And So The Revolution Begins (With Flipping Through a Parenting Magazine)

Hi Readers! One of the ways I spread the Free-Range Kids word is by giving talks around the country (and world — going to Australia at the end of the month). Two weeks ago I was doing this in Seattle where, for a romp at one of my speeches, I flipped through a parenting magazine, pointing out just how absurd so much of the “advice” is.

For instance, in an article called “Bug Off,” all about how to “keep pesky insects from spoiling your summer,” the magazine said, “Sweat and body heat also bring on the bugs. Bathe the kids before heading out and try to keep them calm.”

That’s GOOD advice? That’s terrible advice! Oh my God:  Bathe the kids BEFORE sending them out? And then keep them CALM? Doesn’t it make sense to do the EXACT OPPOSITE? Bathe them when they’ve come IN, after they’ve RUN AROUND LIKE BANSHEES? The magazine’s advice is the worst of both worlds!

Another article gave a list of what you should take with you on vacation with your baby: A portable crib, a baby monitor, mesh stair gates, faucet covers, door handle covers, plastic zip ties “to secure cabinets,” an inflatable tub AND  a night-light. If that’s too much to schlep, the article suggests you RENT WHEN YOU GET THERE.

Hey, while you’re at it, get a loan! And a sherpa! And a U-Haul!

And here’s a tidbit from my favorite article, this one about how to increase your child’s confidence: “After you have tucked your child into bed and he’s almost ready to drift off to sleep, tiptoe into his room. Speaking in a low voice, slowly say, ‘I…believe…in…you.'”

It’s like some Soviet-era manual on mind control!  Maybe you can also whisper to your almost-sleeping child, “Clean…up…your…room” and he’ll wake up with an uncontrollable urge to vacuum!

Anyway, all this is by way of introducing a little note I got today from a mom who’d come to my magazine-flipping lecture. I’m so happy when people “get” my point: that we have to take a step back and try to figure out what our culture is REALLY telling us to do, think and buy. And then they start looking around. — L

Dear Lenore: I can’t tell you how many stupid things I’ve seen recently that have reminded me of your talk. You want crazy? Take a look at Fit Pregnancy magazine and read the headlines that freak out parents before their babies even arrive!

I guess it shows up free in all the doctor’s offices. It’s all “eat this to prevent birth defects” (because if you don’t your baby will be deformed and it’s your fault), do this to avoid miscarriage (because if you don’t, you’ll lose your baby), here’s how to stay looking fit (because if you’re a fat mom, everyone will hate you), how to handle the total lack of sex after pregnancy (because actually your husband will divorce you if you don’t put out), what to look for in life-threatening conditions, and on and on. One after another.

I read the scary and awful headlines out loud to the nurse’s assistant. She was horrified and responded by pulling every one of their magazines and throwing them in the trash. She hadn’t ever read the magazine before, but once she saw it, she sure didn’t want pregnant moms in that office to deal with the negativity and blame. Yay!

Thank you for starting some lovely discussions around here! — A Seattle Mom of Three

"Mommy, why does that magazine tell you you're doing everything wrong?"