Parental Censoring

My evolution as a parent has been an interesting thing to watch. I was so much more careful with what my children saw when I was new at this. I’m not sure which version of me is better.

My first memory of cautious parental censoring has to do with whether Jane, then about 4 years old, could watch Shark Tales. I watched it first before deciding that there was just too much blatant sexual innuendo and she simply could not watch it.

My first stumble came when my husband and I thought it’d be so cool to show the kids (barely turned 7 and 4) that great movie from our childhood: Goonies. I squirmed on the couch as the boys in the movie tried to glue the penis back on a small replica of Michelangelo’s David – upside down, all the while repeatedly yelling “s**t!” and “my mom’s going to kill me – that’s her favorite part!”

Jane was too scared and left the room for most of the movie. Daryl, the four year old, repeatedly declared it his favorite movie at his preschool. His teacher raised her eyebrows in surprise. I guess she has a better memory than I do.

Since Jane was more sensitive than Daryl, we didn’t have too much trouble keeping everything age appropriate before Hal came along. If it was too mature for Daryl, Jane probably wasn’t ready to watch it either.

But then Hal came along. He’s five years younger than Daryl and eight years younger than Jane. When he was a baby, we’d just plan Harry Potter or other viewing for his nap time. He still has nap time but is particularly gifted at avoiding sleep during it. This means that won’t work anymore. He also resists going to bed without his big brother so after bedtime doesn’t work well either, unless the movie is only for Jane to see.

One day, Jane came home telling us that we just had to watch the movie Pitch Perfect. We tried to send the boys to bed but Daryl lobbied for permission to stay up and watch it with us. Once he secured permission, Hal put up his own fight.

Since it was so late, my husband convinced me that Hal would probably fall asleep anyway so we should just let him stay in the room. I had my doubts and I was right. He stayed awake the whole time, and since the entire family loved the film, we’ve watched it a dozen times since.

It’s hard to justify not letting him watch a movie that he’s already seen but now that he’s watched it so many times, he’s able to quote significant passages of the movie. Most of his favorite ones are ok. “Bootie work! Bootie work!” while he shakes his fanny at you is borderline. The worst, by far, is this one:

“I’m going to pitch-slap you so hard that your man boobs are going to concave.”

A preschooler is not known for clear enunciation and without the context of the movie to help with the pun, it sounds to any innocent bystander as if he just said “bitch-slap”.

You could say that we just made a mistake and this movie is not an indication of a slipping of our standards, but the fact is, even though I know we shouldn’t have let him see it, I don’t particularly regret it because we have, as a family, enjoyed referring to the movie.

Pitch Perfect was just the tip of the iceberg though. I let Daryl race through the Harry Potter books much younger than Jane. I’ve let him read Ender’s Game a full two years earlier than Jane – just so he could go watch the movie with us, which we did at 8:00 opening night – a school night! I even let Hal watch Thor on his birthday (PG-13 and on a school night!).

And the crowning jewel: when my husband passed off the decision on whether to let Jane go to a Walking Dead premier watch party at a friend’s house late on a school night, with the full belief that I would disallow it, I gave permission. Despite the fact that she had been having disturbing and terrible nightmares about zombies just this past summer.

I still draw the line at Hal seeing violent, intense, and/or action-packed PG-13 movies at the theater. I still check commonsensemedia.org before letting Jane see a theater movie I’m unfamiliar with. I still expect family to restrict viewing to PG or G without my consent. And when Jane asked to return to the friend’s house for week two of the Walking Dead, I loudly proclaimed NO! in unison with my husband.

So I’m not a lost cause. Just a considerably more relaxed version of my former self.

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Generational Differences

Hal is nearly five years old. We moved past the potty training stage well over a year and a half ago. We absolutely love not being tethered to a diaper bag or having to make sure you have a spare change of clothes. The time period of accidents is long past. Or so we thought.

The first poop accident occurred while the boys were camping in the northwest in June. Daddy had asked him to wait until they got somewhere so willingly took part of the blame. That was an exceptional incident under trying circumstances. Surely an isolated event.

The next one occurred a couple of weeks ago. Again, we were away from home at the art conference. Nevertheless, we started to get irritated. Both times, my husband threw away the underwear – one Thor, the other Angry Birds – because we just didn’t have the means to clean them properly. Both times, Hal got really upset. We thought losing the underwear would make an impression.

Accident number three was just last week. At home. His reason? “I forgot!” We had a long talk about how old he was and the need to pay attention to when he needed to go and not ignore it. The same conversation we’d had repeatedly back when this was a focus in our lives.

