Parents and Kids! Experience Instead of Censorship

* A response to the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae *

I let my seven-year-old son watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also let him watch all the previous  Marvel films that came before it. Needless to say, the parents of many of his friends think I am crazy for introducing him to  such mature content at such a young age. He would do well to wait and be exposed to them when he is older; he is just a little guy, after all.

So when I read the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae, I was momentarily paralyzed with the fear that I was a poor influence on my child. I was, *shudder*, a bad parent! Lucky for me, Rae helped me get over that feeling pretty quickly.

The article begins with a flashback to when  Rae allowed her seven and five year old sons watch Indiana Jones. She had genuine concerns that the maturity level and adult content would upset them. And she was partly right. Her eldest son expressed fear for a characters safety. She found herself wondering if he was able to comprehend the justification of plot choices and resolution of the story.

I had a similar situation occur when my son was five.

Five was, my husband and I agreed, the right age to watch the original Star Wars films. After all, we watched them as five year olds and we turned out all right. But lo and behold, when Darth Vader sliced off Luke’s hand, my son panicked. He was upset. He didn’t understand the brutality of the situation, the purpose of the scene.

One of the strongest points in Rae’s article is that parents should be active participants in their children’s learning. Instead of deterring children from (all) mature content, they should explore that content with their children, offering explanations and encouragement when necessary. My son was fine once he realized that Luke would get a bionic hand out of the confrontation. He was even more excited when he learned that other Star Wars films, and even the Marvel ones, have a hand-chopping scene. Not because we turned him into a sadist, but because we introduced him to science fiction tropes. Through our discussion he comprehends how that scene drives the plot of the series and how directors and writers of other franchises (Marvel, in particular) tip their hats to its importance. I would argue the experience honed his visual literacy skills as he actively seeks out the similar scenes in other films.

Rae rightly suggests that we live in a time where everything has the potential to be censured: superheroes for fighting, Harry Potter for magic, Darwin for evolution. But can we shield our children from everything? More importantly, is it right to?

Libraries and Schools across North America receive challenges for materials frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be an established line between what is a valid concern and an invalid one. Rae reminds us that discrepancies exist when questions of appropriateness are concerned.CCAseal-469x600 What is inappropriate for one person may not be for another. Should we allow materials to be censured so that no one may enjoy them? Should I keep my son from watching an Avengers film because the mothers of his friends deem it unacceptable? No, that’s just not a good enough reason for me.

In my opinion, everything has the potential to be a teachable moment. Our society has shifted from one that creates and instills values in our youth (as Rae mentions, family, church, community were once the harbingers of values) to one that muddles those values. The burden of teaching everything to our children has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of our schoolteachers. They impart lessons in life as much as they demonstrate mathematical equations; and through all of this, while carrying the weight of this new responsibility, parents are challenging the teacher’s choices of content and resources.

As Rae implies, the task of exploring media (books, film, television and the ever increasing popularity of the Internet) should be a partnership between child and parent so that when questions of content appropriateness arise, parents can discuss issues and themes as they relate to their personal values. As she notes, parents need to help children dissect and explore the concepts they don’t understand or like. A teacher alone cannot interpret the values of each individual family, each individual student. But a supportive family environment, along with a teacher’s guidance, can be a life changing lesson for a child.

In the end, kids are going to be exposed to the world around them. Whether it is through a complicated novel, a difficult current issues debate, a questionable film, the brutality within the frames of the nightly news, the lewd entertainment available to anyone with cable television, or the far reaches of the Internet, kids are going to be exposed. Wouldn’t it be great if they had a parent, an adult, to help them navigate this uncharted, perplexing territory?

My son watches superhero movies. He is seven. When he doesn’t understand, my husband and I guide him to insight. He will not be censured because others choose to avoid rather than enlighten. And he is pretty enlightened, for a little guy.

We are a family of superhero enthusiasts. We just superhero responsibly.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

A Thought on Four Generations

After analyzing the whole blogging business, and it’s purpose (which I may be completely off base about), I thought I would try to write about something I feel I have a bit of experience in and something that I know I will continue to ultimately fail and succeed at doing: Mothering.

I am sure (at least I hope) that there are some mothers who understand the above. From my perspective as daughter, my mother failed and succeeded and at a number of different mother-daughter-raising-children-every-child-is-different-there-is-no-manual-breastfeeding-is-hard-bottlefeeding-is-wrong-bottle-feeding-is-great-stay-at-home-parents-are-perfect-working-parents-are-better-stay-at-home-parents-are-wrong-working-parents-are-wrong-homeschooling-is-better-public-schooling-is-better-you-can’t-spoil-your-kid-with-love-rule-with-an-iron-fist-children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard-give-your-child-a-voice-all-teenagers-are-bad-all-teenagers-are-people-too…yadda, yadda, yadda. …rites of passage(s). As a mother myself, I realize that, regardless of the “mistakes” she made, my mother did the best with exactly what she had, which, by-the-way did not include parenting blogs or how-to-anything at your fingertips 24/7, or even a mother herself. She did pretty darn good job considering she lost her mother at the age of 18. Truth-be-told, I don’t know what I would do without her. That being said, we are different parents (as all are).

