Friday, May 18, 2012

I started this at the library last week and probably should have just left it...

Did you get the memo that Looney Tunes is like Seinfeld for kids? Really--it is. It is NOT the Bugs Bunny morning WE had when we were younger. (You know--all THREE of us who are...FORTY. I wanted to whisper that, but I only know how to YELL on the computer. Whispering hasn't been taught yet.)

Anyway,  a few weeks ago my kids were watching an episode where Daffy wouldn't talk to Porky because he thought that Porky ate one of his fries. There was a ton of banter between Daffy and...well...everyone over the fact that you should not assume that a ordered something "...for the table..." Of course, by the end it turned out that Daffy got his information completely wrong anyway, but it was TRULY like a Seinfeld episode.

This morning, my children were watching Looney Tunes while I was unloading and reloading the dishwasher. I was listening to it and it went something like this (only MUCH funnier. MUCH.):

Daffy won a "date" with a limo and dinner (not a date WITH a limo and dinner...a date that INCLUDED a limo and dinner...)and...well, date stuff. He asked Bugs to go with him. Bugs said something comical and witty about not "dating" Daffy and had Lola (for some reason I thought her name was Babs) "help" him get a date. Lola (Babs) basically told him to act like a stalker and gave him a list of things to say to get any girl to fall for him. I am going to quote what I THINK she said, but it shouldn't be quoted because I am quite certain that it will not be exact...
"I don't ever want to be with ANYONE but you. I will give up ALL of my friends. I will not see ANY of my family. I will ONLY spend time with you and will NEVER let you be alone again (this is starting to sound like my very first relationship)..." There was more, but you get it. After Daffy read her list, Lola (Babs) fell for him. He then asked Tonya? Tara? Babs?! Something non-duck-like and NOT Lola (Babs), to go out with him in a way that indicated that he did NOT believe she would say yes and while she was saying yes he continued to "understand" why she wouldn't want to go out with him.

Okay, so it was a lot more entertaining (and MUCH less confusing) than what I just wrote, but my point is this: WHY is it that  there are no longer ANY shows on television that I feel comfortable allowing my children to watch? I had them all watching Disney cartoons for longer than any of their friends (Little Einsteins, Handy Manny, Charlie and Lola (THIS is my favorite--so funny!)...) and some Nick Jr. (Max &  Ruby (once you get over the fact that Ruby is the whiniest and most annoying bunny you could ever hope to meet and the fact that they have no parents, Max is freakin' funny!), Pinky Dinky Doo, Wow Wow Wubbzy (another one of my favorites...that little...whatever the hell he is cracks me up)...) for as long as they would watch it. I even STILL put on some of these, but at eight, Brayden has something to say about EVERYTHING and is already being made fun of for watching "girly" or "baby" shows. This doesn't concern me--I want him to learn that friends don't treat you poorly just because you don't watch what they watch. Friends don't treat you poorly, period. Ryan is heading in that direction as well, though she will cuddle up with Addie and watch Barney and think nothing of it. Of course, she didn't watch Barney at all when she was younger--I guess she feels like she missed out on it. Actually, I KNOW how she every good daughter, she blames ME. "Why didn't you ever let ME watch Barney when I was little?" When she WAS little...gotta love it!

Back to the issue. My husband has always had a hard time watching the "baby" shows and listening to their music. He was watching Jimmy Neutron and The Fairly Odd Parents with them when they were two (it doesn't seem bad, but the kids are mouthy and they use "stupid" a lot. That is a bad word at our house and all three of them used to point it out to me, though now Addie is the only one who seems to notice. I am
P-R-E-T-T-Y sure that stupid is a natural part of their vocabulary at school, but what did I really think?! Their teachers even use it--it is one of those accepted words that I simply did not want my toddlers saying because--well--they were TODDLERS. I still don't want to hear them say it--it's not nice--but I know it is going to happen and I'm not blaming television or Jimmy Neutron. Or my husband. I just felt that if they were going to watch television, perhaps it could be beneficial. I didn't feel guilty having the television "watch" my children if they were getting more from the television than they were getting from me. It is just getting so complicated.

