Jul 29, 2014

Parenting Advice 101

Marblehead Patch Columnist Brenda Kelley Kim talks about wisdom, worry and winging it.

Parenting Advice 101

"A word to the wise ain't necessary, it's the stupid ones who need the advice." - Bill Cosby

Normally, I wouldn’t be the person calling someone else stupid. I’m no expert especially on parenting. I’m winging it; I’m just hoping I get some of the big things right and that no one notices the rest of it. But I was thumbing through a parenting magazine the other day, and I can’t help but think that the publishers must believe their readers are, well, stupid.

Some of the articles had advice, or “handy tips” for just about everything. It’s the holiday season, so of course there were lots of ideas about gifts and celebrations. For instance, one suggestion was to wrap presents for babies in tissue paper. That way it’s easy for them to open and there is no danger of wrapping paper cuts.

Seriously? Are the emergency rooms full of tiny little babes with bloody hands every Christmas afternoon, their poor uninformed parents lamenting, “If only we had used tissue paper!”? There is a lot to worry about with babies, no doubt. I just don’t think killer gift-wrap needs to be on the radar.

These magazines also have a ton of craft ideas. I am the first to admit that I am completely craft deficient. My poor children know better than to ask me if they can make puppets out of socks or an advent wreath from a paper plate and toilet paper tubes. I sent them to preschool and Art Starts at the Y so they could do that somewhere else.

In a feature where readers submit their favorite craft ideas, one mom said that she had started saving the extra buttons that came with her kids sweaters and clothes. She used them to glue on birthday cards and make necklaces. Super cute! I never would have thought of that.

Just like I never would have thought of taking an old canvas paint tarp, letting my kids splash it with paint and hanging it up with curtain rod clips. Hang it up where? In my house? Not for nothing, a ratty tarp with paint splashed on it doesn’t really say “home décor” to me. It says Home Depot.

Of course it wouldn’t be a parenting magazine if they didn’t have actual parenting articles. Like the one that went on for two pages about how to dress your baby or toddler for the cold weather. They recommended hats and mittens. I so wish I had read this back when my children were young. Then I wouldn’t have spent all that time dressing them in ball gowns and bunny slippers.

Of course the article also cautioned that if you overdressed your children, they could get heat rash. Just in case a parent read the article and was somehow reassured that putting a hat and mittens on a baby in December was really all they needed to do. Of course it couldn’t be that easy.

And that was the general theme of everything in the magazine. Scare the heck out of new parents or parents that just don’t know any better. Publish letters asking questions like “My four year old called himself stupid, should I be worried about his self esteem?” or “my eleven month old seems angry and resentful, how should I address her concerns?”.

Throw in an article about multi cultural awareness, and say it’s important for children to understand the root causes of global poverty. I know a PhD who spends a good amount of time at the UN working with the international community on a variety of issues. No one there understands the root causes of global poverty, I think it’s a pretty safe bet your average five year old doesn’t get it either.

Of course there was some humor in the pages too. At least I think it was supposed to be funny when they suggested moms vary their fragrance habits. If Chanel No. 5 is a favorite, maybe a switch to White Linen would shake things up. Another memo I missed, apparently I’m supposed to smell good while I’m dragging my kids around to creative writing workshops and museum exhibits on prehistoric cave drawings.

The ads are another story. I’m sure it’s deliberate that next to an article titled “Is Your Child Too Busy?” there is an ad for AD/HD medication. Or next to the recipe for macaroni and cheese cups with ground turkey and spinach (which sound pretty darn awful if you ask me) there is an ad for DHA supplements. Apparently, if you are not giving your children DHA supplements, you have dropped the ball on their brain development, and not even a recipe for low fat couscous can save them.

Finally, there was the magazine’s list of the best children’s books, movies and music for the past year. In case you were thinking of just letting your kid choose a story at the library because it was about a monkey and she likes monkeys. Whatever you do, don’t let them watch a movie that hasn’t been vetted by some committee. That is just reckless!

There will always be parenting books and magazines with the latest theories and ideas. I can’t keep up with it all, and I don’t think I’m even going to try. If that means my kids will be the ones eating dirt and coloring outside the lines, then so be it. At least I won’t be the parent with my head buried in a book while they do it.

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