Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You know You’re a Bad Parent If . . . .

When you watch Toddlers & Tiaras you think, wow, I should do that with my child.

Toddlers & Tiaras is my new obsession. Like a fickle lover, I’m sure I’ll soon abandon it for the even more horrifying Outrageous Kids Parties which actually manages to look worse than MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen. But until that show debuts, I’m going to stick with the legalized form of child abuse that is a toddler beauty pageant.

For those of you with actual taste and self-respect who have never watched the show, each episode follows three or four little girls ranging in ages from 18 months to eight years as they prepare for and then perform in a beauty pageant. We see the family home, meet the parents, are walked through the closet filled with tacky thousand dollar gowns, and the shelves piled high with cubic zirconia-encrusted headgear, and meet the little pageant queen. She is inevitably referred to as either a diva or a princess, because calling her a brat would be rude. Almost every little girl has to be subtitled because while beauty and “talent” are prized in the pageant world, diction and clear speech are for losers.

There are two kinds of pageants – natural and glitz. They are fairly self-explanatory to anyone who has ever seen a before and after picture of JonBenet Ramsey. Now, I freaked when I had to put a full-face of eye shadow, blush, mascara, and lipstick on my daughter for her first dance rehearsal. That’s nothing compared to what these little girls are forced to wear. Spray-on tans, acrylic nails, false eyelashes, fake teeth, fake hair, and enough makeup to put a drag queen to shame are the norm. Essentially, unless you have turned your pretty little girl into a dwarf-sized professional escort, you haven’t gone far enough. Then there are the clothes. Only by putting the stage clothes of Dolly Parton, Liberace, and fat Elvis into a blender and cutting them into doll-size pieces would you be able to replicate glitz-wear. These are clothes even Barbie wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. In fact, I think if you tried to dress a Cabbage Patch like a pageant child, Xavier Robert’s will personally come to your house and put that doll into foster care.

Each parent claims that it is the CHILD who loves pageants. I call bullshit on that. There was one little girl whose mother cried to the heavens that her daughter loved performing on stage. Now, this little girl’s absolutely favorite doll, or her lovey, was a life-sized handicapped puppet that was carted around in a miniature wheel chair. Yes, you read it correctly. I’m pretty sure my one psych class in college is enough of an education for me to pronounce that this child is projecting. I mean come on. Having a life-sized handicapped puppet is weird enough, but pushing it around in a mini-wheelchair is just off the rails. Plus, when she does her routines on stage, Arnold, the life-sized handicapped puppet mimics her off-stage (via her father, lest you start to have nightmares of the damn thing coming to life a la Chucky). What impairs the puppet so much it can’t walk but can dance is never established.

One parent claimed that by being in pageants, her child was well on her way to becoming Miss America. The child in question could barely walk. Another claimed that pageants will help her child keep a husband because she will always know to look beautiful for him. My husband’s reply was roughly that beauty was in the eye of the beholder as long as the beauty in question was kneeling. You get the perverted point. One parent went so far as to complain when her child won the natural beauty section because, “I didn’t pay all this money for her to be naturally pretty.” The best are the ones who talk about how much their child has won. When you spent $2,000 to win $500, I’m pretty sure you are still pretty far into the hole. It takes some fuzzy math indeed to think you have come out ahead in that investment.

What do I get out of watching this train wreck? That’s easy. On the days when I put my kids to bed without reading to them (a punishment in our house), or I feed them cereal for dinner, or when I put on a movie instead of playing a game with them, I know that even when I suck at parenting, I don’t suck as bad as the parent who taught her daughter to “shake her bottom” at the judges to earn a higher score.

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