Well, I missed my Friday 11/20 newsletter but I had a good reason… My daughter Olivia was born on 11/19 and I decided enjoy our first day with her instead of newslettering.
Now that she is home and everyone is doing well (and sleep is starting to happen) back we go to the links and thinking. This one is fairly kid/education focused.
Welcome to life Olivia. We are going to have a lot of fun together.
At first, I’ll admit, I was skeptical of their reports. Childhoods generally aren’t perfect—and if theirs had been, why would these people feel so lost and unsure of themselves? It went against everything I’d learned in my training.
But after working with these patients over time, I came to believe that no florid denial or distortion was going on. They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life. Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment). In short, these were parents who had always been “attuned,” as we therapists like to say, and had made sure to guide my patients through any and all trials and tribulations of childhood. As an overwhelmed parent myself, I’d sit in session and secretly wonder how these fabulous parents had done it all.
Until, one day, another question occurred to me: Was it possible these parents had done too much?
“Who’s the target audience?” asks the teacher.
“Boys— our age,” responds a student. “They only showed boys in this ad.”
“And the music— it was like rap music, sung by boys,” chimes in another. “It’s sung in a kind of agressive way,” the student continues. “And the words, ‘In Yo’ Mouth’— that reminds me of ‘In Yo’ Face!'”
“What’s a synonym for ‘In Yo’ Face?'” asks the teacher, feigning ignorance.
The class erupts in laughter, and a chorus of replies follow as children call out their synonyms. The teacher flips open the thesaurus and adds some additional words: defiance, bravado, dare.
The teacher changes the pace. “In your notebooks, everybody take five minutes and write down one or two reasons why the producer chose this phrase for the Lego Mini Waffles campaign.” Notebooks fly open, pens get located and students get quickly down to writing. This is clearly something they have been doing regularly in this class. After five minutes, he asks students to read their ideas aloud. Six hands are in the air.
A dark-haired girl begins to read. “The producer wants to show that eating Lego Mini Waffles is a way of showing independence, being defiant.”
“The producer wants kids to think it’s cool to eat breakfast on the run, not with a plate, not sitting down,” reads another student.
“The producer might want to link Lego Mini Waffles with the attitude of ‘In Yo’ Face!’ because that daring attitude is so popular with kids nowadays,” says another boy.
After a few more such interpretations, the teacher wraps up the lesson. “So sometimes commercials can use people’s feelings— like defiance— to link to their products. For your critical viewing project tonight at home, I’d like you to look for a commercial that uses bravado — especially kids defying adults. If you find one, write down the name of a commercial and be prepared to describe it to us tomorrow.”
The highlight of my son’s speech therapy was always the bag of toys. Years ago, when he was a toddler and the therapist came to our house, he’d wait patiently as she took out one toy at a time and used each to help build language skills. Anxious to boost his progress, I watched her work and wrote down the name of her “tools.” I would then run to Toys R Us—and almost always, I would walk out empty-handed.
Toy stores, it turns out, are the worst place to buy toys. The educational aisle is even more upsetting, filled with battery-operated toys with cartridges, sounds, and styluses. What toy stores (and parents) need to understand better is that for a product to be an effective learning tool, the child has to be able to use it to make inquiries and attempt to answer them. However, in the case of educational toys, it’s the machine that is asking all the questions.
You will go out into the world, and nothing will be fair. It will shock you. You will have to figure out which battles are worth fighting for and you will realize everything in your life will be a choice. You will have the choice to fight or not to fight. You will have the choice to blend in or stand out. There will be moments when you will need to be brave. Moments when you will need to listen instead of speak, and moments when you will need to speak instead of listen- and you will need to know the difference. You will need to figure out how to love yourself, others and the world- in that order. Your heart will get blasted into a million pieces and, this will be one of those moments you will need to be brave, you will need to put it back together using yourself, others and the world- the very same things that shattered your heart to pieces in the first place. You will have the choice to let your defeats, embarrassments and failures define and weaken you, or make you a more empathetic and courageous human being.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” – Shakespeare