The next one was yesterday at my grandmother’s house. One thing that fascinates me is how he tries to hide it. As if we won’t ever notice the poop caked to his bum or the smelly clothes. I looked at the underwear – this time Lego Star Wars Darth Maul – and thought I really don’t want to clean those. So I said I was throwing them away.

He got upset. I asked if he wanted to clean them. He said yes. I clarified: “You want to scrub the poop out with your own hands?” He said no, he wanted me to, because that was my job. I explained that it wasn’t my poop and he was getting too old for me to deal with these problems.

I then told him to put his pants back on without underwear. He refused. I pointed out that he did not have any underwear there so he’d have to. He angrily chastised me for not bringing our vehicle to grandma’s that had his backpack with a change of clothes in it.

Eventually, we went downstairs with a towel wrapped around his waist. I told my grandma, mom, and aunt what happened and said I’d be right back since I needed to walk the plastic bag-wrapped underwear to the outside trash can.

My grandmother calmly pointed out that I could scrub them clean. I said I knew that but didn’t want to. She said, “Well, back when I was your age, we used cloth diapers so we were used to it.”

I responded, “Yes, and I used cloth diapers too but we are well past that stage now. It’s not worth it to me to clean them up. When he runs out of his character underwear, we’ll buy him plain white. It’s a good logical consequence.”

She shrugged and nodded her head. I found this to be a remarkable demonstration of generational differences. She lived through the Depression. She still washes her Ziploc bags and until she became too weak to do it, she would occasionally dumpster dive behind the day-old bread store to get free bread. It doesn’t matter that she lives in a nice two-story house with a comfortable income. That underwear can be cleaned, so it should. Why be wasteful?

I, on the other hand, grew up in a more comfortable time. I make very good money and the cost of a pair of underwear is insignificant. My time and comfort are much more precious to me than pinching a few pennies. It doesn’t matter that the underwear can be cleaned. It’s not worth my time to do it. Especially when I can wrap it into an object lesson for my child.

I’m not sure which perspective is better overall, probably hers. But, they both have their merits and justifications. And neither one of us is likely to adopt the other attitude.

Choose Your Superhero

I could hear the boys playing in the other room. Daryl was being the typical older sibling bully, trying to manipulate the play as he saw fit. I was once the older sibling; I remember exactly how it goes.

“Ok, Hal. I’m Hawkeye and Black Panther and Thor. Who do you want to be?”

“I want to be Thor!”

“No. I’m Thor. You can be Antman. Or Hulk. Or Ironman.”

“No! I don’t want to be Ironman! I want to be Thor.”

“You can’t. Why don’t you be Antman? Antman is cool.”

“No!”

“Ok, fine. You can be Thor and Hulk, but I’m Hawkeye and Black Panther.”

“I want to be Superman!”

“No! You can’t be Superman. We are playing Avengers!”

I had been trying to get Daryl’s attention for some time. I finally raised my voice loud enough to be heard. “Daryl! Come here!”

When he entered the room, I said, “Quit trying to control everything.”

“I’m not!”

“Yes, you are. You are taking all the best characters and leaving him the leftovers.”

“No I’m not. I took my two favorite ones and then he can pick his two favorites. Besides, he doesn’t want Hawkeye anyway.”

“That’s beside the point. You should pick one and then let him pick one.”

He got a sly grin on his face. “Well, I’d just pick Black Panther first since I know he wouldn’t pick Hawkeye, so it’s the same difference.”

Sighing, I asked, “Why can’t he be Superman?”

“Because that wouldn’t be fair!”

“Why wouldn’t that be fair?”

“Because I can’t defeat Superman!”

“None of the Avengers can beat Superman?”

He looked at me like my intelligence ranked somewhere around that of a slug.

“No, mom. I don’t have any green Kryptonite. Hawkeye doesn’t have any Kryptonite arrows. And Black Panther doesn’t have anything Kryptonite either. Superman is like the strongest, toughest guy ever. You can’t beat him without Kryptonite.”

“Oh, ok,” I responded before walking down the hall to share the amusing conversation with my husband.

As I recounted the tale to him, Jane jumped in and said, “Thor could beat Superman. Thor is really strong. And he’s not just a superhero. He’s a god.”

“Pssshhhht! Whatever. Thor wouldn’t stand a chance against Superman.” My husband looked affronted.

And with that, I got a glimpse of what Daryl might be as an adult. My husband began speaking with great authority on the relative strengths of various superheroes plus some history on comic books in general.

And I learned the main, most obvious reason that Hal could not possibly be Superman. With much the same tone his son had used, he explained, “He’s not even in the same universe.”