The Kiddy Pool: Jim Henson’s Compromise

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.I’ve long appreciated the Muppets—those on Sesame Street as well as in the films and on the quintessential The Muppet Show—for their appeal to both children and adults. The quality of children’s entertainment programs often reveals the creators’ understanding of children; some shows are “dumbed down” with the unspoken belief that children are stupid simply by virtue o … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: “To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl”

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.Last week, Stephen Colbert interviewed U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and emphasized that his is the only show that reads poetry on air. It’s probably unsurprising that as a collegiate English instructor, I am an advocate of poetry for the ways that it re-envisions language. I also love beauty for the sake of beauty, and find the rhythms and structures and pl … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: Andrew Solomon’s ‘Far From the Tree’

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.I started reading Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree after seeing the author discuss his work on The Colbert Report. Solomon is an eloquent and compelling interviewee, and I found his concept compelling: that sometimes in parenting or in being parented we feel like we are among strangers in a strange land. Solomon points out that while we take pride in di … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: Taking A Slower Family Path

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.Our parenting culture is fraught with anxiety about our children’s future prospects; we worry about technologies and jobs that have not yet been imagined, and we strive to prepare our children for success in spite of a thousand incompatible contingencies. Again and I again I hear about parents who spend most of their time as chauffeurs and who watch family time dw … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: Only Children Are Lonely and Selfish (Just Like the Rest of Us)

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.Some of my best friends are only children. There, I said it. They’re not spoiled or selfish, either. And when they talk about their childhoods, they don’t use words like “lonely.” I think sometimes in the rhetoric about how many children we (or better yet, other people) ought to have, we forget that families are complex. It’s as easy to cultivate cruelty among sibling … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: What’s In A Name, Mrs. Carter?

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.A few weeks ago, I introduced myself to another mother at my local library’s story hour. We knew each other’s children’s names, but could only refer to each other as “So-and-so’s mom.” It’s not my favorite thing to be called, yet it seems common at these children’s gatherings for adults to be known only by the possessive relational title of X’s mom/dad/grandma/gr … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: Will Smith And His Family Are Superheroes. What’s Your Family Metaphor?

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.According to a Wired Magazine article that appeared right before the premiere of Will Smith’s new movie After Earth, the Smith family has collectively saved 63,648,098,766 people. The Smiths are a celebrity family in reality and a superhero family in fiction. I don’t doubt that, privately, their family bears other identities as well. The Wired piece got me thinking ab … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: The Anniversary Trust Test

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.Last weekend, my husband and I left the kids behind with my parents and took off for a long hike, just the two of us. The weather was threatening -- 49 degrees, windy, with bouts of downpour. We went anyway, taking our time over a leisurely breakfast at a local café before hitting the trails. We hike regularly with our children, but without them, we expected to spend … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: Remembering ‘The Office’… and Our Vows

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.After a long hiatus, I tuned in for Thursday’s series finale of The Office, having been persuaded by Amy Lepine Peterson’s thoughtful commentary. I started to work backward too, and found myself particularly moved by the “Paper Airplanes” episode scene where Jim embraces Pam and she resists -- at first. She’s frustrated that he’s putting work first again, and he’s … [Read more...]

The Kiddy Pool: Re-reading Gatsby (Careless People and Beautiful Little Fools)

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Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.I re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby this week in anticipation of seeing the new Baz Luhrmann film. The last time I read the book, I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, and I didn’t much care for the American classic. Reading the text again and seeing the film changed my opinion -- not because the essentials of Fitzgerald’s story have change … [Read more...]


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