Should I just replace them all with back issues of "Cosmo"?

A little while ago, the blogger at Naptimewriting (which I discovered during Infinite Summer, and which is a nice stop for people interested in observations on parenting or literature -- her post on ambivalent parenting is a must-read for frustrated new parents who need reassurance that they're not horrible people) mentioned in passing the "lame-o mainstream parenting magazine[s]" in her pediatrician's office. "Oh, my," thought I, "I suspect my office is festooned with lame-o mainstream parenting magazines." While I wasn't particularly concerned that the recommended toys are laden with toxins (which are probably so rife in American society at this point that avoidance is futile), it did occur to me that I'd never actually looked through the magazines that litter our waiting areas.

The other day opened a copy of Parenting to a random page, and immediately wished I hadn't. The spread I found was all about one of my biggest and most persistent pet peeves -- this obsessive, infuriating obsession we have with "making our kids smarter." Elizabeth has already written about this before, and we share an antipathy to any toy that boasts some kind of developmentally-enhancing feature. Because God forbid your kid should just play with a toy for the sake of enjoyment alone. However, this particular spread was about foods that will make your kids smarter. (I cannot find it online, or I would link to it.)

Among the foods that are, apparently, "brain food" (I kid you not) are cereal ("a mix of carbs and fiber that'll keep 'em thinking all morning"), cheddar cheese ("fortified with DHA for extra brainpower") and Goldfish crackers (!) ("complex carbs, which provide a steady supply of energy to your genius's brain"). There is also a Del Monte pear chunk snack with acai juice, "a powerful, damage-fighting antioxidant."

My friends, this is a heaping helping of codswallop. I am all in favor of Goldfish crackers. Acai juice may confer some health benefits, though probably not in proportion to the hype. I take fish oil supplements myself, so I certainly don't see anything wrong with DHA supplementation per se. But none of these foods will make an iota of difference in their intelligence by any measure, I promise you. Your kids will benefit from a good, healthy diet, and will be far more harmed by neurotic attempts to make them into prodigies than can be fixed by a South American berry.

In addition to Parents and Parenting, we also have lots of copies of Cookie. I don't know much about Cookie, other than that the cover moms are typically blond and famous. (Tori Spelling, Amber Valetta, etc.) However, I once had to do an office-wide purge of issues with Jenny McCarthy on the cover, because I'll be damned if I give that lunatic publicity in my office.

The last magazine that we have in spades is WebMD, apparently now available in glossy, dead tree form. It has "MD" in the title, so I assumed it was OK. Right? Right? No, I suppose not.

This is rather a quandary. On the one hand, I hate to think that having the magazines in my office implies any kind of endorsement of their content. On the other hand, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a better solution. Most of the information in these magazines appears to be anodyne, and congruent with what you'd find in most "lifestyle" magazines. So, if for no other reason than sheer laziness, I'll probably just leave them where they are and hope nobody starts flooding their kid with pomegranate juice.


  1. Dan,

    Why not do as my internist does and pick up a nice variety of decent books on topics your patients and their parental units might be interested in? (I'm a fan of the Magic Schoolbus series for elementary age kids. They have lots of short, cheap books on cool sciency topics like germs, the heart, etc. I also think Baby 411 is a great book for new parents--worth having a copy in your waiting room if you don't already. And of course, Offit's vaccine books.)

    Of course, you may already do this; if so, in the immortal words of Emily Litella: "Never mind."

  2. Yes, much better the parental unit actually reads to the child than offloads the brain development responsibility to chunky pears marinated in antioxidents. Excellent suggestion, Squillo, I hearby second it.

  3. Since parents are often trapped in waiting rooms for ungodly amounts of time (office staff issue, not doc issue, usually), and most parents try to avoid the toys that every germy kid in the practice has licked, I have to say I agree with Squillo. Books to read to the kids, or that they can read themselves, if they're so inclined. The monthly magazines Wild Animal Baby and Your Big Backyard are big hits with the small set, and are sweet without trying too hard to be educational (ugh with the Highlights for Children.) And a few mags parents would enjoy (since we never get to read grownup things at home) from a variety of genres...something sciency, something crafty, something readerly, something newsy. The most popular in most doc offices are the Time/Newsweek schlock, but I can't pretend that any parent attending to a child can get more than a paragraph into an Atlantic Monthly or a Harper's article.
    Lame-o parenting magazines are all about selling their advertisers' wares. Why do you think the brain foods article didn't advocate a balanced meal and whole grains? Because Pepperidge Farm can't have us thinking bleached flour is lacking anything important.
    I'm disappointed to hear that acai berry juice on pesticide-ridden pears isn't the secret to Harvard acceptance. I read it in a magazine so I figured it must be true. Sigh. Guess I'll have to go back to Baby Einstein and toys that read to my kid for me in the hopes that he'll learn something without actually playing with or engaging him myself.