If you want to prove something works, spawn it. And if the mothership is Nickelodeon, sit back and enjoy the ride. First came the network--and lovers of Sponge Bob are forever grateful. Then the kids' magazines--Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. And, building on brand power, Nick Jr. Family Magazine. Seven years young, NJFM is billed as the magazine that brings parents and kids together. Geared to folks with progeny 0-11, the mag, on a yearly schedule of nine issues, was named to Adweek's hot list four times in the past five years. That's nifty for the marketing department, while the 1.1 circ is a boon to sales for Nickelodeon.
From a strictly PR standpoint, it all sounds swell. And it even has a zippy "Nick Jr. Noodle," a kids' pullout that lets them draw and analyze pictures. I liked the "Welcome to Puppyville" best. It's "Where's Waldo?" for the preschool set. (And tired adults--when you read The New Yorker religiously, searching for Colors Puppy is a welcome relief.)
But does it stand out?
This is a crowded category: Parents, Parenting, Child, American Baby, Cookie, Working Mother, etc. A Jeep Cherokee to the first reader who can tell them apart. In short, they all have experts, useful advice and, judging from their covers, the happiest people in America. Though I applaud the genre, one quibble: The advice is occasionally surface. Exercise is important, say no to kids. But what if your kid defies teachers? What happens when timeouts don't work? Full disclosure: As an aunt, I haven't needed to worry about such things. My job is to tout the glories of Gershwin, slip the boys money in their teens and remind them that foreplay is dinner and a movie. But for parents, who pull a 24/7 shift, it helps to have backup.
Nick Jr. Family Magazine's August issue is a first. Twelve parents--10 moms and two dads--produced the guest editors' issue. In the "Parents Sound Off" section, the editors address everything from overbooked kids to obese ones. On the fat score, some parents blame the schools--no recess. Others slam parents' poor food choices. But hats off to the woman who pointed the figure closer to home--at her husband. He wolfs down chips, she pushes fruits and vegetables. Guess who wins? Health is good, but it doesn't taste like Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey.
Of the 10 women, only four are currently pursuing careers outside the home. Given the cost of living, that's an interesting stat. Every mother is a working woman, but isn't a 50-50 balance between at-home moms and those juggling home and work more realistic? There is also a stay-at-home dad, an important reminder that men are often primary caregivers. And one Florida mom, born with spina bifida, has an upbeat attitude that is inspirational. Disability doesn't stop her parenting: She bathed her baby son in the sink and used suspenders so she could lift him.
The parents' ages range from 24-40, but the real surprise is family size. One 36-year-old has four kids; a 32-year-old has five. If you lived in Manhattan, you'd understand my shock. Unless you're Jerry Seinfeld or a cast member on Grey's Anatomy, you can't afford an apartment large enough to house your brood. Which is why we don't hear from the Big Apple. Wayzata, Minn. is represented; so is Gresgam, Oregon.
We do, however, hear about "genius parenting," which sounds a lot like common sense: Buy birthday gifts in bulk. Fold laundry into outfits for the week. I liked the travel tip: The Astronomer's Inn in Benson, Arizona, an hour from Tucson, has "Star Wars/Star Trek" décor and an on-site observatory, so pack your telescopes. Everyone isn't going to Disneyland.
The dicey bit: Dr. Harold Koplewicz, who runs the NYU Child Study Center, says you should listen to kids and let them make mistakes. All true, but you need an M.D. to tell you this? Maybe that's why Dr. K's "Talk the Talk" entry stunned me. He says parents should tell kids their values. Here's his: "I've told my sons that I don't lie because I have a bad memory and couldn't remember my lies." That's a great big oy vey, Doc. Is it OK to lie if you have a good memory? Remember, the usual answer on the witness stand, and I'm thinking Ken Lay here, is, "I do not recall." Here's my two cents, and I only have an M.A.: Don't lie, because it destroys trust. Because kids, your word is your bond. It's important to be a trustworthy, caring, ethical person. And if you should happen to win a Nobel Prize along the way, your mother won't mind.