Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kids and Spas

Here's an editorial I wrote at work for the medical newspaper. It's about spas and spa services marketed directly towards children. The Blonde Duck is not amused.

Kids and Spas

For some kids, an M&M isn’t a candy—it’s a massage and manicure, silly! Forget Build a Bear and Chucky Cheese, the newest craze among the tween and pre-teen set is to join the spa set. While some set up manicures, pedicures, massages and facials for birthday parties or special events only, some children consider the spa a basic health necessity and go as much as once a month.

According to the International Spa Association, over 4 million teenagers in the United States have visited a spa. Southern California is booming with spas for children, offering everything to Mommy and Me spas to children-only spas. Depending on the spa, treatments range from the typical manicures, pedicures and facials to the more elaborate make-up applications and “up-do” stylings. Parents and business owners defend the kiddie spas, claiming they teach their kid about health and hygiene. They believe spas are simply fun outlets for their child and shouldn’t be taken seriously. And I do mean child, since many patrons are between 2 and 8 years old.

But don’t scoff it off as California nonsense. The Wildflower Hill Country Spa at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa off of 1604 offers a spa just for children so adults don’t have to worry about being disturbed. At SPAhhht, the special kid’s spa for those 17 and under, children are treated to manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. Don’t worry; the kids keep their clothes on during the massages.

Since the Hyatt opened the SPAhhht, “Time” reports that nearly 700 children have indulged in 25 minute facials at $40 a pop and henna tattoos that can cover their precious little faces for a mere $4 to $20.

Why does a 4-year-old child need a henna tattoo and facial? I’ve never gotten a facial. Well, parents believe that children are so stressed out from their overscheduled lifestyles that they need to relax like the rest of us. Plus, spas not only help their children relax, they give them the extra benefit about teaching them important things like health and make up application.

The entire idea of having a spa for children is ludicrous. The first time I hear a three-year-old child tell me they’re stressed out, I’m going to send them to work with a single parent with three children who is living paycheck to paycheck and struggling on their mortgage. That’s stress. SATs or a science fair project is stress, but it’s not adult stress. If kids get stressed, they should go outside and play. They should hang out with friends. They shouldn’t go to a spa and expect people to wait on them hand and foot (literally) while they drink “mocktails.”

All that is doing is creating another generation of self-absorbed narcissists who believe the world should be handed to them on a silver platter and that hard work and sacrifice are passé. We’ll just teach children to demand whatever they want whenever they want because “they deserve it” and because they’re the most important thing in the world. By God, Baby Jane studied all week for the big bad final! She needs a medi and pedi, stat! No one should have to use their brain!

As soon as parents start being self-absorbed nitwits, their children won’t be self absorbed nitwits either. Stress is part of life, and relaxation is necessary. However, relaxation doesn’t have to cost money—breathing and taking a walk around the block are free activities. By teaching children that you can buy relaxation, you’re teaching them to buy happiness. Last time I checked, happiness was free. Manicures weren’t.