American Kids Are Spoiled. Well, some of them are.

I just finished reading “Spoiled Rotten” by Elizabeth Kolbert from The New Yorker.  Like I figured from reading a review, I was going to be pissed off by the end.  Or maybe just after the first page.  Nope, it took two paragraphs.

The article starts with a cute anecdote about a child from the Matsigenka tribe from the Peruvian Amazon.  The six-year-old asks to go leaf-gathering with another family and makes herself useful with all sorts of tasks like catching dinner than cooking it WITHOUT BEING ASKED!  A resourceful little tike, and yes, the author is right.  I would never imagine Tornado E doing that.

But here’s the problem.  I’m a disciple of Desmond Morris.  I read an article (perhaps in one of his books) where he criticized anthropologists and sociologists comparing out-of-touch, hidden-away tribes, pockets of living human archeology with that of the civilization.  When he was being kind, he said it was like comparing apples to oranges.  When he wasn’t kind, being sort of euro-centric, he said those tribes didn’t evolve and were left in the dust and therefore weren’t a good representation of humans, much less our ancestors.

So when I read about comparing a child from a tribe in South America of about 12,000 people with “average” children from Los Angeles, I get a little steamed because it’s lazy, unethical, illogical comparisons.  If the author wanted to make a real comparison of “spoiled” kids in America, then she should have gained evidence among Americans.  Because I’m sure we would find a completely different view.

Are there spoiled kids in America?  Sure, there are.  We obsess about the children of famous and rich people and what they wear and what they play with and where they go.  I grew up with spoiled, rich brats.  I know several adults that cater to their children.  But I also know a lot of unspoiled children.  I have seen a lot of unspoiled children.

I’ve never met a six-year-old who caught crustaceans, cleaned them, cooked them, served them to the adults, and then cleaned the dinner up.  But while I worked for the Girl Scouts, I met several six-year-olds who acted as translators for their parents, who didn’t speak a word of English.  These girls helped with the child raising and chores around the house.  I know a six–year-old who is surrounded with dolls and toys, and she is the sweetest, most kind kid I have ever met.  Let’s not forget that America is filled with children who live below the poverty line.  I wonder if they are spoiled?

I also take offense to the comparison of French children versus American children.  I’m horrified by any mother who decides to let her infant cry for five minutes before picking up the baby.  (Just like I’m horrified at the on-the-pedestal tribe who uses poisonous leaves to discourage laziness.)  And I would be hard pressed to believe a three-year-old was baking cupcakes by herself.  Honestly, cupcakes?  At three?  We’re suppose to believe that all French children sit perfectly still and quite through a three-course meal at a restaurant and all American children are throwing food by the time appetizers arrive.  I don’t know who those American kids are, but they are not mine.  Tornado E, as a toddler, was forced into fine dining quite often because our friends couldn’t understand why a toddler shouldn’t be in a nice restaurant, but that kid could sit there for an hour or so, playing with toys and not throwing a single piece of food.  In fact, each of my boys threw one piece of food at home and that was dealt with swiftly.

The article mentions how we are lucky to have a long childhood to prepare far the rigors of our modern world.  It mentioned how as society became more modern, evolved, complicated, childhood stretched out to allow for more learning and coping skills.  But the article never used this reasoning when comparing the South American tribe.  I totally agree that there is a need for a longer childhood, but it is the only thing that I agreed with the article.

The problem with this article is that it makes HUGE assumptions.  It assumes that all American kids are parented with permissive style parenting with helicopter parenting.  That all American kids are given whatever they want and don’t need to do chores.  While there are permissive parents and helicopter parents, not everyone parents that way.  In fact the examples illustrated in the article as American parenting were all permissive.  No authoritarian, no authoritative, no free-range, no love-and-logic.  The parents just gave into the kids demands.  Even the author mentions how she gave up making her child do chores after he botches them up one time.  Any half-decent parent knows that parenting is lots of exhausted patience as you try to teach the child how to carry groceries and take out the trash.  Often this is the time, you bring the kid out to help you so you can teach him how to do it more efficiently.  But as one reviewer of the article pointed out, parenting is time-consuming, and many people don’t have the time to teach our kids how to catch our dinners, kill them, clean them, and cook them.

As for children who get whatever they want, I want to see how many toys all those children under the poverty level have.  Or take a middle class family like mine, we have tons of toys, but we also have three children, which generates lots of hand-me-down toys as well as gifts.  For every rich kid who goes off to private college and learns nothing, there is another kid who worked (either at a job or grades or a skill) to get to college.  For every kid who refuses to help at home, there’s another kid who is minding little siblings and getting dinner ready.  For every kid who has the latest gadget, there’s another kid just thrilled to go to a used-clothing store to buy a dollar bag full of little toys.

