Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is it a bit mean of me to be kind of glad that K didn't seem to have a great time when her preschool class went to Chuck E. Cheese this week?

I mean, I didn't want her to have a terrible or traumatizing time, but while my antipathy towards place like Chuck E. Cheese wasn't enough for me to make her stay behind when the rest of her class went to have fun, I didn't especially want to deal with demands to go back. Chuck E. Cheese is in the shopping mall right next to where B works, so we would be dealing with it a lot.

I recognize that there are inevitably things that are suitable for children but not adults that parents will simply have to endure, like Barney or the twenty millionth repetition of The Poky Little Puppy. You don't feel right saying no because the only thing actually wrong with it is that it makes you want to scale a three story building with your bare hands to get away from it, and your child loves it. I accept this as a consequence of parenthood, occasionally sacrificing my sanity and unrended garments for my child's happiness. Into each life a little McDonald's playland must fall*. But that's not to say that I'm not happy to allow my child to remain in ignorance of the things I don't like as long as possible. I would have been happy to keep K from knowing about the existence of restaurants filled with mediocre pizzas, rigged video games and creepy animatronic singing animals that inexplicably attract children for several more years. We got lucky this time - she didn't seem too enthusiastic about the experience and said eating lunch was scary, which I think means she has the good taste to think the supremely creepy animatronic singing devilsanimals are in fact quite creepy. Good taste AND we can still pick B up from work without having to worry about tantrums over going to Chuck E. Cheese. Lucky indeed.

This is just one example of the eternal problem of parenthood: eventually, you have to send them out into the world, and once you do, you no longer have total control over what they're exposed to.

This is both good and bad, of course. I can't count the number of ways preschool has been a positive influence on K's development, physically, mentally and socially. And then, we have days like last week, where preschool featured Enforce Gender Stereotype Conformity Day, which is to say I went in on Wednesday and saw a sign saying that tomorrow, the boys would wear blue and the girls would dress like princesses. Theme dressing days are pretty common at preschool, but they tend to be things like "wear pj's!" or "wear a hat!" not "make your mother's head explode by asking her to put you in a sexist, stereotyped outfit!"

And the real hell of it is that while I feel perfectly free to ignore theme days at preschool (or more often, just forget) or come up with a dozen ways to dress K subversively, I couldn't. Because one of the other influences of preschool is that all of her little friends love dressing up in princess dresses and now K does too. It would have broken her heart if all of the other girls were wearing princess dresses and I sent her in jeans. Otherwise I the only dress I would have sent her in on Thursday would have been the one I made from the dinosaur camouflage fabric last summer.

It's just life, of course. When they start out, you're their entire world, and slowly but surely they grow away from you and learn how to engage the world on their own as their own person with their own preferences and desires. But it's a process that can be awfully hard on all concerned.

*Well, in our case it's the local Burger King with an indoor play gym that we frequently find ourselves at on the nights that B is working. Oh, don't look at me like that. She eats macaroni and cheese, apples and chocolate milk, gets healthful exercise and socialization climbing around the gigantic child habitrail with other children, picks up yet another virus** and we go home. I get the weekly serving of red meat my body seems to want right now and get half an hour of reading in. The only major downside is yet another piece of plastic crap for the landfill that will clutter our house for a while. True, I prefer Panera where she can get organic milk and hormone-free turkey, but until they install a tasteful wooden playground, Burger King will be where K campaigns to go.

**To the woman last night who was insisting that her daughter couldn't go in the playstructure without her shoes on because "it's filthy in there": precisely what terrible disease do you think she's going to pick up that she wouldn't have gotten from crawling around on her hands and knees? Also, the reason it's so dirty in there is because parents let their children go in with their shoes on, which is why they're supposed to take them off. That, and it hurts other chldren a lot less when they inevitably get clocked in the head by the child going down the slide immediately after them or accidentally kicked when they follow someone up the ladder too closely.

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