Today I am doing something radical.
Something that kind of terrifies me.
It terrifies me for two reasons…
1. It could make Gideon sad.
2. It will definitely take me one step closer to being one of “those” parents. Step 1: stay-at-home Mom. Step 2: Homeschool. Step 3: Minivan. Step 4…
I’m cleaning out our movie collection.
First, let me precede anything else I might say in this post with this: My husband and I completely believe that when it comes to television and movie viewing (and of course this excludes the obvious and universal no-no’s), what you watch or don’t watch is a matter of personal and familial conviction. Thus, this post will not be one that lists which movies the wise Mr. and Mrs. Gore have decided are okay to watch and which ones must be burned at the stake. Not gonna happen. I will, however, under the leadership and approval of my husband, share what has been on my mind and heart when it comes to what is displayed on our home television, and hopefully, you might be able to draw something from it…and I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be, “Yep, I was right. She is a psychopath.”
And secondly, let me say that I really never dreamed I would care so much about things like this. I find myself, more and more, implementing rules and principles in our home that are like the ones I rolled my eyes at when I was young. I had friends with parents like me, and thought they were soooooo strict. Of course, I was the fourth child. My oldest brother, Matt, wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio when he was in elementary school; I, however, was toting around a Paula Abdul CD and biography in the 4th grade, dreaming that I, too, might one day be a Laker Girl. It was inconceivable to me that some of my friends were not allowed to watch “Full House” because the children talked back to their parents. “How rude!” I thought. (Get it? Oh, nevermind…).
However, having human beings you alone are responsible for does some crazy things to your convictions, and I have found that the best thing I can do when it comes to raising my kids is to use my brain. To think about the things we do, and why we do them. And to constantly tweak and improve upon our habits, all for one purpose…
To raise my children up with a biblical worldview. Look around and you will quickly find that taking your children to church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night and every Wednesday night does not ensure that they will grow up with a Christian worldview. What will, however, is making sure that everything you do at home matches up with what they see and hear at church. Otherwise, church just becomes a place where you spend a couple of hours a week…and then you return to the “real” world, where your kids are constantly exposed to a worldview that is far from biblically based.
Which leads me to my first conviction, that the television must be viewed as a worldview-maker. Oh boy, this is already sounding crazy. I’ll make it worse. The television is like a giant robot that sits in your living room and has the capability of introducing whatever you want it to introduce, not only to you, but to your children. It has the power to do great things, like entertain and teach you, and show you new worlds – places you would never see otherwise! – but it also has the power to tell your kids what the rest of the world says is acceptable and praiseworthy, to entice them with visually stimulating pictures, and to contradict what they learn during family worship and in Sunday School and from the pulpit. It is a very powerful piece of equipment. But guess what?…you hold the remote.
Which leads me to my second conviction, one that we have been following for quite some time. Aside from children’s programming in the morning and the occasional Fox News Alert (Mama loves breaking news!), we keep the television off. Leaving it on makes it too easy to forget that it is on, and then you walk into the room to find that your little boy is dumbly staring at another innapropriate Axe bodywash commercial (grrrrr…Mother Hen has a major beef with those ads) or watching two women duke it out on a daytime talk show. This means that Chris and I also don’t watch the shows we want to watch until the kids are in bed. No questions, no comments. Chris doesn’t watch ESPN, I don’t watch Regis and Kelly, we don’t watch any of our favorite sitcoms, or even American Idol. In my mind, it just feels too dangerous – once your child sees or hears something questionable, or even something beyond the bounds of their maturity, you can’t retrieve it back. It is in their tiny mushy little baby brain forever…and how sad is that?!
Which leads me to my third conviction, one that has been quite a revelation for a dummy like me: just because it is animated doesn’t mean that it passes the test. It began to dawn on me a few years back that many of those great animated films, the ones I loved most as a child, are nothing more than grown-up movies disguised as cartoons. Now stay with me…grown-up girl (with cleavage, no less!) falls in love with grown-up boy, kissy kissy kissy, happily ever after…aside from the talking fish and outstanding musical numbers, that sounds an awful lot like the movies I enjoy watching on the Hallmark Channel. Which, by the way, are mostly dreadful, but once you start watching one, you really are hard-pressed to stop…but I’m getting off track. So am I saying that Disney Princess movies are bad? Heavens no! They are the stuff of dreams, some of my all-time favorite films! But does that also mean that it is really necessary for Gideon to see every Disney animated movie before he even reaches the age of 5? No it doesn’t. And it kind of makes me cringe to realize how many he has already seen, grown-up themes of love and romance…and, kissing, gross!…butting in to what was previously a little boy’s mind that focused solely on little boy stuff. Frogs, snails, puppy dog tails, the works.
