Here's the problem: You want to go shopping, but you're stuck with the kids. What's a parent to do?
Easy! Thorazine. One quick shot and their eyes roll up. Their little bodies go limp. They won't even know you've left them in the car! The only snag is that drugging your kids is illegal. So, I think, is the car part.
But drugging them with TV? Completely legit! Which explains why a New Zealand company called Cabco has invented a car-shaped shopping cart equipped with a kiddie seat, steering wheel and, yes, a real TV.
Your children may never bug you again. Your children may never notice you again. They'll be too busy with their REAL friends: Barney, Bob the Builder or The Wiggles the current choices on Cabco's "karts."
"It teaches them to enjoy the shopping experience," says Doug Bartlett, Cabco's head of new business development. Already the carts are in a hundred Wal-Marts, as well as several grocery chains in the Midwest and Southeast. "Unfortunately," Bartlett added, "we're probably five or six months away from coming to New York."
You mean we might have to wait half a year before the carts come and lobotomize our toddlers? Darn!
Now, I know that shopping with kids is not necessarily a picnic. Or, worse, sometimes it is they grab the M&M's off the shelf and start sucking the bag. Gross. (And dumb.) But you know what? Shopping with kids is something we've done for centuries without requiring extra stimuli. In fact, shopping is extremely stimulating in its own right. Look, bunny, this bag is orange! This box is square! This spinach is crawling with E. coli!
These are gaggable as it sounds "teachable moments." And sometimes they're very nice moments, too, as your sweetie sits in the little seat, facing you and babbling away. Now they'll be as dulled out as they are when they watch TV at home.
Cabco's Bartlett insists this is not so: "TV is only one element of the experience. Kids are much more interested in the [pretend] driving experience. It's only when the cart stops and they get bored that they look at the TV."
But that's the most worrisome part of all the idea that children need to fill in all their "boring" moments with TV. Isn't that the very definition of addiction: the need for another fix as soon as the drug wears off?
Kids already live in a way too TV-saturated world. They see it at home and then in the minivan, and now parents can even get "Sesame Street" vignettes on their cell phones. Here kid, watch this! Now get in the cart and watch something else!
How can reality possibly compete with all this slick entertainment?
While the prospect of shopping with a non-nagging child sounds pleasant, shopping with a TV addict growing ever more bored with the world around him does not.
So when the TV carts get here, avoid them. Shop elsewhere. And if your kid gets really whiny, give him an M&M's bag to suck. At least it won't ruin him for life.