Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bizzaro American childhood

Since my last three posts were about sleep, it's time to change up. From the clothes and toys available to the types of concerns parents have these days, modern American childhood just seems bizarre. I don't know if it's just my perception or if something is just fundamentally different. Perhaps people are running out of ideas for toys and things to worry about.

When my husband and I were kids, we had the Fisher Price doctor's kit and our friends were our patients. Today, there's a doll that comes with a doctor's kit. The doll "gets sick," the child takes care of it. Jim calls this the Munchausen by proxy doll. And apparently, Barbie has run out of things to do. Now Barbie comes with a puppy on a leash and a pooper scooper. And get this, the dog actually poops out little plastic pebbles.

Remember when you went outside and built a fort from whatever you could find the yard? Now, home developers are selling mini McMansion playhouses and some parents are actually outfitting them with air conditioners, carpet and electricity. A few of my favorite forts: A bush in the woods formed a nice dome-like enclosure and the moss on the ground was my carpet; My friends and I dragged large logs to cover a three or four foot deep ravine. No carpet, no electricity and yes, it was hot (or cold) outside, and we came home dirty and no doubt covered in germs.

And speaking of germs ... from a letter in a recent newspaper advice column: A man is disgusted by children who blow out candles on a birthday cake. He's actually seen the spit flying as the candles are blown out. Ah, yes, another uptight germophobe ruining childhood. It would never, ever occur to me to worry about this. So maybe now children will have two cakes ... one for blowing out candles, another for eating (Jim's idea).

On our strolls around the neighborhood, Jim and I often encounter a band of children ranging in age from 3 to 10 years old. These children are always outside, often outfitted in capes, tutus, cowboy boots, plastic armor and the like. They are climbing trees, hawking lemonade, running, playing ball, "fighting" with various toy weapons, making trails in their yard, building forts. In short, they are outside being kids. Other children in the neighborhood are rarely outside. I sometimes catch a glimpse of them riding electric scooters and minibikes.

The former represents the kind of childhood my husband and I had and would like our son to have. The latter is just bizzaro.

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