Just when I feared I'd been catering to my kids just a little toooo much this summer, I read about Joan Selkow of Parkland, Florida.
Ms. Selkow is a 52-year old mother of three, who recently told The NYTimes that part of her job as parent is the care, feeding and healing of her kid's virtual pets. You read that right - virtual pets.
While her children are away at summer camp, this dedicated (if that's the word for it) parent logs on to Webkinz, a site where stuffed animals live parallel online lives, and cares for the 40 critters that her kids have bought with Kinzcash.
But it's not a simple five minute chore, as the Times explained: "To start, she must remember the names of the Webkinz and the passwords her children use to enter their virtual homes in Webkinz World. Then she must feed them, play with them and take care of their finances. (She keeps a log of her activities, including how much cash the pets amass on the Wheel of Wow)."
Selkow says it take her about an hour a day. And she's been doing this since June.
I don't know about you, but this makes my slave-like behavior toward my children pale in comparison.
Call it over-parenting. Call it hyper-parenting. Call it obsessive. Whatever you call it, a number of experts are now telling us that this parenting style is creating a generation of unhappy, disconnected kids who can't solve their own problems, by giving them what author and Marin County psychologist Madeline Levin calls "an impaired sense of self."
But that's old news. What's new news is that an anthropologist at Utah State University is positing that all the time parents are spending playing Thomas the Tank Engine or Barbie with their kids really doesn't have the impact on their social and emotional growth as we once thought - and in fact, might actually play a negative role in their development.
This controversial article, recently published by USU professor David Lancy, argues that parent-child play is a distinct feature of wealthy developed countries, a result of the pressure to get kids ready for the information-age economy. Lancy says that the data is very murky showing what, if any, benefit adult-child play actually has. As The Boston Globe put it, "parent-child play of this sort has been virtually unheard of throughout human history...and three-fourths of the world's current population would still find that mother's behavior kind of dotty."
For all you parents who enjoy playing with their kids, don't string Lancy up the nearest play structure just yet. He says he didn't write his article to encourage parents to stop playing with their children. He just wants parents to stop feeling guilty when they aren't always available to play a game of Go Fish or Jenga with the kids.
In the meantime, I'd advise Ms. Selkow (the Webkinz slave) to let those 40 virtual pets languish...and spend some quality time with herself while the kids are away at camp.
Do you cater to your kids? Do you feel guilty when you can't/won't play that 15th game of Candyland with your 5 year old? What do you think of the theory that parent-child play doesn't benefit children as much as previously thought? Click below on "Comments" and share your thoughts or stories.
Leave them kids alone
All in all it's just another brick in the wall