Monday, April 11, 2011

The End of the Innocence

"We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by, and the tall grass wave in the wind." -Don Henley

There is a fine line between sheltering your child and protecting her. I want to protect her for as long as I can.

Bad role models...
I don't want her to know about the bad things in the world just yet. The evil, the death, the trash on the show "Jersey Shore." Trust me... I grew up there. I'm proof you can survive the Jersey Shore but not become "Jersey Shore."

...good Halloween costumes
She's too young.
One day I came home from work and my daughter was watching a movie. It was a rainy day and she had had blood taken earlier in the day, so I was fine with her watching a movie. I wasn't fine with what she was watching.

"Tangled."

When this movie came out in theaters, we heard from some other parents that it was scary. That it had some adult themes.

"Tangled:" Appropriate for 4 year-olds?
But there it was, on my television.

I bit my tongue because my wife was having a stressful week at work and staying late for a third day in a row. I did this... for two days. (And I thought giving up chocolate for Lent was a challenge).

When I finally brought it up, nonchalantly, I told my wife my concern. She then revealed to me that she approved the movie. But why?

A few days later, at dance class, I was talking to a group of parents about "Tangled" as our daughters pranced and pirouetted in the next room. None of them seemed to think it was that bad at all. In fact, they all thought it was great for four year-olds. That night I watched it with her. We both enjoyed it. It was fine... except for the end, with the stabbing someone with a knife and the throwing someone else out of a window.

Am I being too protective?

Maybe. Maybe not...

In a year and a half, she'll be in Kindergarten. Then, first grade. That's when those rotten older kids will get a hold of her. Tell her there's no Santa. Tell her mommy and daddy are going to die some day. Tell her God knows what else.

The time for her to be carefree is running out. The time when her only concerns are what outfits she's dressing her Lammies in, how many green beans she has to eat to be finished, and what crayon to color with. I cherish this time and hold on to it tightly.
The treasure she unearthed
Later that same night that my wife and I had that conservation, my daughter was rummaging through one of our bookshelves. It aggravates us to no end when she sneaks into the guest bedroom and plays with our books because of the mess it makes and the potential harm she could do to one of the books. On that night her rummaging unearthed a treasure: a homemade bookmark from my nephew. He was four years-old at the time. My daughter's age now. It was inside a book that my sister - his mother - had given me for my college graduation. It was from a time where my nephew was still a blonde haired kid running around and making us laugh. Just like my daughter. Innocent. Perfect. Unaffected.

Now, he's the one in college. I almost broke down.

Trust me... no child of mine is going to be soft. But I'll keep her world as safe and peaceful as I can for as long as I can.

**We use this site to help determine whether a movie is age appropriate. It's says "Tangled" is ok... so maybe I'm just a big pain in the a$$: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/


10 comments:

  1. It's like it was yesterday when we brought our little one home. Now, even though he's only two months, we're still floored that he's starting to smile and be interactive. I ALREADY wish things would slow down. being a parent is rough in more ways then one. I've been reading for a while, and you have a great relationship with your girl.

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  2. Our oldest is just a year older than your daughter. We have long struggled with this issue, and have often varied our attempts to be both protective and open. In fact, we have used wonderful movies with difficult moments (I will cite "Tangled" as a great example of this) as teaching moments. As Tangled demonstrates, life is a wonderful jumble of both goodwill and ill. that most people are nice, but some are not, and the one's who are not are usually that way because they are unhappy. That there are consequences to bad decisions and selfishness, that decisions people make affect people around them. People die, yes, but they also live wonderful lives full of restless beauty and hope.

    He is now is Kindergarten, and we have many more teaching moments now than we ever had before. It is a difficult transition. We made the choice not to increase our attempts to protect, but to engage and guide his foray into the larger world. It is very hard. He now belongs to The Village. For the next 15 or so years he will venture out into that village and return to the safety of his home to put it all into perspective. Like so many other truths of parenthood, this one is both beautiful and heartshattering at the same time.

    Best of luck.

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  3. Always nice to hear from fellow dads. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    Bill - enjoy every moment. I look at babies now and can't believe my little girl was that small once.

    Matthew - some excellent advice. It's definitely a fine line that we have to walk.

    Keep reading and pass it on!
    JDM

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  4. One word: homeschool. More words: You'll get to keep your innocent Penelope innocent for a lot longer. It's one of the main reasons we homeschool; most parents don't seem to care about emotional age and age-appropriate behavior. As the father of a daughter, you should know that early sexualization of girls is the leading cause of low self-esteem--and we all know what happens to girls pwith low self-esteem. Many kids are much too worldly, and with the high adult-to-student ratio in schools, their little unsupervised subcultures allow for the dissemination of all kinds of bad knowledge. It was bad 20 years ago when I was a kid, I can't fathom putting my baby girls into that cesspool now.

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  5. There are times I wish we had one girl to help balance out the three boys in my house. But then I worry about how I would protect a daughter. The challenge of protecting my boys seems scary enough at times.

    I try to remember that, as an uncle, I have a part in protecting my sister's daughters, just as she plays a role in my boys' lives.

    I haven't seen Tangled yet, but from the comments it sounds like something my fiancee and I would approve. UP presented a teachable moment, too.

    Thanks to MWDAS for sharing the link to this post. Take care!

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  6. Call me crazy but that is life... I have 3 teenage boys, nothing is sacred anymore. Little girls need to be sheltered in a way but in a way its not good. I was a very sheltered child... when life finally hit me it changed me for the worse. My daddy made sure I didnt know how reality really was... with my boys I am very open so they know how rough it is out there. However, I do agree, cherish the now... cuz you may not have it tomorrow. Kids change so much over the years and when they blossom you can pat yourself on the back and know you did good =)

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  7. Man I feel your pain. As a father of two girls, one about to head off to college and the other about to go to Middle school, it definitely has it's challenges. My oldest wasn't allowed to watch the Shrek movies. She spent the night with her girl friend when she was in the 5th are 6th grade and came home to tell us that the mother there wanted to play the Shrek movie for them and my daughter told her that it was inappropriate and that we didn't watch inappropriate movies. The mother had the audacity to say just don't tell your parents about it. Let's just say that my wife had to restrain me from driving over to read the riot act to a moron. Children are amazing, as a parent all you can do is shelter and protect as much as possible. The big bad world will make itself known when you don't want it too but as a family we have made it a practice to have family dinners and discuss our day. We cmmunicate!! Novel idea huh? Even so, my oldest likes to come into our bedroom at 10 pm n sit n talk even to this day. It's a good thing but will drive you crazy when the world has kicked your butt and you wanna sleep but it's worth it. I reflect back to her being 3 yrs old often and introducing herself in the grocery store to random people. They grow to fast! Great blog! Keep going!

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  8. I heard a great quote once, but forgot who said it:

    "Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child."

    Your child will end up on the path sooner or later. How they handle their walk down that path will mostly depend on how you prepared them.

    Protecting them and keeping things age-appropriate is great.

    Sheltering them is setting them up for failure.

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  9. I definitely raised a hot topic without even knowing it with this one. While we are by no means sheltering her, I do to some extent want to protect her from some things. And after watching Tangled a couple of more times, I was probably being a little too protective here because I really don't think she grasps these concepts yet. And when she's ready to ask, she will... like I wrote about most recently here: http://daddyknowsless.blogspot.com/2011/05/solving-for-why.html

    Thanks for reading and commenting.
    JDM

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  10. This is simply beautiful. I am so inspired by dads like you who are engaged, present, and focused on what is important. You express these difficult emotions so beautifully and cause me to think about how I often "wish time away" rather than cherish it. Thank you for this reminder tonight.

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