When you first become a parent, you automatically become a target group. It kind of blew my mind because I had always lived outside of mainstream popular media fed society and was oblivious to such panderings. Companies immediately consider you fair game and try to tug on your heart strings, fears and aspirations as a parent for profit. Advertising screams “Buy this, or you are a bad parent without your child’s best interests in mind! Watch our show to ensure your child’s peak development! Only use this, listen to this, wear this as long as you spend spend spend and everything will be fine!” It is overwhelming, especially for one who is not used to being yelled at all the time in such a way. It is easy enough to avoid, really. Just don’t acknowledge it and realize that in a culture where everyone wants to make a buck, nothing is sacred and be prepared to throw on your deflector shield. Research products on your own and decide what is really the best option.
If television, internet ads and the parenting magazines available for you to browse through at your prenatal and/or wellness check up appointments don’t get you, other parents will. They come together on parenting websites, blogs and communities (that you are referred to online when merely researching the products I mentioned in the last paragraph) and even the playground and act like they are experts on everything. One becomes a parent and suddenly has a Doctorate degree in How to Raise a Family With Utmost Smugness and is all too eager to preach to you. It is hard to escape. I even find myself wanting to participate and admit to having done so before… I have the best of intentions (and imagine many others do too) and it is exciting to raise a child and you want to share your discoveries with the world but in doing so, you have to realize that every family is unique and has their own way, whether you agree or not. This is an easy one to get involved in, more so than simply turning off the TV. Be prepared to weed through the barrages of information you will receive, much like you would with the advertising. I am fortunate to have a great network of fellow parent friends to throw ideas off of and obtain some valuable info as a result of their experiences (and make fun of the snooty parents). It kind of does take a village to raise a child, it is just finding the right neighborhood.
Advertising and nosy internet/playground Moms aside, there is then the topic of children’s movies and programming. That’s safe, right? Good family relaxing fun… nothing like lounging with your beloved brat all cuddly to watch a movie or having a day date at the cinema. Then…”What IS this? Why are they digging up a horrible one hit wonder song from the 90’s that should never be heard again or replacing an original movie score with ancient pop songs that doesn’t even make sense for the characters to know?” It really has nothing to do with entertaining your child, more so to target YOU as a parent because those songs come from your generation and you will be more likely to tolerate it as your child watches it over and over again then go out to spend spend spend on toys from the movie and on and on. Same thing with making adult jokes and innuendos that you will understand but your sweet innocent child will not. Newsflash: I have plenty of non PG rated material to enjoy after the kids are in bed- ones that don’t include you butchering my old favorites or making songs I always despised even more annoying. I do not expect for you to pander to me during a movie meant for my children to enjoy. I miss the days when original music was composed for children’s films, it is few and far between nowadays.
So… what can you do, really? I can say that at first, I tried to keep my daughter from the snares of popular vapid children’s entertainment but what she didn’t get at home, she received in abundance from other kids at day care and school and begged me to let her take part. Myself, having been quite a rebel, understand how keeping a child from something they want will only make them want it more, so I gave in. I have to say though, I am proud of my daughter. She has my cynicism and good taste (*gloat, gloat, gloat*) and is better at weeding out the bad from the good with as the years go on. I have always explained to her what the purpose of commercials are and other mixed messages pop culture sends and she accepts that things are not always what they seem. It is hard to let your child know how insincere the culture we are immersed in is (and prepare them for the inevitable onslaught) while still fostering that necessary childhood magic and wonder. I think we have found a good balance though, and I hope that you and your family can do the same.
…and here I am- a random, seemingly preachy, blogging Mom that you may have come across on a search engine or FaceBook share (with any luck…) appearing to try to sell you on MY idea of the world as a parent. I am not trying to pander to you, or make a profit, or tell you that I have all the answers and you should listen to ME, just stopping by your parenting village for a play date. Do with me what you will, invite me in or let me walk by. Either way, you cannot deny that being a parent is trifling at times when you have “being a target for profit” added to your role, as well as the millions of other ones you begin to imbue as a parent- whether you want or not.