Thursday, January 12, 2006

can i tell you a secret?

i love watching Nanny 911.

why? why do i get such pleasure from watching a variety of dysfunctional families with insane children get disciplined by british nannies?

well, when i put it that way, i'm not sure i want to know.

but really - i said to BoyCat last night about 20 minutes into the episode about the Graham family, "this show is like crack!" if it's on, i inevitably end up watching it - i can't help it. maybe it makes me feel a little bit better about my own life. hell, my job is ridiculous and the brick walls in our apartment are slowly disintegrating and there's almost no food in the house, but at least i'm not the Graham family!

oh, the Grahams, they were quite a little clan. they live in a big brick (probably brick facade) McMansion outside chicago, where dad is an ER doctor and mom is (wait for it) a stay-at-home mom. they have four boys - one 13 year old from mom's previous marriage, a six year old, and four year old twins. the kids play video games all day every day, and when they're not playing video games, they're pummeling each other and/or the dog. oh, and screaming. screaming that would make your ears bleed after an hour or two. it was utter chaos in that house, to a degree that i can't even imagine living with. and yet, the parents - despite the fact that they are being filmed for a show called Nanny 911 and not Parents of the Year - wanted nothing to do with Nanny Deb's suggestions for improving their household. what it came down to was that it was easier for them to let the kids play video games four hours a day than actually, you know, entertain the kids themselves. dad works a whole "30-40 hours a week" and thus really needs his downtime, and mom, well, mom has "things to get done." why bother also trying to parent your children, when you can just warm up the Game Cube?

perhaps i'm not being fair. well, i'm sure i'm not being fair, because editing is everything and i really know nothing about the Grahams. but the whole thing - and so many episodes of Nanny 911 - just reek of obvious problems and obvious solutions, that you just end up staring slack-jawed at the mounting insanity and thinking, "you idiots."

of course, that's a big part of the allure - feeling oh so much smarter than these clueless people. but even being aware of that, god, it's still fun when you can make pretty accurate predictions about how long it will take to hear statements like "boys will be boys!" and "who do you think cares more about parenting - a stay-at-home mom, or the woman that makes enough money to pay you to parent their kids??"

oooooh, snap. but you're still on Nanny 911.


Toast said...

what it came down to was that it was easier for them to let the kids play video games four hours a day than actually, you know, entertain the kids themselves.

Um.. in their defense, since when is it a parent's job to "entertain" their children? All the kids in my neighborhood growing up from about age 6 on up -- all of 'em -- did a perfectly good job of entertaining ourselves. Whether it was playing games outside or playing games inside or doing stuff alone (me: model kits and books), me managed to occupy our time without being a nuisance or an undue burden.

And I'll tell you, if Tracy and I have a kid (we're trying), you bet your ass they're going to be raised to that same standard.

Children, properly disciplined, learn to entertain themselves.

BigBuddhaPuppy said...

Oh, those guilty pleasures...

Mine is listening to Neil Diamond...

kate.d. said...

toast, you're entirely correct. the problem with the grahams, i think, is that this kind of self-sufficient behavior was never encouraged to begin with. if kids learn young to "go outside and play," or how to play indoor games and get along with their siblings without killing one another, it'll probably stick.

if they're not taught this early on, they wind up like the grahams.

BoyCat and i were also commenting on how kids aren't just booted outside anymore. we were wondering if the growing culture of fear in the last 20-odd years has anything to do with that - parents would rather have their kids inside staring at the tv rather than playing in the front yard, where a big scary stranger could snatch them. i dunno.

maybe that's another post for another time.

Mike said...

Was your problem with the mom being a stay-at-home mom that she was at home and the kids are a mess, or that she was a stay-at-home at all?

Toast said...

Oh, I think that's definitely the case. Parents are absolutely paranoid these days, even though there's no evidence that children are any more at risk from "predators" now than they were when I was a kid. Christ, when I was ten years old I used to take off and ride my bike pretty much anywhere within a twenty-mile/three-town radius. Just hop on and say "I'll be back for dinner at 6 O'Clock". Can you imagine a parent letting their kid do that nowadays?

But, yeah, you're right, it goes to the question of instilling discipline at an early age. Not just discipline, but structure. Kids don't internalize it anymore. I have now heard from two different adults -- both of whom have kids who play sports -- that kids in their neighborhood are literally incapable of organizing pickup games for, say, softball or street hockey. Everything they do has to be organized for them by adults. I'm sorry, but that is severely fucked up.

kate.d. said...

my problem (though that teeters on being too strong of a word) is that the whole scenario was SOOOO stereotypical. i didn't flesh it out as much as it could've been, in terms of the type of things he said as "The Dad" and that she said as "The Mom." so the issue was not that she was a stay-at-home mom per se.

ok, now back to cleaning out office closets! office moves are freaking thrilling.

maurinsky said...

I didn't watch the show, but my problem with the scenario as described is that JUST being at home does not make your parenting superior to those moms who are working. I don't think SAHMs have to be superwomen, educating and entertaining and enlightening their children, but just being present doesn't mean you are a better parent.

Toast, my childhood was very much like what you are describing. During the summer months, my mother would send us outside at 7am, and we weren't supposed to come back inside again until dinnertime (she would make us eat lunch outside.) I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids who were living with their mothers because their parents just got divorced (there was a nice, inexpensive apartment complex next door to our house), so there were always kids around.

I have to say, it's hard to find parents who aren't paranoid nowadays - but my Monkey goes outside and rides her bike and plays Star Wars with the boy on the corner or draws with chalk on the sidewalk with the girl across the street.

Also, my rule of thumb is that when kids are bored, it's the perfect time for special chores, like washing the bathroom floor or re-organizing the pantry. Thus, my children never say they are bored.

Style Girl said...

don't feel bad for watching nanny 911, i still tivo and watch beverly hills 90210 everyday. that is sad.