Your Letters and Thoughts: January 2019
The parent paparazzi phenomenon is certainly nothing new, but it wasn’t until I took my toddler to a big children’s museum this summer that I was really shocked by it.
I was hanging out nearby as my two year old pretended to drive a model cable car, I watched other families interact with their kids around us. Here’s the scene that opened my eyes…
Two sets of adults (presumably parents and grandparents) with a chubby cheeked toddler join my little one on the mini cable car. The parent’s placed said toddler in the cable car seat while 4 voices behind phones shout for attention “look here, over here Billy, smile!”, the glazed eyes of an over stimulated child gaze back.
Then while the toddler continues to stare towards the mob of cameras the adults all drop their eyes to their chest high screens and begin the process of reviewing and comparing images, “did you get that?” they ask each other, “oh that’s a good one” they congratulate. The toddler is then encouraged to reposition and the process repeats. It was a bit like watching a family on safari except the wildlife was a family member that they carry along with them. As this group leaves and another family appears, siblings this time about 2 and 3 years old, this time mom commands “look here, now smile! If you don’t smile your not getting a treat” the children give some version of a smile and the pair is herded away to another photo opt. This kept happening and I began to question, who are these photos really for? Personally I have thousands of photos of my little one and not one (other than what is automatically created for me by my tech) photo album. Are these doting relatives using photos of their kids for the Facebook dopamine hit (37 likes!) or are they just bored and need something to keep their ever busy hands and minds occupied instead of actually seeing their children interact with the world. Listen, if it’s boredom, I get it; watching children dig in the sandbox isn’t my idea of inspiration either. Personally I am overwhelmed by my commitments and I am trying to cultivate boredom. It’s something I was taught to value as the gateway to creativity and honestly I just need some space to let my thoughts and body settle down.
Back to the cable car scenario while I get some possible motivations (including the love for our children verging on child worship-I’m guilty too) as an early childhood educator I also see the cost for the kids. First, you’re interrupting the child’s direct experience, prioritizing instead the attention on yourself (aka “look here, over here!). How is a child supposed to imagine what it would really be like to drive a cable car with the screaming for attention? We are also inadvertently teaching them the value of our public image. We are also passing on our training in fragmented attention at the cost of them learning to focus, imagine, problem solve aka be independent learners. I’m not saying we should never interrupt kids play to catch that perfect shot, sometimes it’s worth it, but know that it’s mostly for our own satisfaction. As much as our kids are the center of our universe it’s not doing them any favors to treat them like child stars. Modeling doing nothing is super hip right now, you should check it out.
JoAnna Ferraro, MA has been an early childhood educator since 2000. She was Director of Esalen Institute’s Gazebo Park Preschool & Infant Toddler Center and is the Founder of Early Ecology – one of the first forest preschools in the Bay Area as well as Happy Valley Nature Preschool in Santa Cruz.
Pajaro Valley High School
I was recently visiting family in Aptos, I have a nephew who plays football for the Pajaro Valley High School. I was appalled to see the condition of their football field and school grounds. The lack of parent participation, and concern for the schools up keep. I totally understand that there are numerous low income hispanic families that work long hours in the fields. Add to that the cultural aspect and it’s very difficult for these families to have the time to support the school. Yet there must be other families that have seen the needs at the school, members of the school district, city council members, business owners, right? I am an outsider looking in and maybe I don’t comprehend how these things work. Yet I also know the importance of an education and extra curricular activities for our children. I raised six children of my own, I always managed to find time to support their school in any way I could. Our school system is the main source for these kids to hopefully get educated and become better citizens and get better jobs as adults. Even the local news the night of the game had great coverage of the games for Aptos, Monterey, even Scotts Valley. The money was very noticeable in the Monterey School their field looked like a professional field. When it came to PVHS no video shots and a very short score was all that was mentioned. I would not want to show videos of their fields poor condition on the air either. What about the safety factor for these kids on that field full of holes and gopher mounds. Or walking into school with halls full of bird waste, not to healthy. This matter should have immediate attention from parents, teachers, school district members and the City of Watsonville. Those kids, all kids deserve a fair chance in life. As adults it’s our responsibility to make sure they have every possible chance to succeed.
Guadalupe Astorga is a mother of six children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great granchild. She is retired living in Oak Harbor, Washington.