I talked a little bit the other day about the reality of something being so much bigger than you can ever theorize when I was discussing our modern family. (BTW, I have more updates on that!!!!) And a few days ago, it hit me again.
All the time, as a game, we hear "What would you do if..." Sometimes we vehemently declare one thing or another. "Oh, I would NEVER do that." "Well, I will make sure I don't do such-and-such." "I am definitely going to..." Definitive statements can come back to bite you in the ass, my friends. Never has this been more clear to me than in the last 10 months of parenthood.
When P was 2 weeks old, I wrote this post partially about the things I swore I wouldn't do and within 48 hours was doing. But this is not about just that kind of thing. It's about parenting in general.
Hubby and I never really discussed ANYTHING in advance. We just kind of let it roll over us and make decisions as they come. We haven't fought about any of them. Then again, we haven't hit any of the truly tough decisions yet. But one came up the other night, one that I hadn't really even considered.
Children's movies! We have been renting movies from Netflix and burning them. Many of them Disney flicks. Now, it's not like I'm not aware of the prevalence of scary step-mothers, violent evil people, and dead mothers. It's not limited to Disney, but the older films certainly have more of that in them. Old school fairytales are harsh. REALLY harsh. Now, I know that I saw them all when I was little. And for the most part (ahem, Bambi) I don't remember being traumatized. Perhaps I wasn't able to make the jump. Perhaps my mother explained well...I don't know. What I do know is that I never considered how bad some of them are.
We watched Dumbo the other night. For those of you unfamiliar with this very early Disney movie, it is HEART WRENCHING. And rascist. There are some great teaching moments, yes, but the only happy time is at the end. And again, maybe children, little children, don't view it with the same eyes. But WOW. I was sobbing. I almost had to stop watching. The emotion is so raw. For those who are unaware of this tale, Dumbo is a baby elephant with freakishly large ears. Everyone makes fun of him. They are CRUEL. In once scene, the mama elephant gets angry at the people teasing her son and goes apeshit on them, so they lock her up and he can't see her. I LOST it. Classic bawl-your-eyes-out scene:
Anywho, what this brought up for me is: What is appropriate for my child to see? How do I let him see this when I can't even handle it? At what age is he old enough to watch and understand it when I educate him about bullies and such? And I'm not talking just this film. Think about it. So many of the "classics" are like this. Scary, or violent, or upsetting. Fairytales? Yeah.... I know they have so many opportunities for "teaching moments", and I love those moments. But at the same time, where do you draw the line?
One of the best things about being a child is the innocence, the gusto for life, the open eyes and lack of fear or prejudice or cynicism. Children should have the ability to be children. To NOT worry about these things too often. To play, get dirty, remain positive, and love unconditionally.
So at what point do you let them see things, watch things, that have these upsetting scenarios in them. I plan to teach him to be a good person. And I know that at some point he will experience the shit the world can dump on you. I just don't know when that will be okay. After watching Dumbo, I want to never let him see it! But I know that is unreasonable. And there are children's movies that I think are okay to watch.
I never thought about ANY of this. And now I'm overwhelmed with thoughts of what will be right for us. What type of guidelines do you use? How did you know the time was right to introduce the heavier topics?