Which leads me to my fourth conviction, that just because it is on Playhouse Disney or Nick Junior doesn’t mean that I must allow my children to watch it. Oh, I’ll admit, the temptation is great some mornings to tune the television to Disney Channel, plant my kids on the couch, and go do what I want to do for thirty minutes, maybe an hour or two. The only problem with that is that I then have no idea what they are watching…
If you have closely followed this blog, you might remember that I worked as a nanny in Louisville, Kentucky. My little underling was not allowed to watch much television at all, but it was there in his home that I was first introduced to Little Bear, and I quickly fell in love. And I’ll tell you why I did. Little Bear is about a little boy bear who lives in a little boy bear’s world…fishing, exploring, imagining, playing with his friends, eating chocolate cake, and spending time with his family are the things that capture and delight him. He has a Father Bear, a Mother Bear, a Grandfather Bear and a Grandmother Bear, all playing traditional roles and comprising a safe and simple world for Little Bear to grow up in. Rarely does this show even try to teach a real lesson; it simply follows the carefree and easy days of Little Bear, set to sweet classical music. I adore it. (Ignore the fact that Little Bear wears no clothes while the rest of his family does; it’s a minor, albeit confusing flaw in an otherwise perfect cartoon).
And I find myself measuring all cartoons against this one. It is my cartoon measuring stick. And so if we come across a show where the dad is a dog and the mom is a horse? Out! The shows that teach really great lessons, but in the meantime, introduce themes to my children that I am not ready for them to become acquainted with, like bullying, sibling rivalry, backtalking and being afraid of the dark? Out! The shows that employ modern language like “butt” and “awesome” and ruin the precious vocabulary of my little vintage boy, who says things like “oh boy!” and “wow, Mom!” Double out! The shows that have weird music sung by weird people dressed in scary mascot-costumes? Not a chance! Which leaves us with a handful of shows that we record on our DVR, but a handful of shows that I myself have personally watched and approved…which means (here comes the brilliant part!) that Mrs. Gore has a handful of shows that I feel are more than capable of watching my kids while I go and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and an English muffin with red plum jam. Score! Everybody’s a winner.
And so you must see why it would be drastically wrong for me to take my list of convictions and make hard-and-fast rules for the Christian parenting world to follow, or else be walking down the paths of sin, right? My list is as crazy as I am! But it includes the things that are important to me, the things that are dear to my heart, the things that I feel convicted about. And as I am the queen of this household, and also the co-watcher over the souls of my children, I can’t just ignore those convictions. This doesn’t mean that I will come unglued if Gideon watches one of the movies I have put away when he goes to a friends house or catches one of the cartoons I have banned – I don’t think it will ruin his life, not even close. But the principle behind all of the above is to realize that when it comes to what my children see and hear, I have complete control. Sometimes, when your kids are eager to watch a movie or a television show, you feel kind of stuck, like you have to let them watch it (it is rated G after all), even as your heart sinks within you. But not anymore, not Mrs. Gore.
And that is why I will be cleaning out our movie selection today. As they are all wholesome films, I won’t be tossing any movies, just misplacing them for a few years, until my children are in a different stage, a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more equipped to filter the good from the bad.
I’m still terrified, mostly because Gideon has the memory of an elephant. He is holding a grudge against me for “selling his toys” at a garage sale a YEAR ago – one tiny box of junky McDonald’s prizes that he never seemed to play with. And so I know the day is coming when he will ask to watch one of his favorite movies, and then…Mama is gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do. I don’t look forward to it, not one bit.
How will I carry out my reaping? Will I go by rating? By the year of the movie’s release? By whatever tickles my fancy? I’m not really sure right now. But I promise, I’ll let you know allllll about it, if and when I survive the experience. Say a little prayer for me, would ya?