Monday, January 17, 2000

Do I look like a Complete Idiot?

While perusing the parenting aisles at the super-monster-mega-bookstore recently, I noticed a disturbing trend: the proliferation of parenting books that assume we're completely clueless. Now, I often feel completely clueless, and there are definitely times when I feel my husband is completely clueless, but we're a long way from wanting to bring books into the house that prove it. Yet there they sit on the bookstore shelf: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fatherhood. You'd have to be a complete idiot to let your kids see you buying these, but I guess that's the point, isn't it?

Some of the titles make a certain amount of sense. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager—well, by the time your kids are teenagers, they already believe you're a complete idiot, so no harm there. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth—well, many people probably find themselves in that situation because they've been complete idiots, so giving them their own guidebook is only humane. And The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names is certainly a public service, at least if it advises against naming your child after a Disney character, a force of nature or a mixed drink. As for The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child—hey, if you can get your child to behave, then you're a less complete idiot than I.

But then there's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety. What is this, like—"Don't let them play in traffic"? "Keep forks away from electrical outlets"? "Get your drugs with them little caps that don't come off"? One hates to imagine. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising a Smart Kid seems downright dangerous—can it be good for your kid to be smarter than you, a complete idiot? Combine that with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids and you'll wind up with a smartass who will bilk you out of your savings. And don't get me started on The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption. Well, do get me started: People, if you are a complete idiot, and you know you are a complete idiot, please do not adopt. You'll make the rest of us look bad.

Now, I do realize that books which playfully suggest they are for people who require a basic knowledge of a subject are all the rage, and that they are not meant to be taken at face value. I've never had a problem with the "for Dummies" series because it seems fairly clear that the buyer is only a dummy in that specific subject. But buying "The Complete Idiot's Guide" to anything would make me feel like, well, a complete idiot.

And then I would need The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Self-Esteem.

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