wear a turtleneck under it and drape a shawl over my shoulders, “Because it will be cold out.” I went out trick or treating in the outfit, practiced my smarmy French accent, accosted several people with my feather duster, collected a butt load of candy and came home… without herpes. I did not magically become popular with all the boys. I didn’t even end up dating for another three years. I didn’t ditch my well worn wardrobe of peasant skirts and wool clogs for leather pants and bustiers. The next Halloween I went as Red Death from Phantom of the Opera in pants, a tuxedo shirt, a floor length cape and a mask that covered most of my face. In short, I remained unharmed by my brush with the Slutoween phenomenon.
Was I just lucky that I didn’t become a statistic? I think not. First of all, I had good parents who wanted to have constructive conversations with me about my choices instead of just slut-shaming me. Because she actually listened to me my mother learned that my interest in being a French maid had more to do with playing a kooky character than pandering to the male sex. In fact, pandering to the male sex wasn’t even on my radar at that age. Even if it had been, I’m sure mom and I would have had a conversation about that too.
Unlike the author of the Daily Mail Article, I don’t believe that, “Parents who allow their offspring to wear this junk should consider putting them up for adoption.” I am so glad that my parents valued me as a person who could make her own decisions instead of thinking of me as a Pretty Pretty Princess that they had to keep pure as long as possible no matter what the cost.
Pre-teens of both genders are thinking about sex all the time and it’s totally natural. What else are you going to do when your brain is totally bathed in hormones? We’d be foolish to think that denying them every pair of tacky earrings or pot of lip gloss is going to stop them from growing up too fast. Guarding your daughters from the trappings of adulthood is a false sense of security. Instead of trying to take away the makeup and the high heels, why aren’t we trying to teach young women that these things don’t have to define them? Because that would mean that parents would actually have to talk openly and honestly about growing up with their kids… and that’s just awkward. Better to call them whores and ground them until they are 30!
As a kid I was encouraged to think for myself and stand up for what I believed in and be my awkward, imperfect self in any way that I wanted to be. This didn’t win me many friends in Junior High but in the end I think it made me less susceptible to the junk culture that tells girls their only value is being attractive. I understand that parents have a very real responsibility to protect their kids form predators. I also understand just how damaging it is to sexualize children from a young age. I just don’t think that the solution to the problem is to shelter our children more. I think the solution is to help our children learn to make good choices on their own.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if my mom had refused to let me wear that French maid outfit on Halloween. I certainly would have had less fun dressed as a bag of grapes. Would I have merely snuck out in the slutty outfit anyway? Would fishnets and heels become even more attractive and glamorous once I knew that my mother hated them? Of course! Perhaps the fact that I had permission to experiment with the sexy outfit in the first place also empowered me to reject it in the end. Bottom line… kids are vulnerable, precious and impressionable but they are also a lot smarter than we think they are. Raise your kid well and a little eyeliner (or a slutty Halloween costume) isn’t going to change who they are.
This article over at Broadsheet really made me want to call my dad. It got me thinking of the profound influence he had over me. My love of a good glass (or bottle) of wine, my penchant for nonconformity and my tendency to never shy from a good political debate all come from my father.
I’ll do you one further, I think my dad, more so than even my mom (who did teach me that women could be anything they wanted to be but with the vexing subtext that we could be those things as long as we cleaned up good for Sunday dinner) influenced me in becoming a feminist. My mother is a kind, empathetic and ethical human being deserving of her own glowing blog entry but it was my father who taught me not to fear being outspoken, to question the status quo and to fight for my beliefs tooth and nail.
What a pity it is that so many people feel that the most important role a father can have in a young woman’s life is protecting her chastity. Reading the Broadsheet article and hearing about how Tracy Clark-Flory’s dad never gave her a hard time when she wanted to wear three inch heels to school made me appreciate my own dad’s open mindedness toward my attire.
Back in the day I went around in some serious get-ups that made my mom cry and wring her hands. While some of my friends’ dad’s told then they looked like hookers and wouldn’t let them go out of the house in miniskirts, my dad was always supportive of my choices. I remember back to one particular time when my mom informed me that I looked fat in my bikini and insisted that it was “unflattering” even after I told her that I know I’m not a size two but I still think I have a right to wear what I want to the beach. As the “conversation” degenerated into a screaming fight and I went stomping back into the house to put on a T-shirt, I head my dad’s voice timidly say behind me, “I think you look very beautiful in your bikini.” I lost that particular body image battle, but I’ll never forget my dad’s supportive voice, very quietly telling me that I had the right to feel beautiful no matter what my size.
As the father of two daughters, my dad always tried to “stay out of our business” where “female stuff” was concerned but whether he knew it or not when I was weathering my own body image storm my dad was uniquely positioned to be supportive in a way my mother just wasn’t able to.
Although my mom was present too, it was my dad’s hand that I held the day I first went to therapy for an eating disorder. As I sat there, all fragile 103 pounds of me haltingly telling my parents and my shrink that I wanted to learn how to eat again, he was there. And for some reason that I still don’t fully comprehend to this day, it meant the world to me that my father was there. Not crying, not begging me to get better, not judging me or threatening me, just holding my hand. Fourteen years later dad and I have never talked about that day and I’ve never been able to say thank you. Mom and I have had plenty of candid conversations about my personal life since I was fifteen. Dad and I? Never. He may think he’s incapable of dealing with “girl stuff” but when it really counted, he was always there.
So for all those fathers who think they can’t be in the lives of their teenage girls, you are wanted and you are loved, even when your girls don’t know how to say it. So thanks.
What about the rest of y’all? What’s awesome about your dads? What have they done that you’ve never gotten to thank them for? What makes your dad cool?