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Pop Culture Finds Maddie

Maddie’s received a few gifts from
her friends that have revealed some rather large holes in her pop
culture literacy.

At her birthday party, Maddie received a lovely gift bag that
revealed a small stuffed dog inside a carrier purse, a la Paris
Hilton. The dog was zipped entirely inside, with just its face and
front paws peeking out. “Mommy, what is it?” Maddie
asked. “Well, honey, it’s a dog, and it’s inside
a kind of purse.” “But why would you put a dog in a
purse?” she asked worriedly. “Well, some people think
it’s cute.” A pause, while she thinks.

“Get it out, Mommy! Get it out now! Doggies don’t go in
purses! It wants to get out!”

Then there was the playset she was given
that left me struggling for answers for a good twenty minutes
– the Little People Camping set, complete with two girls, a
car and attached camper, sleeping bags, cooking fire, and fishing

The only thing my urban child understood was the fishing pole,
thanks to a few trips with Daddy to the local fishing pond.

“What is this Mommy?” “Well, honey, sometimes
when people go on vacation they don’t stay in a hotel –
they stay in a kind of trailer their car pulls, called a
camper.” “But why?” “Well, some people
think it’s fun to stay outside and be closer to
nature.” I am definitely not the right person to be
explaining this to her in glowing terms.

“But where do they sleep? Where are the beds?”
“Not everyone sleeps in a bed. When you’re camping, you
sleep in what’s called a sleeping bag.” (Visual aid
– I pick up the toy sleeping bag, stuff the doll in it, and
place it on the appropriate camper sleeping shelf.) Maddie looks
fearful: “I don’t want you to put me in a bag,
Mommy!” Moving on. “What’s this?”

Something I can get behind. “That’s a campfire;
it’s where you cook your food when you’re camping,
since there’s no kitchen.” Maddie looks horrified.
“There’s no kitchen? I don’t want you to burn my
food in the fire, Mommy!” Can someone please get me out of
this, please???

Another favorite of mine was the cute little penguin a cousin gave
her as a swim toy. I think this thing is from one of the penguin
movies – I have to confess I haven’t seen any of them,
but this little guy has swim goggles and a racing number on him,
and has spinning flippers to propel him through the water.
“What’s this for, Mommy?” “That’s a
pool toy, honey: you bring it with you and the penguin will swim in
the water for you to play with!” How can this possibly get me
in trouble?

“No no no, Mommy, penguins don’t swim in pools.
Penguins live on ice. They don’t go in pools.”

Has this kid been reading the zoo literature? “Yes,” I
agree slowly, stalling for time, “but you see the penguins at
the Central Park zoo swimming in their pool, don’t
you?” Ha ha!

“Yes, but Mommy, that water is icy cold. Daddy told me.
Penguins can’t swim in the hot water.”

I’m telling you, my kid has one of the most vivid
imaginations I’ve ever come across: daily she regales me with
tales of all the wonderful things she and her best friend Big Elmo
do when I’m not around. But confront her with a plastic
penguin headed for warmer climes and she implodes.

And finally, we’ve put it off for three years, but the
dreaded Princesses have officially entered our home. Yes, Maddie
got her first Disney Princess gift this week – a Disney
Princess activity desk that fits across her lap, complete with
colored pens, stencils, and stickers. Maddie pointed to the
pictures of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty on the desk
and said, “Who are these ladies?”

“No one you need to worry about, kiddo.”

Look, I don’t want my girls to grow up to be freaks –
the poor kids who sneak over to a friend’s house to watch
television and eat that forbidden white sugar, coming home later
gorged on Hanna Montana and Pop Tarts. But I resent the whole
Disney Princess thing in particular – they are everywhere! So
we stick with Sesame Street and Davey and Goliath videos, and
Maddie is content for right now. A friend of mine asked me today
when I’ll start allowing a broader range of topics in
Maddie’s viewing life, and I don’t honestly know the
answer. She’s only allowed one t.v. show a day, and she likes
what she’s got so much that we have no need to add anything
else yet. The next thing I introduce will probably be some of the
old movie musicals – “Sound of Music”,
“Meet Me In St. Louis”, that sort of thing. I’ve
looked over the Disney movies, but they seem a bit scary to me
still. I’m honestly not trying to deprive my child; I just
don’t see the need to jump into everything. Maddie sees a
picture of Dora the Explorer while waiting in line at the grocery
store, and knows her as the Girl Who’s On Maddie’s Swim
Diaper. And while that’s interesting, it’s not enough
to make Maddie beg me to buy that particular box of Kleenex just
because the Girl is on it. And I’m not unhappy about that.

There will come a point when Maddie feels like the odd man,
listening to her friends talk about things she doesn’t
understand like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears and Pocahantas. And
when she comes to me, frustrated, there’ll be plenty of time
then to expand her horizons and help her fit in while still
maintaining some degree of parenting integrity.

And until that day, I’m content with a girl who doesn’t
understand people who stick dogs in purses.


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