She's the picture of the perfect princess. Swathed in a satin dressing gown, her fingernails are the latest shade of neon, hair artfully blow-dried and skin freshly scrubbed. Except there's something wrong with this picture; the girl is four years old.
Welcome to the brave new world of kiddie spa treatments. They began at the Hyatt Regency in Texas 10 years ago, with The SPAhhht (as in, "Ooh, that really hits the SPAhhht!").
The people who gave us Eden Wood know how to pageant: the Pretty Princess Package, at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, gives girls a free tiara with each "manicure and pedicure, featuring glitter polish and gemstones".
(And to think of the hours I've wasted telling our seven-year-old it's more important to be kind, thoughtful and studious. Silly me.)
Like a nasty fungal infection, this trend has spread around the world.
At the Jiwa Spa in the Conrad, Bali, kids can have a "foot mask", which sounds like a clever disguise for a comic book villain.
"Sorry officer. I couldn't identify the robber because he was wearing a FOOT MASK."
At least at the Hilton in the Maldives there are 20 individual spa pavilions, so you don't have to hear, "Mummy, the nail therapist doesn't have fuschia. You know I only wear fuschia. WHERE IS MY FUSCHIA!" while enjoying a relaxing massage.
My favourite is the Anantara in Seminyak, which offers "a hand and foot massage using fresh strawberries".
Now I don't know about you, but I don't want my kids looking like Dexter, the serial killer, with hands dripping in red.
For the boys, Anantara uses chocolate massage oil, which I imagine would lead to a lot of licking: "Sit. Beg. Roll over. Good dog. I mean, son."
The least relaxing thing about these treatments is the cost.
Parents are spending as much as $80 for 30 minutes. Frankly, that money is better spent on cocktails by the pool. For adults, not kids.
I guess that's my problem with kiddie spa treatments: Is nothing sacred? Sure, we want to spend time with the kids on holidays. But during that one, uncrowded hour, no one needs to hear, "Mummy, I want another spa-tini. NOW!!!" At Hayman Island Resort in the Whitsundays, the spa manager exhorts children to use their "spa voice". Well, if that's anything like the time I asked the kids to use their best manners when speaking to their nanna, and they said loudly, in her presence, "You mean don't say 'bugger'?", it doesn't always work.
Still, tourism is a competitive business: everyone's trying to make a buck. If parents want to pay someone to slap some fruit on their kids' hands, who am I to complain?
It's just that I can't see my kids - who only bathe every third day - becoming Sophisti-Kids. They're the ones with the authentic mud wraps, their fingernails an artful shade of brown. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
What do you think of spa treatments for kids? Ridiculous spoiling or harmless fun? Post your comments below.
Turn the iPad into a weapon for good with the new Kid Tracks app, aimed at six- to 12-year-olds. Download the free app and then buy "tracks" for 99¢ each, which lead kids (and their virtual pet) through 46 attractions in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. The questions mean kids learn and earn. You get to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol or even the Art Gallery of NSW with sanity intact. kidtracks.com.au.
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