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Extreme makeover, Irvine edition

April 28, 2006|Karin Klein

CITY REC departments typically feature swimming pools, tinytot gymnastics classes, maybe kung fu lessons for the Greatest Generation. But Irvine is not typical, and neither is its rec department. On Saturday, in an oh-so-O.C. interpretation of the term "public recreation," the extreme suburb is offering a "Spa Morning," where mothers and daughters can experience the family bonding inherent in cosmetic makeovers.

"Grab a family member, your pajamas and come down to Heritage Park for a morning of pampering and relaxing," the city's online brochure beguiles. Because Irvine is a thoroughly modern town, this isn't just for mothers and daughters (minimum age 7); fathers and sons, or presumably any gender combination thereof, are welcome too.

It's reassuring to know that after a tension-laden week of single-digit subtraction, a second-grader of either sex can look forward to a stress-busting spa treatment.

But then, Irvine is the sort of place where self-conscious child enrichment starts young. Catch another offering in the city rec department's brochure: "Signing with Your Baby."

I have no doubt that many a baby can benefit from learning sign language. Still, I was taken aback by the course description: "Learn how to enrich your child's speech and language, boost vocabulary, increase self-confidence and stimulate intelligence through the use of sign language. Signs taught reduce stress and empower your child through this early mode of communication."

No minimum age is listed for this class, and it's a good thing. Reduction of stress caused by poo-poo diapers can never begin too early. What's more questionable is whether infants really need extra doses of self-confidence and empowerment, considering their supernatural ability to make grownups run around like lunatics or sing "The Wheels on the Bus" for eight hours straight.

Parents should enjoy what little power they have until the child reaches his or her second birthday -- the age at which most children start studying the DMV learner's permit handbook -- and all control is lost. At which point, the interminable tantrums on both sides lead everyone to yearn for the all-important seventh birthday, so both parent and child qualify for the rec department's spa morning with its promises of minifacials and pedicures.

Which raises the question: With child obesity at epidemic proportions -- they don't call it baby fat for nothing -- can a community liposuction experience be far behind?

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