So Ms. Elizabeth Kolbert, next time you want to compare parenting styles with people around the world, you should get a larger sample.  That’s what good investigators do.

(A side note that has no place in this article.  The review I read was “Why Parents ‘Spoil’ Their Kids” by Valerie Isakova on Shine.  I found the comments at the end of the article very amusing as it seemed everyone had to say “kids back in my day….”  Well, seeing that you all are responding to an online article, I would assume most of the commenters were Gen Y {stupidest name ever}, Gen X, or among the late baby boomer crowd.  Which means that the generations above them were complaining about how kids these days are no respectful, have no discipline, have no drive and will ruin America.  Back when milk was cheap and politicians were honest.)

Get Unserious if you want to critique Twilight

So I’ve been thinking a lot about Twilight and the rest of the series, and since I was doing the dishes, I composed this post with hopes to minimize the complete tediousness of the chore.  I read a lot of reviews about the books and the movies, but I always find bad reviews more interesting because, after all, it’s only one person’s opinion.

 

First: To those who hate the books.  I read a post the other day about how horrible the books were.  That they were tripe, and the blogger read them all in a weekend and that (THAT!) must be proof on how horrible they are.  Well, let me abuse anyone of the notion that this is fine literature.  These are books written for teenagers, so they aren’t going to be complex as, I don’t know, James Joyce or J.D. Salenger.  Oh, wait I read the Dubliners in a weekend, and I read Nine Stories and Catcher in the Rye in 24 hours.  The blogger went on to bemoan the happy ending and the fact that you can’t have sexy vampires without sex.  Again this was a book written for teenagers, and they LOVE happy endings.  And I, for one, think that it’s nice to have something in pop culture that isn’t about sex.  Aren’t teenagers inundated with too much of it as it is?

 

I can’t stress enough on how these books and movie were made for the target audience of teen girls.  I find it amusing that all these adults find the movies immature.  Well, gee, when Harry Potter really hit it big, I knew they weren’t the books for me because I wanted something with a little meat in it.  (Note: I plan on reading them soon.)  I read Stephanie Meyers’ books because I wanted an easy read, I love vampire books, and I knew it was really a romance book.  Yup, it’s a romance novel about soul mates.  Any vampire teenage girl book is ultimately about soul mates exist and love conquers all.   It gives them hope that maybe that special some one isn’t in the same high school but he’s out there somewhere looking for you.  Remember what they did with Dracula when the made Bram Stroker’s Dracula.  There was nothing about soul mates in that book.

 

Second: to all who hated the films.  Yes, it was made strictly for the fans.  Now, granted the director and screenwriter left out some helpful knowledge like why the Cullens don’t drink human blood and hey, vampire saliva is poisonous.  But it really was a decent movie.  I’m sorry it didn’t have enough gore and blood in it for some people, but they must have been oblivious to the fact this was made for teenage girls, not boys.  Then there’s the critic who was upset that Meyers took some liberties with her vampires, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the same critic who hated Underworld because it was just another typical vampire movie.  (Duh, that’s why I’m going to see it.  But how good is it: Interview with a Vampire good or Vampire in Brooklyn horrible?)  Of course, Meyers had to do something different with vampires; look at how many other vampire books are out there.

 

The other biggest problem for critical viewers was the giggling audience.  These critics believed the giggles were because of the poor acting and the poor script.  Well, I just saw the movie for a second time with friends who are big fans of the series, and we giggled a lot too and probably at inappropriate times.  I paid attention to what set it off.  It was because the actors acted like teenagers.  They talked like teenagers.  Edward getting tongue-tied and trying to make Bella believe some stupid lie.  The painful look of a newly-converted-to-animal-blood-diet vampire when he’s around humans made perfect comical sense.  The awkwardness of Bella reminded me of how awkward I was around my high school crush.  We laughed because we saw ourselves, and some of us saw are younger selves.

 

I’m just saying don’t go to this movie or read these books if you’re going to take them seriously.  When I want to read something serious, I read nonfiction because anything else could be made fun of; remember The DaVinci Code or Little Women.  They should be taken with a grain of salt because they’re fiction.  We read these books and see these movies because we want an escape.  It’s why I read fantasy novels and my mom reads romance.  It’s why I went several times to see Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.  (Which by the way must have the world’s worst romance scenes.  Talk about creepy, Anakin does it way better than Edward.  The lines in Star Wars were so corny AND melancholy.  You just wanted to commit suicide just to get out of watching it.)

 

So tip of the day: If you’re reading or watching something made for teenage girls, lighten up.