There are a lot of things I didn’t do when our children were babies that she did, and a lot of things that I know I will do differently as my children enter the age of adolescence. She and I butted heads, of course, (see above), over a great many things. She did this, and it worked, so why couldn’t I? She thought (and still believes) that Zincofax is terrible. She said it stung my children’s bums. I kid you not…my mother was COMPLETELY against ZINCOFAX. It was a serious point of contention. I really wish I was joking. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel. By the time our 3rd child was born, she became ok with me in the mothe role, She began to realize that what my husband and I decide goes, regardless of our rationale behind it. These are our children, and our choices, and they need to be respected.

unnamedAll of the head-butting aside, I realize now that perhaps our children are a way for my mother to be the parent she wishes she had been during those times of trial and error with me. I believe she recognizes what she would have done differently, if do-overs were an option. Unfortunately in the world of parent-hood, we don’t get to re-evaluate, edit, and re-submit our final results. We get one shot. She knows this now, and so do I, and will try, as a mother myself to always keep it in mind.

I hope I get be in her shoes someday…to someday hold my grandchild and remember my mistakes, and want to help my children not make the same mistakes I made with them, (and I have oh-so-many more to make, yay!…where would psychologists be without mothers?). I want to be able to tell my grandchild when they are fighting with their parents, how much their parents love them, even if they truly believe they are acting unfairly to them. I know my mother will do this for me.

My mother’s perspective and vantage point is completely different from mine. I have no idea from where she is coming when she tries to advise or criticize or counsel or coach. All I can do is try to understand it and respect it. Because, at the end of the day, I admire my mother. Craziness (current…my fault..) and “mistakes” (past, present and future) aside, I am proud of my mother. And I am grateful for her. I am still angered by her, and sometimes hurt by her, (I am sure this is not one-sided, and so I’m sorry mum), which simply means that she, like me, is merely human. And,  I love her, unconditionally.

By Danerra Speares

My Son Likes Frozen and I Will Not “Let it Go”

olafhappyMy son, Thatcher, is six. He likes to get dirty, play superheroes, make fart jokes, and karate chop anyone willing to stand in as his own personal punching bag. He is a renaissance man; all at once an artist, an athlete, and burgeoning intellect. But my son lives by a code that makes me shudder: girls and princesses are gross!

When he was younger and started the ugh, girls! phase we would sit down and watch Barbie movies, read My Little Pony comics and discuss the ways in which boys and girls really weren’t that different from each other, and he liked these “girl” things just fine. In fact, as he became aware of individual interests and passion he saw very little distinction between the sexes. His mother is a superhero fanatic, sporting X-men t-shirts and debating the prowess of Wolverine vs. Sabertooth over the dinner table. His aunt is an avid hockey player who taught him skating basics when he began his foray into sports. His grandfather is the cook in the family. The roles that should be perceived as gender specific were always muddy. Not anymore.Now that he is in grade one, I have very little influence over how he perceives the gender divide in our society. Instead, his six year old comrades know best, and they don’t give girls enough credit.

So for my birthday, I asked my sister to buy me Frozen, and as a birthday request I asked my son to watch it with me. He loved it. Sure, Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer certainly helped, but more than the comic relief he took away a lesson that flies in the face of princess movies of the past: the princesses kicked butt and did not need princes to be strong.

This film has the potential to shed light on the power of femininity and the value of womanhood for boys who see girls as weaker and less interesting people. Elsa’s magic is as equally captivating as Dr. Strange’s magic, Anna’s ability to defend herself and save the day is as heroic as Spiderman. Most importantly, family loyalty and love supersedes romance and this is what he takes away from this film. When Anna pleads with Elsa to build a snowman, Thatcher looks up at his father and says, “I would be so sad if Cameron (his older step-brother) didn’t play with me anymore and wouldn’t tell me why”. This moment is the catalyst whereby he is no longer watching a “princess” movie, rather he is watching a captivating story unfold, and hey, there just happens to be princesses in it.