At one point, I was getting breakfast for my then two and one-year olds when I heard one of the characters on Bob the Builder acting like a real creep.I kept listening--waiting for the lesson that was sure to come and it didn't. As far as I'm concerned, if we show the child the behavior an no one ever corrects the behavior, then the child figures that the behavior is okay. The character that day was extremely whiny and competitive and didn't end up winning, but no one acknowledged his poor behavior. Having Bob say, "Well, it's too bad that you lost, but maybe next time if you have a better attitude you will win..." could make all the difference to the children watching. Just sayin'...BOB...

When I taught, I used this article from Stephen King with my classes. You really need to read it. NOW.
I LOVE this article. It talks about ratings and raising children and the responsibility of parents...I completely support King's premise and do not believe in censorship of any kind. Unless it's my censhorshop of certain things from my children. This is a lot more difficult than I'd anticipated. Last year, my son started reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. He read the first one in kindergarten after his teacher gave it to him to borrow. He wanted to read the second (or maybe the third...)last year and the two of us fought about it in the library because the character was starting HIGH SCHOOL and my son was SEVEN. A woman  walked by on her way out and commended me for such great parenting, but I didn't feel like a good parent. I felt like a hypocrite. I still do. I don't want my children to lose interest in reading because I limit what they are allowed to read, but they mimic even the most harmless things. For example, Brayden (on several occasions) has said things like, 'Nice parenting, Mom!' or 'That wasn't your BEST work, Dad!' I know what you are thinking--'YOU are SO sarcastic, Nika--of COURSE your son is going to be mouthy!' and you are right. HOWEVER...some of the things he says come DIRECTLY out of his books and his shows. Those two particular instances actually made me laugh--it is the REALLY sassy moments--coupled with the whiny and nasty moments--that make me crazy. And make me wonder about what I let them watch.

I am not one of those people (researchers?) who thinks that if my child makes a mistake he should be able to blame--anyone else besides himself. Like the murderer who blames the video games and television (even though some research supports this theory) or the car thief who plays too much Grand Theft Auto...I have mixed reviews on this. I read Steven King and John Saul novels when I was in fifth and sixth grade, yet never felt like I wanted to Suffer the Children or pour pig's blood--or ANY blood really--on anyone at any time. I was allowed to read anything I wanted, but my television and movie experience was limited to PG a rating at the time that was quite lenient considering the fact that when we watched Big and Goonies with our son, I could not believe the language and sexual innuendo that was allowed at that time. Was I really too naive to even notice it when we watched, or was I smart enough to know that if I said anything I wouldn't be able to watch ANYTHING until I left home?

As for my reading, I always considered it an escape from reality and never once--okay...maybe ONCE, but she was a Judy Blume character who was always nice to everyone and everyone loved her for it--no one made her choose a clique, they just loved her for being her--it wasn't the serial killer who went after blind people who inspired me or even the mouthy and headstrong female characters (which really could have done me some good). I wanted to be...good and well-liked, though I didn't realize to really achieve that, one has to steal a little from those headstrong and mouthy characters or one finds herself to  be a doormat (a different story for a different day)--where was I? Right--I never once (only once...) felt like I just because I read about a character I could become that character and blame my actions on that (unless they were GOOD actions...). Of course, growing up I was surrounded by people whose primary sense of being was based on taking responsibility for themselves--blaming others was never an option--and I don't want it to be an option for my children either. But what happens when it really IS someone else's fault? I am constantly asking, "But what did YOU do?" to which they respond, "HEEEEE...SHEEEEE..." and I insist that they need to concentrate on using the proper pronouns. They must tell me every story in the first person and tell me about their own actions and how the situation could have been different had they chosen to behave differently. Hopefully that is a start.

