It’s official. I’m THAT mom. You know the one. She wants to know what foods her kids are eating, she limits the amount of television they watch in a day, and yes, she even keeps her kids home from parties where movies she deems inappropriate are being shown.
I don’t know when I began this journey, but I suspect it started in my early days of teaching when I got to know hundreds of middle school kids. Some of them were polite not only to adults, but also to each other. They dressed in appropriate, tasteful clothing and didn’t seem to have drama swirling around them, which is downright impressive in middle school. Others rolled their skirts – those of you with private school pasts know that means they shortened their uniforms to scandalous lengths – rolled their eyes and rolled in and out of my classroom as if life in general was a distraction from what they really wanted to be doing. I decided I would prefer to raise the former, not the latter.
I guess it would be fair to also blame my parenting style on Sponge Bob. This style of ugly animation and rude humor didn’t begin when someone got the idea to put tighty whities on a sponge living in a pineapple under the sea. In fact, I was one of those kids who watched Ren and Stimpy as well as Beavis and Butthead, although I’m pretty certain my agenda in doing so was to have something to talk about to cute boys my age. But here is the incredibly important difference between Sponge Bob and Ren and Stimpy. I was watching those vulgar cartoons in junior high and high school. The associated consumer products were marketed to teenagers. The inappropriate jokes were being repeated standing next to lockers, not on the monkey bars and swings. Sponge Bob, on the other hand, is being waved in the faces of kids as young as pre-school with children’s meal toys and toddler-sized lawn chairs with the giant yellow sponge emblazoned across the seat.
And now I’m in talks with another mom to decide what movie will be shown at her child’s birthday party. I cannot imagine that this would have been an issue twenty-five plus years ago when I was six years old. It is unlikely that I would have been invited to a slumber party at that age, and if for some strange reason I had been, the parents would not have been showing PG movies to a room full of six year old girls. In fact, I’m not sure that anyone had a VCR yet, so we likely would have played games, run around outside, or gone with our own parents in a group to see a rated G movie in the theater. But here we are in a world where sleezy rock star Halloween costumes are sold in a size 4T, and I have chosen to be the odd man out and say, “Yes, my child can come to that party, but I will need to know the movie ahead of time and will pick her up before bed time.”
Why do I bother? My daughter is growing up in a world far more sophisticated and crass than the one in which I was raised, so why fight it?
That internal monitor that tells me to protect my child was given a clear voice one night a couple years ago when I watched an interview with infamous mom of nineteen (and counting, apparently), Michelle Duggar. While I certainly do not agree with all of her parenting decisions, she calmly and clearly put into words what I have always felt as a parent.
Every plant begins as a seedling. Were you to take that small, fragile seedling and plant it in the middle of an open field, exposing it to the wind, the rain, the heat, the cold, it would likely not grow into a mature, healthy plant. Instead you protect that seedling, shelter it and nurture it in optimal conditions so that when it is mature and strong, it can survive in the world, all the better for that time it was in your protection.
The moments of innocence in my daughter’s life are numbered. As parents, we know we are on borrowed time. How many more Christmases will she fall asleep waiting for Santa? How many more teeth will she lose before she realizes that the tooth fairy sneaks into her room in slippers, not on fairy’s wings? How many months, weeks, days will go by before she asks why one girls gets more attention from boys than others, why one child is mean to another, why a friends’ parents live in different homes?
The world is going to have my daughter for a lifetime. Her time in my care is relatively short. It is my job to make sure that when I send her out, she does not bend and break in the storm…