Thursday, June 30, 2011

TV Reality Check

In addition to my many hats I wear during the school year, in the summer I am also a part-time nanny. The kids I watch are the same age as my kids, and the same gender, so it is a good fit for us. Sometimes I just watch the young boy and when he and my son are engulfed in play I must admit I kinda zone out.
Last week when I delivered my little charge home to his mom, she mentioned that she didn't want her boy watching Fireman Sam. She didn't like how one character was portrayed as "the bad kid" and his single mom as a man-hungry ditz. I knew for a fact that her son had watched this show at my house. I felt embarrassed but also defensive. I muttered something about how they had changed that character in the later versions of the show and went home, feeling like a first-year teacher who let the students take over the class.
I remembered how strict I used to be about what my kids watched. I still forbid them from watching shows with violence, sexism, sexual innuendo, frightening scenes, and just plain idiocy. Over the years my standards seemed to have slipped. I recalled the episodes of Fireman Sam the boys had watched. Several of the characters were portrayed as dumb or ditzy, particularly the single mom. They were the butt of the jokes in the show. This is nothing new for TV-land, but it's certainly not something the "old me" would have allowed.
At the same time, I feel proud of what I haven't let slip in. Most Disney films, action flicks, and Saturday morning cartoons are strictly regulated. The cable shows they are allowed to watch are mostly on PBS and Discovery. When we do watch the network TV shows, we ridicule the commercials endlessly, pointing out how the product being sold is not really as cool or fun or delicious as it is made to appear.
In other words, they don't have a free pass to watch whatever they want or whatever is on. That is the most important thing for parents to remember. I don't think it helps for us to judge each other's parenting based on what shows the kids are allowed to watch. You have to decide what works for your family and your values. Previewing and being able to say no are the only hard-and-fast rules.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Soggy Bottom Town

It's March in Seattle. It's raining. Raining like a tidal wave today. The puddles were enormous. I can hear the traffic on the wet roads through the closed windows even now. I watched the traffic while my little guy played in a puddle earlier. The cars sped by much too quickly, much too close to my house, and much too loudly.

I've been watching great movies set in warm, sunny places but they only seem to make me sadder. I know, summer will come and I will take it all back, but right now it seems idiotic to live in a place this cold and wet when it is possible to live elsewhere.

Look, here they are in California, ignoring the sunshine, whining about their marriage. Here they are in Italy, in Venice (!), regretting their life's mistakes. Meanwhile the sun is pouring down on them like a giant golden goddess and they don't even notice. I guess sunshine doesn't fix everything. Not in movies, anyway. Here and now, it would work wonders.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reading About Parenting

Sometimes I wonder if reading books about parenting actually makes me a better parent or just a confused parent. After a few pages I start to second-guess my every instinct and wonder at the long term consequences of every action. But then I read something really helpful and feel so excited to make progress on something that was bothering me.

My current reading is Siblings Without Rivalry, another book by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. The book is not new. It was published in 1987 but has been republished 4 times. I guess that is part of my litmus test for parenting books. Is it just a new fad or something that has been around a while and used with success over generations? At the same time, some of the old parenting books should die a sudden death. What to Expect When You're Expecting? Complete rubbish. Dr. Spock? So outdated.

But back to Siblings without Rivalry. The books starts with the same principles as their other book, then moves on to real problems siblings have: property rights, physical violence, and resentment. This little gem was in my reading today:

Insisting on good feelings between children creates bad feelings.
Allowing for bad feelings between children leads to good feelings.

Next time my two are fighting and feeling mad at each other I will do my best to remember this.