The fact that I want my children to be responsible for their own actions is not to say that I should stop parenting and simply let them watch and read whatever they want--I just need to somehow instill in them the sense to only mimic good behavior and to teach them the difference between right and wrong so that when they DO come into contact with something that is...inappropriate...they will know how to handle it. Number seven-hundred THOUSAND on my list of things to do...

Which brings me back to Seinfeld Looney Tunes. How do I know if my children are old enough to hear about stalking and crazy people (or animated animals)? Do they have the necessary tools to establish that the behavior is being mocked and that it is really not appropriate to behave like that? Obviously we teach them the proper way to behave and I would hope that they know not to tell anyone that they should ONLY have one person in their lives, but what if that little part of their brains that does not know about relationships yet holds on to what they see and shapes their views on what relationships should be? The Simpsons is a cartoon, but I think that most of us would agree that it is inappropriate for young children (and grown ups who do not understand satire. It's not a "How To..." just sayin'...)., but where do we draw the line?

I really hate to take myself (or anything else really) too seriously and when people cannot take a joke it seriously makes my skin hurt, but isn't this different? Every Disney show that is not animated has children on it who are mouthy and rude to their parents at one point or another. We were watching Good Luck Charlie for a while and it is a cute show, but they are constantly mocking the father for being fat (how is that even slightly okay?) and acting like the mother is an idiot (though I'm pretty sure she IS supposed to be thought of as such...). Do I really want my children emulating that behavior? Would I be okay with my child saying, "Maybe if you stopped eating for a week you would fit into those pants, Mom..."?

When the sassiness gets to be too much, we tell them they are done with most television and only let them watch Phinneas and Ferb (Candace is definitely too whiny and annoying for my liking, but the boys are always kind and respectful and they INVENT and DISCOVER things--nothing wrong with that!) and movies that we pick. I know it seems a bit ridiculous, but there is nothing worse to me than my children being sassy and or mean to ANYONE and unfortunately, these are the behaviors that they see on most shows--behaviors that are meant to be funny and they are--when someone ELSE'S child is doing it.

 Then I think about my own childhood and remember watching cartoons with characters who were drunk and blowing things up and I didn't take that to mean that it was okay for ME to do those things (though my college days may tell a different story...). And sassiness would have caught me the death penalty, so it was rarely considered (though my parents may disagree) an option for me. It is seriously maddening and my inconsistency is not helping the situation AT ALL. I swear, half the time when real parenting and disciplining needs to be done, I find myself looking around the room for the adult who is supposed to take care of it. The fact that the "adult" is me saddens me and worries me that I am not quite the parent I swore I would be...BEFORE I had kids.


  1. Thank-you for this post. I only have a 2 year old and 6 week old, but I have so many thoughts that resonate with yours. Especially that last paragraph! Being the adult that has to be consistent in parenting is much more difficult than I anticipated. I don't always know what is the best course of action to take. Sigh. I guess that's where we learn, try to do our best, and how our children will one day forgive us for our mistakes and love us anyway! Thanks again.

    1. Matha, I swear that every single stage I understand something new about my mother and the choices she made and feel sorry for ever making her endure ANY of it! Yours are fairly close together like mine--there are eighteen months between the first two and sixteen month between the second two and I was so foggy once the second one came. Even running after my first while pregnant and uncomfortable with my second proved to be quite the challenge. If my first didn't TRY to harm himself and/or others on a regular basis, I felt it could have been so much easier, but all three of my children followed that path! The only bit of advice I have is for you to not be too hard on yourself! It IS the hardest job for a reason and the fact that you even CARE how they are going to feel about us one day shows that you are a great mother just trying to do the best for her children! And contrary to what some people told me when my children were so young, it DOES get easier--it is amazing what feels "easier" when you have a solid nights's sleep after seven years of...napping...! Oh--and thank YOU--for reading, enjoying, AND commenting!


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