Living Font: A Shelter in the Storm

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…

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  • I completely agree! Childhood is short and magical. Let’s let them have their childhood.

  • Well said Amy. Moral innocence is something that is not popular in our culture. I too have worked hard to raise two responsible, respectful and morally innocent young men.
    At 17 and 15 my boys have never watched Sponge Bob or a whole list of other television shows and movies that don’t line up with our Christian beliefs. I am appalled when the young kids at church know more about R rated movies than I do, and sing pop songs about sex and relationships they have no right knowing about at 5 and 6 (I blame parents allowing the God forsaken Kids Bop CDs in their house for that one). My boys don’t date though girls swarm them constantly. They know that dating is preparation for marriage and they have too much education left to worry about preparing for marriage. No dating=no drama!
    You’re doing a good job, stand firm my friend-the road gets bumpier-but it is worth it!

  • I’m far from a prude but I worry about a culture that markets clothing usually only seen in strip clubs to 10 year olds.I know cultural norms shift, change and every older generation decries the music & lifestyles of the youngsters but our society is becoming increasingly pornalized. Very worrisome trends are being adopted as normal by supposedly educated parents who ought to know better.

    Good on you for making sure your children get to be children!

  • Mark

    Great article. Yes they are worth it. Yes parents do have a role to play and we fail our kids miserably when we abdicate this to them and don’t help them to make great decisions.

  • Well said! Great post!

  • I totally agree with everything you said. I was always aware of Sponge Bob but had never watched it until recently when my husband started turning it on for my 2 yr old! I’d be sitting at the computer and I’d catch a bit here and there.. the day that I heard them calling each other things like “fatty ,ugly, stupid, booger head” I was completely appalled and banned it from the house. My husband thought I was being ridiculous but I don’t want my kid learning how to call people names at such an early age. It’s ridiculous.

    As far as letting little kids watch whatever they want.. no way. I’m living proof of what happens to you when your parents do that. My mom loves horror and when I was only 5 or 6 she let me watch The Shining (I watched about 10 min and then ran out of the room). Granted she was very young and naive herself but it really did a lot of damage to me for many years.

    I never thought I’d be this way but since I was the oldest in my family and the experimental child I know all about the mistakes parents can make and what kind of impact they can have on a kid. I don’t intend to repeat them on my own child and I can only hope that they will thank me later in life and not feel like they’ve missed out.

  • I love this post; I am very anti-tv and “screen time” and I remember being shocked the first time I heard the conversations on SpongeBob and definitely thought it was geared to an older audience than it is! I sometimes feel like I’m swimming upstream sometimes in the current culture — my sons are 7 and 10 — but I haven’t given up and I hear all the time how polite and well-behaved my sons are. I see my 10 year old growing up so fast and I agree with you; they are only little and under your influence for such a short time. I feel like it’s my role to give them the best value system I can before that influence disappears.

  • […] situations, they will know to come to me.  And they will know that I will continue to be the shelter in the storm that they need.  And for all of this, I make no […]