Category Archives: media

Free Play: The Working Parent’s Conundrum

This summer appears to be overloaded with articles about how kids need a rest from structure and need to just play. From this blog on Scary Mommy to this article in The Atlantic, parents are being cajoled into dropping camp, swimming lessons, and Russian Math this summer and letting their kids roam free.

But here’s the catch: who is watching these kids roam free? Last I checked, most kids have one or two parents/caregivers that work at least some, if not most, of the time, outside the home.

I see this as yet another way to heap guilt on the working parent.

I want nothing more than my kids to have unstructured playtime outside. Or inside. As I am barely working this summer, and my kids go to Nonna-care (read: my mom) as opposed to daycare, my kids will have loads of time to “just play.”

In other words, in order to have this, someone has to be HOME. While many daycare centers and camps have “free time,” and “free play,” it is simply not the culture in mainstream childcare to drop your kids off and pay money to people who simply make sure your child checks in regularly and eats something. When a nanny or a babysitter is hired, free play may happen more often, but even then, the culture is to demand something of the caretaker of your children. As in, most people I know would be BENT if their nanny told their charges “go play outside,” and then watched General Hospital. If you’re going to shell out for childcare, generally you want that person to DO something for your kids.

Hence where the guilt comes in. We are supposed to give our kids unstructured free time, but leaving children home alone to roam when they are young is also not a possibility for the working person. The solution? Camps. Classes. Daycare. Why? While helicopter parenting and a zillion classes aren’t the answer, leaving, say, a five and seven year old home alone to “go play” while their grown-ups work 40+ hours per week is also not a possibility.

As my own kids grow older, and my (and their father’s) need to work more or less changes with time, I’m going to have to struggle with this as well. This summer, since I’m around, I’ll simply fight the urge to go retro on them and smoke some Pall Malls, slather myself in baby oil and tan while they go play.

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WTF Weight Watchers!?!

Is anyone else offended by these new Weight Watchers Commercials?

If you haven’t seen them, and can’t be bothered to click the link (Confession: I rarely click links in blogs), here is the synopsis: Once upon a time, you were a little girl who believed in fairy princesses, and that “anything is possible.” Now, you are a big girl, and you should know anything is possible because…you can go on this new diet!!!

This is where feminism has gotten us. We apparently trade fairytales for fad diets. As grown women our realm of possible has apparently shrunk (pun intended) to wishing and working towards thinness.

I am particularly distressed because I have done Weight Watchers in the past, and it is a fair and balanced approach in an elimination diet world (I’m looking at you, Paleo).

It appears that whenever feminism takes a giant leap forward, such as with Lean In, or with Hilary Clinton completing a successful run as Secretary of State, or the Afforable Care Act increasing coverage for breastfeeding supplies and support, there is a backlash to keep women in their place.

Or was it not an accident that a book title about women’s leadership started with the word “lean”?

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Ich bin Caillou

Currently over here, we are obsessed with Caillou, perhaps the most annoying program on children’s television to date.

Or, I should say, the most annoying program whose content is actually really strong and therefore we are allowed to watch it. Check out Lalaloopsy if you want annoying TV with no redeemable qualities.

Caillou, for the uninitiated, is a show about a little Canadian boy who whines his way through common trials and trevails of the middle class preschooler.

When the on-demand queue of Caillou has been exhausted, or when we are sitting on the potty for an extended engagement, we turn to YouTube for more Caillou.

As children these days are born knowing how to use Apple products, my 2 1/2 year old daughter can navigate and select her own shows once I do the initial search and set-up.

What is consistently interesting to me is that she does not discriminate on the language of her cartoons. Today, she watched an entire episode of Caillou in German. She knew what was happening in the episode as well. I have observed this on more than one occasion-as long as her characters are bopping around, she is satisfied.

I’m wondering how I can encourage this and continue to develop this indiscriminate part of her brain, as well as the ability to assess context and content outside of spoken language. In Europe, radio and TV are available in many languages most of the time. Here, we have a Spanish Channel, and not much else. Are YouTube cartoons a golden opportunity? Perhaps.

All I know is that Caillou’s whiny voice transcends all linguistic boundaries.