Childrearing

$248,000 Playhouses Are Immoral

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OK, I don’t really believe that. I firmly support the right of anyone to spend their money however they see fit. But this New York Times feature about the trend of extravagant play houses is rubbing me the wrong way. When the latest jobs report came out last week, it showed that 272,000 Americans had simply given up on their job search. The broader unemployment rate is 16.2%. Some 14 million people are unemployed right now, including several members of my family. The share of adults with jobs is down to 58.2%, the worst it’s been in 30 years. People are losing their homes left and right.

And what does the New York Times feature on the front page of its Home section? Ostentatious playhouses that range from $50,000 to $248,000. Is it just me or is this just completely out of touch with what actual parents are dealing with in the current economy? I live in DC, which is doing great (thank you American taxpayers!). So is New York City, to be sure. But for most of the country, times are dismal beyond belief. And it’s stories such as this that show the great divide between the newspaper and the average American.

Here’s how the lower-end playhouse is described

The little stainless-steel sink in the kitchen has running water, and the matching stainless-steel mini fridge and freezer are stocked with juice boxes and Popsicles. Upstairs is a sitting area with a child-size sofa and chairs for watching DVDs on the 32-inch flat-screen TV. The windows, which all open, have screens to keep out mosquitoes, and there are begonias in the window boxes. And, of course, the playhouse is air-conditioned. This is Texas, after all.

“I think of it as bling for the yard,” said Ms. Kristi Schiller, 40.

Some people might consider it “obnoxious” for a child to have a playhouse that costs more and has more amenities than some real houses, she conceded. But she sees it as an extension of the family home. “My daughter loves it,” she said. “And it’s certainly a conversation piece.”

Well, I guess if the daughter loves it and it’s a conversation piece, what’s the problem? I wonder if these parents ever think about the long-term repercussions of creating a “play” house where the “play” is all gone and replaced with “real.” I mean, the whole point is supposed to be imaginative play, not real-life mimicking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my toddlers say “shhhhhhhwwwww” as the “water” comes out of their play kitchen. They recently have made fortresses, castles, apartment buildings and a swimming pool out of the same collection of tables, chairs, blankets and the like.

It might seem cool to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a playhouse for your precious little child, but I think it might actually be robbing them of the fun of dreaming a playspace into being only to tear it down and fashion a new thing later. And I also worry that it might set children up for unrealistic expectations as adults.