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TinotopiaLog → Dr. Pepper’s Baby and Child Care ( 3 Jan 2005)
Monday 03 January 2005

Dr. Pepper’s Baby and Child Care

The other day, I saw an ad on TV that featured, on the screen, a mother and her young tot going through some kind of amusement-park ride, again and again. They were sitting in a little car that looked like it was supposed to be a piece of cheese, or Spongebob after he’d let himself go, or in any case some kind of yellowish blob. The ride involved shuttling through some kind of Tunnel O’ Fun, and emerging from doors painted and sculpted to look like a clown’s face.

The child was ecstatic, giggling and clapping and bouncing up and down in the blob. So was the mother, the first time. The second time they emerged from the tunnel, the mother looked like she was still having fun, but not as much fun. The third time they emerged from the Enormous Clown Phizz, Mom looked definitely unenthusiastic. After a couple more goes, she was slumped over in the seat, passed out from all the Fun, while the child was still screaming and clapping with delight.

The voice-over then explained all this: “When it comes to quality time with your kids, no sacrifice is too great.”

The point of the ad, which has nothing whatever to do with my point here, was that there was No Sacrifice At All in drinking Diet Dr. Pepper, which allegedly tastes no worse than regular Dr. Pepper.

In the 1940s, Dr. Benajmin Spock wrote his famous book on child care, saying to parents: “you know more than you think you do”. At that time, nearly every human activity was being subjected to study by ‘experts’, and I gather that the child-care-book market was full of contradictory advice. New parents were paralyzed with fear that they’d do the wrong thing: should we leave Johnny to cry in the bed until his scheduled feeding, or should we feed him when he’s hungry? Dr. Flzmbzl recommends one approach, while Dr. Mrmptdg recommends the opposite! And both say that Johnny will surely grow up to be a Homosexual Communist if we get this wrong!

That’s nuts, of course: taking care of children is one of the few things that humans can do instinctually. You Know More Than You Think You Do. You might call that the Dr. Spock philosophy of parenthood.

And now we have the Dr. Pepper philosophy: No Sacrifice Is Too Great in the pursuit of Quality Time.

If we take that at face value, we would have to conclude that losing a limb would be preferable to spoiling Quality Time. Oh, sure, since you’ve only got four limbs to lose, it would have to be something really important, like a birthday trip to Chuck E. Cheese or something. But look on the bright side: you could turn it into a Teachable Moment! Little Madisyn or Holden or D’Artagnan should to learn to tie a tourniquet sooner or later, after all.

This struck me as idiotic not just because of my ordinary curmudgeonly nature, but because lately Tivo has been recording, and I have been watching, a TV show called Nanny 911. The basic schtick: the TV people find a family with children that are out of control. They send in a nanny from Nanny Central — which is a thatched-roof cottage somewhere in England, no joke — who shows up and consults for a week. Nanny then delivers a prescription and flies back to Blighty, leaving the family much happier than before.


The parents of these families seem much more intelligent and thoughtful than most people you see on TV, and the impression you get is one of overwhelming Averageness. I suppose the idea is to get parents in the audience to identify with the people on TV: if the TV families were — as are more characters on ‘reality’ TV shows are — presented as a freak show, it wouldn’t be as compelling. It functions as a how-to show for parenting, but heavy on theory and outlines — strategy rather than tactics, like This Old House instead of We Broke Into Your House While You Weren’t Home And Painted All Your Stuff Purple (or whatever that show is called).

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: No Sacrifice Is Too Great. In the photo above you see Karen and Matt Rock, who appeared in Episode #1 along with their, er, lovely children. You can see video of them here.

The Rocks (no word on whether they’re any relation to football player/professional wrestler/actor ‘The Rock’) are completely ruled by their children. You really ought to watch that video to understand what this means. No Sacrifice Is Too Great, which means that Karen and Matt have not slept together — and I mean that literally: they have not slept in the same bed — since Dylan was born four years ago. It seems that Dylan is insecure about sleeping on his own, so Karen has spent every night in his room since then, while Matt sleeps with the dog.

The problem, as is revealed by the Nanny, is that these children are subject to no discipline, no rules, no requirements, and no expectations at all. Karen’s instinct is to prevent her children being ‘upset’ at all costs. If they’re ‘not feeling well’, they can put their feet on the dinner table. If they’re ‘afraid’, she’ll sleep with them for years on end. And if they scream and yell, she’ll infallibly come running to comfort them.

Matt’s approach makes a little more sense: he loves his children, but he understands that there are worse things for them than being transiently unhappy over, say, getting used to sleeping alone. He tells his daughter to take her feet off the table before Karen overrules him, saying that a two-year-old can’t understand that feet do not belong on the dinner table.

I’m sure that there’s a lot more going on in this relationship than we see on TV, of course, but as I don’t know these people I can only talk about what’s on the screen.

And what’s on the screen is interesting, something you don’t see much in modern TV: the TV Dad is not a bumbling idiot. In fact, in every one of the episodes I’ve seen, the ‘fault’ for the family’s state is ultimately the mother’s. In every one of these families, the mother appears to have adopted a No Sacrifice Is Too Great approach. ‘No Sacrifice Is Too Great’ is really just another way of saying ‘The Kids Always Get Their Way’. The unsurprising result is chaos.

Posted by tino at 23:59 3.01.05
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As disturbing as this show sounds, it really is nothing but the absurd, extreme end of the Cult of the Child that took hold in America once Baby Boomers became parents themselves.

Posted by: RRP at January 4, 2005 02:40 PM

I know what you mean, but I’m quite certain a lot of these indulgent parents are members of our generation.

The show is remarkably like a train wreck. I figured I’d surf the ‘net (to use an incredibly antiquated phrase) while Tino watched this thing and soon I found my self not looking at the computer at all.

If I had got a nickel every time someone told me, as a child, that “children should be seen and not heard”, I wouldn’t need social security due to the miracle of compounding.

I do agree with you that things have changed from that state of affairs, but our generation seems to be sinking right into the morass with the Boomers.

Posted by: Nicole at January 5, 2005 03:29 PM

I just can’t help saying this: Tino complaining about spoiled children - oh, the irony!

Posted by: Shaye at January 7, 2005 06:37 PM

I know something about this family. Quite a bit was changed for TV. As they mentioned on Montel Williams, Matt did not help with the parenting although they both worked FT. There isn’t a lot of “drama” seeing an exhausted woman trying to do it all and a man working in the garage.

Posted by: Jean at February 2, 2005 05:51 PM

I thought the problem of kids with no discipline was just a black problem. I guess Bill Cosby was wrong.

Posted by: CristalShandalear at April 9, 2005 05:42 PM