August 31, 2011

American Idle

If you're like me, you can recite (or sing, if you're brave) the theme songs to shows like Spongebob Squarepants, The Wonder Pets, and Bubble Guppies on command. You can do it in your sleep, and sometimes do.

If you're like me, you know that Kidz Bop 20 is currently available for the low, low price of $19.95 plus shipping and handling charges (please allow four to six weeks for delivery), and your kids know the words to the featured songs simply from watching the commercials. For the uninitiated, Kidz Bop is a series of CDs featuring kids singing the latest annoying pop songs. If you're like me, the fact that the latest pop songs are annoying makes you feel just a little bit old.

If you're like me, you know that Lucky Charms are still magically delicious, because just like when you were a kid watching The Smurfs on Saturday mornings, your TV tells you so. Your kids also know this, and will never let you pass Lucky the Leprechaun in the grocery store without a desperate plea to buy his elusive Charms. If you ask them why you should, they'll say, "Duh...because they're magically delicious!" You should have known. And then you buy them, because secretly, you agree. 

Unless you're a parent with superhuman levels of energy, resolve, and aversion to toddler-targeted commercial marketing, you're probably a lot like me. This means that at some point during most days, sometimes more than once, the TV is on at your house. And the computer. And the video game console. And it's not just our kids who have a hard time putting down the remote or the mouse and picking up a book or going outside and enjoying the weather. You wouldn't have found this post on Facebook if that were the case, right? Right. It's very much a plugged-in society in which we live, a very much on-demand iTunes Netflix Xbox Live instant download existence we lead. This is not a bad thing in and of itself; some of those things make our lives a great deal easier, but they pose a problem when we're overexposed to them. And that's the problem: they're everywhere.

This is no lecture, just an observation. I'm a bit of a gadget/electronics junkie myself. I'm into a few shows that I won't miss. I do my reading on an e-reader, for gosh sake (it rocks), and I obviously spend some time in front of a computer; if I didn't, there would be no Used Diaper Salesman floating merrily along out here in the blogosphere, and where would we be then? Wait, don't answer that.

When we were kids (said the old man), we didn't have as much of that stuff to distract us, and I know our parents said the same thing to our generation with a touch of horror when the Atari and MTV were born. Despite those things, we stayed in great shape with all our running around, playing our pick-up games of tag and hide-and-go-seek, although we were never as fit as our parents because, when they were kids, they had the advantage of walking uphill both ways whenever they went somewhere. It's true. Just ask them.

We had awesome imaginations and far less mass media. I want the same for my kids, but it seems I'll have to contend for their imaginations with Nickelodeon, Bill Gates, and Kraft Foods. Spongebob is EVERYWHERE, and he wants my children. I say we bring back stick sword fights with no eye protection, treasure hunts with maximum mud-immersion, and whatever it is you girls do for imaginative play.

I'm curious to know what's worked well for you. In what ways have you been successful at showing your kids how to spend more time being less plugged in? And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check Facebook.

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