This blog might be something akin to literary whiplash, but I’m turning the bus around again to respond to a few things you mentioned here and here. So, Keanu, hold on. (That was a Speed reference, by the way. Which was my very first R-rated movie. In order to obey my parents’ movie rules, I left the room during one sleepover party when they put Top Gun. But not for Speed. This was back when my choices were overly dependent on how good an actor’s biceps looked. Tom Cruise’s never made the cut, but Keanu’s? Well.)
I’ll start by talking about your boys’ response to movies.
I thought I would be the sort of mom who resists all the thousands of hours of “screen” time that kids get. I also thought I would be the kind of mom who would have a kid who eats more than just peanut butter sandwiches every day. And the kind who potty trains in a day.
I am not.
What can I say? I enjoy having a half-hour to myself while Miles zones out to some PBS show. I try to rationalize it by saying that Super Why teaches him reading skills. Maybe it does, but I’m in it for the time it gives me to put on some damn mascara. I may spend most of my life in pajamas these days, but it is just too embarrassing to get the mail at 3:00 in pajamas AND without makeup. A person has to have standards.
I resonated with your entire post about television, though. Despite the fact that my kid says, “Wan watch Cars again!” before Cars, which he’s already watching, is over, I totally understand the reasons you’re so reluctant to let them watch Star Wars. It’s because you don’t want to turn them into nerds. (Sorry, Chris.) No, just kidding.
I think it has to do with the story of life you want to teach your kids. It’s a story that doesn’t include gold bikinis yet. Or Jabba the Huts. (Give Luke a giant hug from me for his amazing response to that scene.) Television and movies are full of worldviews that conflict with what you want them to understand about how to live.
I’m sorry to turn this back to church again, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about since you posted your response to my “missing church” post.
Every Sunday, my pastor Tim prays this: “May our children never know a time in which they did not feel part of the story of God.” It may be my favorite part of the service, actually, this time when we pray for the kids. I like the concept so much that Genevieve’s middle name was almost Amae, which loosely translates into “never knowing a time in which you were not cherished.” I did not end up giving her that name, though, because her initials would have been GAS, and I don’t care how beautiful a name’s meaning is, you never give a kid the initials GAS.
The reason I love that prayer and sentiment relates to your concern about not wanting to teach your kids something “wrong” about God or religion. I share that worry, and, if my track record on being “right” about God stays consistent, I am probably teaching them a whole lot of “wrong” things about God. The reason I want them to go to church has nothing to do with Miles and Genevieve learning a lot of facts about God, or Jonah and the whale, or Adam and Eve. And even less to do with whether those “facts” are right or wrong. It is about teaching them a narrative that they can structure their lives upon. And even if you don’t take them to church, I’m pretty sure your kids are still learning a narrative from you and Chris.
All our kids will grow up to either accept or reject the bits of narrative we build into their lives, so teaching Miles and Evie what I believe about church and God doesn’t scare me as much as it does you. (I mean, it does scare me, but it seems too much an inevitability to me to avoid it.)
I love your decision to keep the kids away from television—especially scary television, or provocative television, or violent television—as long as possible. I mean, look how formative Speed was for me? It impacted me enough to work its way into metaphors years and years later.
As for me, it will have to do that I let Miles watch PBS but not some other kids’ shows. (That Bugs Bunny can get scary violent sometimes!)
Because my narrative involves mascara.