Photo Credit: ABC
There are TV shows that merit my full attention. Shows I wouldn't dare turn on until my little ones had surrendered into that deep-breathing, coma sleep that kids don't come back from til morning. Mad Men, for instance. The Wire, back when it was on. But if it's, say, a Saturday afternoon, when there's laundry to fold or coupons to clip, I prefer something multi-task-friendly, something that doesn't require an appointment or dimmed lights.
When I peered over the heaping laundry basket this Saturday, and scrolled down my TiVo queue of recorded shows, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I'd recorded Supernanny (Episode 2, Season 6) on Friday. The perfect, mindless-task show.
Supernanny is a service show (it teaches how to discipline and guide young children), but everyone knows, the appeal is in its car wreck elements. The featured parents are always spineless, and often totally hapless. The children are always rambunctious. We viewers get to watch and say out loud (from our couches) all the things we are too polite to say in public when faced with actual pushover parents, and their out-of-control kids. Then we watch the nanny, Jo Frost, say it for us.
Better yet, those of us who are parents can gloat over our own, much superlative children -- and it doesn't take much for a kid to be superlative to the little hellions that Supernanny's producers always manage to drum up. I once interviewed Kate Gosselin for a prominent women's magazine (long before her present troubles), and I asked if she and Jon ever watched any of the parenting shows in the vein of Supernanny. She answered that they did occasionally. Recalling a couple featured on one such show, whose children refused to go to bed, she said, "It was like the children were parenting the parents!" I have the same reaction to Supernanny. It's appealing to see someone else doing what you do, but not as well.
So on Saturday, I'm folding, sorting, half listening to Supernanny, and occasionally talking to the TV. "Hello," I say. "Honey, that's Parenting 101: don't let your kid kick you." I roll my eyes at these silly people, who don't even know how to administer a time out. And then Jo asks about the kids and their eating habits, and, as expected, the mother begins to complain. "They won't eat my macaroni and cheese," she says. "They'll only eat the kind out of the box. And they won't eat chicken unless it's in the shape of a dinosaur." I put down the Dora the Explorer underwear, and give the TV my full attention. So…that's wrong? Because dinosaur chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese from the box are kind of the biggest sources of nutrition going on right now with my ultra-picky eaters. They eat other things, of course, but usually there's a dessert-oriented incentive involved. (And it's not a carrot stick, either--more like gummy worms.)
So much for multi-tasking. In that instant, all I can do is stare, trance-like, at this super-heroine who might in the next few minutes show me how to raise healthy eaters. Show me the goods, Jo! Hanging on her every word, I prepare to listen closely, and digest, and process her grand plan, which is… Bring the family to a farmer's market and get the kids "engaged and interested" in fruits and vegetables.
Oh. Oh, no. This is her answer? And here's what's even worse: The show leads viewers to believe that this is effective. I watch while the kids gamely try cucumbers and yellow peppers--clearly because a TV camera is capturing the event. "You like it?" says Jo. "See, and at first you didn't want to try it!" Uh-huh. Sure. That's just what my kids would say.
That night, the children happily scarf down grilled chicken that looks nothing like a T Rex, and mangoes, and sweet potatoes and peppers. I think I actually even saw some asparagus on their plates. Only one of the four kids gets up from the table without finishing. Jo counsels the mother to tell (not ask) her to sit down and eat. When the kid doesn't listen, Jo then suggests ignoring her. The camera cuts away to Jo, and then back to the child--who is now magically finishing off her peppers. We aren't privy to what happened in between, but Jo tells us that eventually the girl decided to just get on with it and eat the peppers already. Hmmm.
As they go into to the commercial, Jo gives us viewers a quiz. What's the best way to get children to eat what you've made at mealtime? Is it A) Give them choices B) Stop snacks one hour before C) Make them sit at the table. When the show returns, Jo gives us the answer: B) Stop snacks one hour before.
Wow, what a revelation. Did she actually think that was going to help me? "Great idea! OK, kids! No more Snickers bars after 5 PM!" Thanks, anyway, Supernanny. But I already knew that one.
Now I'm fired up. I've been teased by this woman, only to be frustrated. Maybe, for me, Supernanny isn't good laundry-folding TV anymore. I'm a little too sensitive about some things. And I really just need to get these socks sorted.
What parenting problem do you wish someone would solve for you? Chime in below!