Stories teach us empathy. Whether we read them or watch them unfold on a screen, stories move us, and if they are good they encourage us to examine our lives and create parallels between reality and fantasy. That Thatcher could transport himself into a world where he might feel as equally heartbroken as Anna says he is engaging and contemplating her heartache. We live in a world that so often encourages our boys not to feel. Rather, we command them to act, to take, to be strong and loud. In our home we strive for reflection, introspection, and encourage emotion. We try very hard to eliminate any speech that would diminish the value of girls and women, “that’s so girly”, “you’re acting like a little girl,” and we embrace being ourselves. We embrace and consider sadness as much as we celebrate delight.SVEN2

Thatcher has a little sister. I hope that she will love superheroes like her mom, but whatever her choices, she will be supported. That is why it is so vital that her brother learn to respect the value of femininity. He will not see her as weak, he already celebrates her small daily accomplishments, but he will learn that she is just as capable as anyone else to succeed. He knows that she is worthy of time and energy. That her voice is meant to be heard, and that she can be as strong as he can. He will take this inherent respect for his sister and hopefully someday translate it to the girls who will flow in and out of his life. Each with a story to tell and a lesson in life to share.

In the meantime, I will endeavour to encourage a respect of girls and women in our home with the television we watch, the stories we read, and the way we interact with one another. We will continue to watch My Little Pony before school, and contemplate the changing tides of the Marvel Universe. We will sing the theme song from Pokemon as loudly as we sing Let it Go. He will dance and draw as proudly as he skates or punts a ball. He will learn that being a boy doesn’t confine him and limit him. Just as being a girl will not limit or confine his sister. As he grows in sensitivity and learns not to shy from emotion the doors to communication will open ever wider and consideration and understanding will shine through.

As for Frozen, we will laugh at Olaf and Sven, but we will mourn Anna and Elsa’s lost childhood together, too. And if a princess movie helps my son to laugh and love, then that is something to hold on to. I will not let it go.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke    @ldchiasson17

 

Whino the Homework Slayer

Sometimes I think I would rather face a horde of Skrulls in a battle for world domination than face off against my seven year old when he determinedly does not want to do his homework.

superskrullMy weeknight rules are pretty simple: play, read your book, practice your spellings, eat, play some more, go to bed.

Clear, concise, simple, routine. But every once in a while, BAM! WHACK! POW! he transforms from a loveable mild-mannered child into Whino, the Homework Slayer.

OK, that’s a bit exaggerated. In retrospect, it’s not so bad. True, he does whine. True, he argues with me until he is blue in the face, but he is still amazing, beneath the tears.

Here is the thing: when my kid loses his mind, I lose mine. It’s a reflex reaction I can’t control. When he whines about homework, I feel like Wolverine whenever he is faced with Daken, SNIKT! out pop my defensive claws. Unlike Wolverine, I at least resort to clam and collected discussion, but what good does that do against the perils of a seven year old who just wants more time to play with his toys?!

There is no right approach to parenting. Most days I feel I do a pretty good job, but when your child fights you tooth and nail on an issue you feel strongly about (and a beneficial one to them, at that!) it is hard to hold your own. My instincts are at odds. All at once I want to hug him and kiss him and tell him I love him, but I also want to stand my ground- homework must be done, go expand your mind!

In these moments I waiver. I don’t know if I am doing it right, this whole parenting thing. If I am too calm, it doesn’t work; if I get agitated, it doesn’t work; If I get angry, well, that never works out for anybody. Tonight, after a lot of calm reminders and encouragement, I was agitated. So I left him alone with his toys while he pondered his choices and mine.

After some reflection he came to me and apologized, on his own, for his behaviour. After all, my son is really more of a superhero than a villain, whiney or not.

Then he explained something to me:

A friend at school has been bullying him- stealing his toys, yelling at him, calling him names. He had been mentioning bits and pieces of this lately, but it seems tonight it started to wear on him and affect him at home, not just at school. We talked about what he thinks a bully is, and how he hopes to never be one. In that moment I felt all I could offer was to remind him that he is abundantly considerate of others, compassionate, and generous (don’t let my little homework rant fool you!). He said to me last week, “Mommy, I want to be like Captain America.KTjg58bTq He believes in his friends, and I want to be the same way”. And despite the fact he gets angry with me, he never lashes out at his buddies, instead he calms them when they lash out around him. He calms his mommy, too, when he recognizes that he has overreacted and has apologized, or when he feels confident enough to tell me I need to relax and be a better listener.

He didn’t read his book tonight. He already knows his spelling words. But we had a little lesson all the same. In the end, I am pretty sure I was the student.

I don’t always know if I am doing this whole parenting thing right. I have no superpowers. Finding the right balance to parenting is the greatest mystery I have faced yet. It is the longest road I walk. I am so lucky to walk it with my son.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke    @ldchiasson17