Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Good quality children's literature"

-In principle, I'd like to be the sort of person who'd enjoy having lunch of roasted cubed acorn squash with arugula and farro, garnished with roasted seeds from said squash. (How frugal! How non-wasteful!) I'd like to be that person. But I'm not. Something about a lunch along these lines - its vegan-ness, or its absence of refined carbohydrates - made it feel like something that might go with lunch, but not be lunch. It tasted fine, but it was just sort of sad. It looked stunning, like something The Selby would photograph. Aesthetically, it worked. Nutritionally... I suppose it did, and that a grown woman with some modicum of vanity ought to enjoy something like this. But all I could think was how much better this meal might have been with a pasta-and-cheese component. Or something. It's not that I'm not someone who doesn't think it's a meal unless there's some meat, at least I don't think I am. But Nigella Lawson's chicken is now in the oven, and not a moment too soon.

-The latest in viral mommy-blogging controversy: a guide instructing non-parents what to buy or not as gifts for the children of friends and relatives. It's a pretty incredible piece of writing - intended for an audience, if not as large or critical an audience as it's received - in that it hits every possible hot-button note without the author's ever seeming aware of precisely why people are annoyed, this despite her active presence in the comments. Starting with her assessment of the two possible reasons someone might not have children: "Maybe it's because you haven't had them yet but plan to or maybe you like them when they belong to someone else but don't actually want your own." Or maybe... Where oh where to begin. (Fertility? Financial constraints? Not having found a viable partner nor wanting to be a single parent? Any number of personal reasons someone might not have shared with you, because they're none of your business? Gah!)

But then there's the premise itself - that rather than being unexpectedly surprised when random people who are not your children's parents buy them gifts, parents should feel entitled to this, and in a position to curate before the fact. There might have been a way to provide the same 'service' here - because it is baffling, to me at least, what to buy for young children, especially since moving away from Park Slope, where there was always a store within a few feet that specialized in this very shopping conundrum - that didn't involve chastising people for having the nerve to buy the wrong thing.

The list also demands a kind of hilarious time commitment on the part of someone whose children these are not. One is instructed to purchase "[g]ood quality children's literature," described as follows: "Go for award winners, classics or current bestsellers. Read it 6 times in a row and see if you still like it. Remember that we're going to be reading these books over and over and OVER again, so make them ones that every age will like." Time and pedagogical training that people simply don't have. And the suggestion that as a gift, you take someone's children "to a movie, or a museum, or an amusement park" is quite possibly why the word chutzpah was invented.

No overshare, though. Elsewhere on the same blog, yes, including the dreaded bath-and-potty realm, but not in the post I've linked to.


fourtinefork said...

I love, love, love that Nigella chicken. When I lived in the midwest-- in a town with very few, decent restaurants-- I lived off that chicken. The leftovers work great in her parsley chicken salad recipe from Endless Summer, too.

Phoebe said...

Good to know - perhaps if next time I manage to leave leftovers!

Moebius Stripper said...

Heh, I saw that guide for kids' gifts, linked mockingly by a childfree-and-don't-you-forget-it blogger, and I (no kids, probably won't ever have any, but I adore my brother's) still found it more useful than obnoxious. I missed the "read it 6 times" part, which, yes, is a bit much, but "go for award winners" is decent advice that isn't that hard to follow: those books generally have a "Winner of the [X] Award!" label displayed quite prominently. A bookstore worker can probably point a shopper that way, and someone ordering online can easily find award-winning children's literature by Googling those exact terms. No more work than the amount I usually put into buying gifts.

That said, if I were to write such a guide, it would be a lot shorter, possibly one sentence: "If the kid is older than X, ask the kid what they want; otherwise, ask the parent(s)."

Phoebe said...


As an idea, a guide to buying gifts for kids is useful. And I agree that the individual suggestions were mostly reasonable. The problem, I think, was in the execution. Rather than starting from a place of, it's genuinely confusing what to buy kids if you don't have any of your own, it began as almost an admonishment of those who don't have kids. It's pretty weak for a post like that not to at least nod in the direction of, some people are childless but not by choice.

And the author somehow presumed that kids get gifts primarily because of relationships individual adults have with the kid (as vs., it's the kid of an adult you know/a kid who's part of a large family), yet that kid-gifts are really about what the parent wants.

The whole thing would have probably been fine if there'd been an additional paragraph directed at parents, on how to graciously accept the bizarre items friends and family without kids come up with.