The $122,730 jungle gym. That caught my eye.
The $800 stroller, the sleep coaches, the wipes warmers, the Baby Sign Language classes. Old news by now -especially to a mom of three kids whose spent nearly the last decade submerged, literally and figuratively, in parenting paraphenalia. Couldn't stop thinking this while reading a review of Pamela Paul's newly published book Parenting, Inc. in this week's New York Times Book Review. Had to wonder what fresh insights Paul offered beyond several other recent books, especially last year's Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds by Susan Gregory Thomas.
And what about that jungle gym and the other gizmos and gimmicks. Do they really harm kids? Paul suggests they produce adults without critical thinking skills. Myself, I think they're more symptoms than causes of social concerns. It's quite a leap from Leap Frogs to cognitive deficits.
If kids are so busy with their gadgets and spoils it's possible they won't develop their minds (and delayed gratification skills) through imaginative, child-directed play. We know the value of unstructured play for the development of not just cognitive but also emotional and social development. But if your kids are like mine, the Leap Frogs and their educational counterparts went the way of much of the much-hyped crap - into the dark recess of the basement. My daughters and son play with such a limited bunch of toys I'm not sure the other crap could pose much danger. Nor am I sure how a Bugaboo stroller could harm them. Or the wipes warmer. Or the fetal heart monitor. Other than teaching them that mom and dad are suckers.
Thankfully, the reviewer, Kate Zernike, a newish mom herself, questions Paul's dramatic portrayal of the parenting purchasing frenzy - calling her on a few outrageous statements like this whopper:
"Any woman worth the cover price of InStyle fantasizes about an array of diaper bags to suit various outfits and occasions."
Sounds like something a twenty-something fashion editor would write. Statements like this are hardly surprising - Paul's previous books explored pornography and "starter marriages" - the author likes to stir things up. Personally, I think the parenting field could use a lot less drama and lot more rationality and objectivity.