The Slip “˜n Slide was a far superior product to the Wet Banana. For those who never experienced the Banana (Koki Toy Company’s answer to the genius of Wham-O’s Slip “˜n Slide and derivative summer slide products like the really awesome Crocodile Mile), it was made up of a long narrow piece of yellow plastic (like a Slip “˜n Slide) accompanied by a sprinkler that looked like a banana (not like the Slip “˜n Slide, which had a hose embedded in the plastic for direct, self-contained sprinkling). The Wet Banana was mostly not awesome because you’d end up hitting your ankle on the metal banana sprinkler while sliding. But it was also not awesome because your dad would take the banana sprinkler and use it to water the flower beds along the side of the house, resulting in it not being available for childhood summer luxury use.
The price difference between the Slip “˜n Slide and Wet Banana was probably negligible. So the question here is why the heck did my parents cheap out and get the inferior product? And why, for that matter, couldn’t I have my own telephone line, which probably would have cost about $12 a month? I begged for a leather jacket in sixth grade and though my parents thought that was an utterly ridiculous suggestion, they had no problem spending the same amount of money on a wool “lodge coat” from L.L. Bean which was definitely NOT the envy of the other eleven-year-olds I knew.
Were my parents just messing with me? Or did the Wet Banana, shared phone line, and wool lodge coat of my youth actually make me a better person?
I’m frequently creased by what I like to call “modern parenting.” Modern parenting is where I’m at the bakery for Sunday brunch and some modern parent couple is sitting at the corner table, enjoying their scones undisturbed, while their little shit bird of a kid runs around the bakery with his hand in his diaper, removing it only to periodically touch all of the table tops. I look around, waiting for someone to do or say something, but no one ever does, especially not the kid’s very modern parents.
On my most recent flight, I sat behind a kid who kept reaching her little arm through the seats in front of me to knock over my book which I was resting on the seat tray in front of me while reading. She’d do this and then get up on the seat to peak over the head rest and smirk at me. She was at least five. After book knock-over #1 I glared at the kid, sending the message that I was not enjoying the game as much as she. After book knock-over #2 I let out an annoyed groan that no one, other than my seatmate Gary Blonde could hear. After book knock-over #3 I said, flatly, “Stop doing that.” The child’s modern parent said and did nothing until book knock-over #4, when she said, with no fervor whatsoever, “Kennedy, sit down please.” Kennedy did not sit down and the modern parent had no follow-up. Kennedy proceeded with book knock-overs #5 and #6, after which I stopped reading and put on my headphones. This prompted Kennedy to reach through the seats to poke me in the leg as an alternative. She did this, not until her modern parent made her stop, but until she finally got bored and started watching The Princess and the Frog on her portable DVD player.
I rarely go to the grocery store without witnessing a tantrum. And I have sympathy for the parents, I really do. I realize even great parenting can’t negate the wild spectrum of childhood emotion, but it’s not the tantrums that bother me, it’s the ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that’s done in response to them.
Which brings me back to the Wet Banana. Did I bitch about the Wet Banana? I don’t remember. It’s very possible that I whined at my dad, “Daaaad, if you’d gotten the Slip “˜n Slide instead of the Wet Banaaaana we wouldn’t lose the banana sprinkler all the time, we could be plaaaaying right now!” To which I’m pretty sure my dad would have said, “Stop whining.” And if I’d proceeded to whine, my dad would have put the kibosh on playing at all, which would have made any old toy look like a pretty good option.
I know I acted up at restaurants. I remember that I acted up at restaurants because I remember my mom pulling me out of restaurants and making me sit in the car with her for twenty minutes while I knocked off whatever hissy I was having at the time. This probably sucked for my mom. She wanted to be in the restaurant eating her dinner, but she was doing the hard work of making sure that I got the point that when she says, “Knock it off!” I will, indeed, knock it off.
“Knock it off!” was not an uncommon phrase during my childhood. My parents said it, my aunts and uncles said it, my friends’ parents said it. But modern parents don’t say it. They start every request with “please.” I’m not an enemy of manners, I love the word “please” and say it often. When I’m out to dinner with a friend and I want her to pass the bread, I’ll say “please” first. But if at dinner with my friend she, in all seriousness, starts throwing pieces of focaccia at my face, I’m not going to say “please” first before asking her to stop. Because, in that instance, she’s being an a-hole and she needs to know it, and I don’t need to tell her nicely.
The kid at the bakery in the Sunday brunch scenario I mentioned earlier doesn’t need to be told to “pleeease” stop putting fecal matter on the tables. He needs to be told firmly to stop it, and if he doesn’t stop, he needs to be taken home. So sorry for his modern parents, their brunch will be ruined. But it’s their kid, so if anyone’s brunch is to be ruined it should be theirs, my childless brunch should be unaffected. Is that crazy?
Back again to the Wet Banana. I really don’t hate kids, I promise, but I don’t think (despite my angst over never getting a real and true Slip n’ Slide) that they should be spoiled. I can assume that my parents bought me a Wet Banana because they didn’t know the difference between the Banana and the Slip n’ Slide. When I complained that it was sub-standard they, rightly, ignored such a petty complaint. Toys like the Wet Banana and Slip n’ Slide are cheap, they could have easily bought me a Slip n’ Slide to replace the Banana. But what would that have taught me? That being unappreciative pays, and that everything I want should be mine. I only realized a few years ago that few of the things my parents said “no” to had anything to do with money. This is a point that also seems to be lost on modern parents.
With the exception of electronics, a lot of toys are cheap. But just because modern parents can afford to get their kids everything they want, doesn’t mean they should. As Draconian as it may sound, doesn’t it make sense to say “no” just for the sake of saying it sometimes. That’s how we learn that we don’t get everything we want.
As cranky as I may have made them appear with the “knock it offs” and suchwhat, my parents were and are outstanding. They gave me everything I needed and most of what I wanted too. But they did not give me everything I wanted, and I suspect that if they had, I wouldn’t like myself today. Viva el banana hÃºmeda!
So go on, deprive a child of something today.