Has this ever happened to you? One of your children is watching something on a screen that seems questionable to you. You ask if it is appropriate for them. They assure you that, yes, it is appropriate.
“Oh. Okay,” you say.
You know they say this because they want you to go away and leave them in peace. You want the same thing, so you choose to believe them because sometimes you don’t feel like taking the time to investigate if it’s truly appropriate. Sure – I can count on my child to know what’s appropriate and what’s not, can’t I? The kids and I would agree on certain things that are clearly not appropriate, such as highly sexual content or gory violence – they wouldn’t want to watch these things anyway (not yet, at least.) It’s all the other things (like bad language, mature themes, silly reality shows) where the line is not always so clear.
Sometimes things are inappropriate but in the opposite direction – not mature enough. Take for instance my 16-year-old son with special needs. He has a penchant for watching shows that some might say are too young for him. I used to tell him he is too old to watch these shows.
“But I like them,” he told me.
Sigh. He likes them. Who am I to force him to watch shows that he doesn’t really get or enjoy, just because they are more age appropriate? For me, there’s a fine line between expecting him to act his age and allowing him to be how God made him. Where is the perfect balance? I’m always looking for it.
My daughter recently reported that this brother was watching “Family Guy.” Oh good, my husband and I thought – that’s semi-appropriate for a teenage boy. Then she told us that it was really a cover for him to watch a children’s show on the computer – he too clearly understands the whole “It’s Appropriate” game. Too bad this cognitive ability doesn’t actually transfer to age-appropriate television for him, but oh well. He did participate in a recent “Simpsons”-fest with his cousins, keeping him somewhat in the adolescent TV loop.
My daughter chastised me for allowing her brother to watch “baby” shows.
“Really? Do I need a critique of my parenting from you?” I asked.
Let me just say that she loves “Dance Moms” and God-knows what other shows that some may say are inappropriate for an 11-year-old girl. It’s amusing to me that my youngest thinks she is the maven of appropriate material. When she was nine she picked the song “Mean” by Taylor Swift to sing in a recital. It’s a great song. We both thought the tune was catchy but neither of us paid much attention to the words. I just thought she was so adorable. As I sat there watching her, I realized the song is about an abusive relationship and my stomach dropped to my toes.
Maybe not my best call in this grey area we call parenting, but the world didn’t come to an end. The video of her singing still makes me smile to this day. Is that really so inappropriate?
This is The Father (yours) checking in. Don’t think it will get easier. There is an old Yiddish
saying – it translates as “Little children, little problems and big children, big problems.” Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The upside is we all survive.
With love and sympathy – Dad