Despite our elitist stance on television viewing, all of our children are addicted. The two oldest alternate between real time viewing and downloading their favorite serial fare by the season, and the youngest indulges in a cherished rite of passage known in our home as Cartoon Saturday.
A few months ago, Kat discovered a channel devoted to all the old cartoons Rob and I grew up watching. A mixture of American and Canadian fare, we allow it to continue for selfish reasons. Now that we have trained Kat to get her own breakfast, Cartoon Saturdays have become our sleep-in day.
But it’s not just the shows that hold our daughters rapt, they are commercial watchers too, and I probably know more about the junk being hawked to the consuming masses now than when I was watching television myself.
It all started with the Sham-wow, a muscular – almost superhero – chamois that may be the product of secret government experiments. Kat began by regaling me with its virtues and when I failed to be suitably impressed, started in on her dad.
“Do you know what a Sham-wow is?” she asked him one evening on their way to the bookmobile.
“Some kind of cloth you use to clean your car with?”
“Oh, but it is so much more.”
And it was. That is according to the oldest daughter, Fare, who couldn’t wait to try out her Sham-wow, putting it through its liquid sucking paces.
“You know the part in the commercial where the guy submerges it in a bowl of water? And then pulls it out and it doesn’t drip?” Her eyes were as big as a kid’s on Christmas day as she spoke. “It actually does that.”
Commercials first became the bane of our masterful plan to keep Kat occupied on weekend mornings so we could sleep, or just reconnect with a child-free hour or so, when she discovered the tooth-tooth.
She convinced herself she needed – quite desperately – a Turtle tooth-tooth.
“Brushing is boring, Mom, but not with the Turtle tooth-tooth. It plays music that goes up through your teeth and into your brain.”
“That cannot be a good thing,” was my husband’s first, last and only comment.
After a week of listening to Kat describe the delight that is owning a tooth-tooth every night while she was forced to brush her teeth the “boring” way, I decided to google the darn thing. To my horror it existed – an electric toothbrush that played a single pop tune for two minutes and was designed by some well-intentioned (childless) dentist somewhere to get kids (and adults) to brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes of time it takes to thoroughly clean plaque and other crusted matter from our mouth.
I played the commercial for Rob, and he was appalled. More so when he saw that one of the songs was by Kiss and that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons actually appeared in the web-based ad for their own tooth-tooth.
“What fat hairy old men they are now,” Rob was shocked.
Whenever Kat spoke about the tooth-tooth, she lit up and danced about in glee. Eventually though we got her to agree that music being transported to her brain via her sinuses (the commercial actually demonstrated this transfer of melody in a manner most alarming) was probably not the healthiest thing for anyone. However, she still lusted for the tooth-tooth.
And she became a commercial parrot.
“Did you know, Mom, that there is nothing more important than clear skin?”
Thus began the era of Proactive which was followed by an urgent need to buy Maple Leaf meat products even though she is basically a vegetarian and followed up with a rejoinder to Rob and I about the importance of supporting poor children.
“For pennies a day, we can change a child’s life,” she intoned with the solemnity of a priest. “Pennies.”
The most recent television induced need has been the snuggie. Basically a fleece blanket with arms that reminds me of a choir robe.
“Look Mom,” Kat directed me to the television screen where the two minute long infomercialish ad was playing. “We can be warm and still use our hands!”
Which seems to be the major selling point of the garm-blankie, freedom from the tyranny of slippage.
“You could be warm and still use your laptop,” she informed both Rob and I later at the supper table. “And I could have a snack.”
Web-surfing, snacking, texting, talking and reading. It even travels to campsites and chilly sporting arenas. The wearable blanket has created a bit of a sensation outside our home too, inspiring a Time article and a YouTube parody, and I wonder how many of the 3 million sold were bought by parents whose children harangued them with its virtues and versatility.
“That’s got to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen,” Rob said when he was finally dragged into the living room to view the commercial. “I wish I had thought of it first.”
This was an original 50 Something Moms piece.