Hindsight Parenting: Pretend Play vs. Violence
Let’s Pretend: A Discussion on Violence
“Ok daddy. Let’s go in my tent and you get to kill me.” These were the words uttered by my VERY sheltered three-year-old daughter just last night. I was shocked. Daddy was shocked. He immediately responded, “I will play with you Ila, but I won’t ever play ‘killing’. That just isn’t a nice thing to play.” To distract her, he pretended to see a dragon in the clouds and they went chasing off in that direction determined to introduce themselves. While that seem to be the end of it for Ila, it wasn’t for me. How on Earth did she come up with THAT one?
Hindsight teaches us that parents can be quite hypocritical; Spouting and maligning about how violent our world has become, quoting Mr. Rogers famous quote, “always look for the helpers,” and sitting on our childrens’ beds at night smoothing their hair and reminding them that even in tragedy we can find the good. And then…and then, we go out to our living rooms and put on the latest episode of Criminal Minds or The Followers (my new obsession…I know….hypocritical) and watch with a bowl full of popcorn the very image we abhor when it happens in real time in a reality based way. We shake our heads at the wars our country starts for no reason, but shoo little Johnny off to play bloody video games like Call of Duty so that mommy can have some quiet time. In addition, in my case, we pop in a Disney video, Pocahontas, so that we can sit down and work on some writing. It was this very act–popping in a DISNEY video –that taught my daughter what ‘killing’ was. That night putting my daughter to sleep, I asked her where she came up with the idea that daddy could kill her. She very clearly and most assuredly told me that John Smith’s friend in Pocahontas killed Coco and they were very sad. Shutting her door, I went out to the living room and pulled up the scene. I was shocked to see such a graphic depiction of a man being shot, bleeding and falling into a pond. Even though it was just a cartoon, the horror of it was unsettling and it was clear that it was most definitely not a movie for a three year old! (Thanks, Disney Junior! Head slap! Head slap! Head slap!!)
Over at muddledmother.org, (please note the change in address) I had many private messages looking for advice how to handle our most recent violent tragedy, the bombings at the Boston Marathon. My standard answer was that little minds are not equipped to grasp the idea of the evil encountered in this beleaguered world of ours. Therefore, it is my firm belief that we don’t say a word. We don’t watch the news while our little ones are within ear shot. We don’t discuss it with our spouse or friend or telephone mate while our children are in the vicinity. With our most precious children we should just pretend…pretend it never happened. Unfortunately, for some parents, this was not an option because a wayward teacher or a friend had already informed the child about the heinous acts of bombing.
However dear readers, my answer to these parents was the same answer I had given the others; PRETEND. Ok, perhaps it had a different connotation, but I think, in today’s day and age, it is perhaps an answer in trying to combat a world full of violent images, games, books, movies and televisions shows. Let’s stop all of this madness. How? By changing the next generation. How again? By raising good and kind children who aren’t exposed to all that’s bad in the world? Can I get one more “How?” By…you guessed it…PRETENDING.
I challenge you dear mommies and daddies. Let’s go back. Let’s go back to the time where running around outside chasing our neighborhood friends was what children did to occupy themselves. Let’s go back to playing house with fake dishes and mud pies and water from the hose as tea. Let’s go back to Fisher Price amusement parks with Weebles that don’t fall down, to Barbie Townhouses and paper dolls, to plastic farms where a cow moos when you open the barn door and to kick ball out in the middle of the road using the cracks in the street as bases. Let’s go back, dear mommies and daddies. Let’s go back to the days where innocence was cherished and it was cool to wear braids like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Now stop it. Stop that kind of thinking. You know what I am talking about…you are rolling your eyes and muttering to yourself about how impossible it is to go back. You are thinking to yourself that the television won’t stop the violence, that movies won’t stop the violence, that toy companies won’t stop using violence to sell their latest products. Heck even Congress won’t stop the violence with a simple mandatory background check before purchasing a gun and so it would be IMPOSSIBLE to go back! Ok. You may be right about those things, but darlings and dears WE are the parents. Why are we waiting around for everyone else to stop the violence? If we want a better world, a more peaceful world, a world where bombs don’t take the lives of 8 year olds rooting for their dads at the finish line of a great accomplishment, it needs to start with us.
If WE stop watching those shows, if WE stop buying the toys, if WE stop going to the violent movies, if PARENTS make the decision to go back…back to innocence and the days where pretending was the name of the game…what a statement we will make. It isn’t the government’s job. It isn’t the toy makers’ job. It isn’t the directors, producers and TV script writers’ jobs to keep violence out of the minds and souls of our children. It is OUR job.
So tonight dear mommies, dear daddies, instead of flicking on that tube to a show that hasn’t been screened by you, instead of sending your preteens and teens down the stairs to the basement video palace, instead of being blind to the violence that they might be inadvertently becoming numb to, STOP. The dishes can wait. The floors can wait. The pile of laundry two miles high can wait. Go, go with your children and spend some quality time with them where innocence and life are emphasized instead of death and violence. If you are a mommy and daddy of little ones, go pretend with those dolls or matchbox cars. If you are parents of older children, drive to the local hardware store and let your kids pick out their favorite vegetable seeds. Start a garden with them.
Let’s start living in a way where we pretend for our children that evil isn’t all around us. Let’s start living in a way where our children use their imaginations more than their controller fingers, where they see time with mommy and daddy as a time for good wholesome fun. And by all means let’s start living in a way where pretending becomes the go-to way for kids to be entertained. Perhaps by pretending in both ways–that violence doesn’t exist and as a form of playing–we just may be able to make a less violent world a reality for our children.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) David Salafia]