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Monday, September 27, 2010

Raising children with morals in an immoral world

Katy Perry's SNL response to Sesame Street - and parents

The latest Katy Perry fiasco has really gotten me thinking. Reading some of the comments made by people - even parents - to "get over it," "be silent," "grow up," "turn the other way" - and the backhanded apology from the Sesame Street team themselves - feels like people are telling parents who find this stuff inappropriate that they're wrong for trying to raise their children with some ounce of common decency. Some have even suggested the entire controversy was started by "moms who are fat and jealous." Jealous of what? Since when am I, and parents like me, the source of the problem and not the people who normalize and justify these behaviors?

There is an entire movement in this country and elsewhere to not circumcise infant boys. Other parents refuse all vaccinations, for whatever their reason. And others eat all organic food, cutting out candy and processed foods from their household. Some consider McDonald's and similar fast food just about the worst you can feed a kid, and steer clear. That's all their personal choice and I respect them for it, even if it's not something I necessarily completely agree with or subscribe to in my household. But I figure, when it comes to their children, they're doing what they feel is best.

We put so much emphasis on the physical well-being of our children - even the President's administration is trying to conquer the plague of childhood obesity. But when it comes to the minds and spiritual well-being of our children, we're supposed to turn a blind eye and forget about it?

(You can bet that if Perry had been using those same breasts to nurse a baby, the very people who thought she was so great would have screamed, "Get her off the air right now!")


It doesn't matter if you're Christian, atheist, go to church or not - most people I know want their kids to grow up well and have morals. No parent says, "Hey, I'm teaching my child how to be a serial rapist! All right!," raising a triumphant fist. Why would anyone want that?

But throughout childhood, the bombardment of images, television and advertisements, cartoons, music and other cultural influences can shape our children's lives in ways we probably can't even begin to imagine. Their brains are like sponges - I'm sure we've all said something maybe once to our children, only to hear them repeat it back to someone else. Kind of embarrassing at times, or just funny to hear them take something so literally.

I mentioned in my last post that I had a babysitter who "watched" me in the afternoons. Rather, she was somewhere in the house, but her kids were in and out, doing whatever. One older daughter was probably in her early 20s, still living at home, and was watching a movie one day while I was there, waiting for my mom to pick me up. I still remember it vividly - something about Paul Newman, Robbie Benson and Newman calling his son "chickenshit" a lot. It's kind of funny but not really. Something I doubt my mom would have approved of in our household. (Perhaps this is where my penchant for swearing comes from, since I never heard that kind of language at home. Who knows.)

Another time someone in the babysitter's house was watching some movie - I have no idea what it was about, but do remember one scene in particular: a crazed guy driving an ice cream truck, and one hapless victim, who unfortunately was a kid, had a sizable hole shot through her chest by his shotgun, knocking her blood-spattered body to the ground. Pretty horrific, huh? What a role model. I remember thinking, 'I'm so glad I live in the country and we don't have ice cream trucks out here!' Needless to say, the sight of Mr. Cool coming down the street gives me unpleasant images even now.

I bet if I came up to her and asked her about it now, she'd look at me like I was nuts and say, "You remember that?" I think that's probably the general consensus: that because they're children, they won't remember or understand, which couldn't be further from the truth.

I can also tell you that said babysitter's husband looked at porn. And didn't leave it in a very hidden place. If it's in the house, people, kids will find it. No matter how well you think you hide it. (If you want something hidden well, maybe you should ask the kid to hide it. Not the parent who thinks he's smarter than the kid.)

My husband also says he remembers seeing pornographic images from moments in his childhood, and how those pictures are etched into his brain forever. This must have been over 30 years ago, and like my "memories," they're still there.

Because I remember what it was like to be a kid, and the stuff that still lingers with me, therefore I do not buy for one second that 'they're just kids, they won't understand!' Media and cultural influences are very sneaky and subversive in not only reeling in kids, but the adults that are their parents. Gradually over the generations we've come to see what our parents wore as stuffy and too conservative, and gradually hemlines have given way to the band-aid like skirts we see everyone wearing today. People complain about women sharing their "muffin tops" with the world, but hey - we wanted it, we got it.

As far as Katy Perry's wardrobe choice on the show, many parents justified it by saying, "You see this every day at the mall." Well, that doesn't make it right. It does not mean you should turn a blind eye, either. I applaud the people who wrote letters or called Sesame Street to give them a piece of their minds, and actually do something about it instead of sit back and let it happen. It seems that so many parents have just become complacent because they feel that there's no choice but to let society win because "majority rules." When this happens, you might as well say, "I'm letting society raise my children by letting it, instead of me, dictate what goes in my household."

You may not have a problem with Perry's dress, but somewhere the line has to be drawn. What would you consider inappropriate? At some point, something has to offend and you realize, This is too much. Another parent and I were talking about it yesterday and she said her four-year-old daughter notices immediately when a top mom is wearing is too revealing by saying, "Mom, your boobies are showing!" She said her older daughter noticed right away in a Hannah Montana video when one of the back-up singers - wayyy in the back - was flashing her midriff during a dance. Kids do notice - they have eyes and ears just like the rest of us, and if anything they are probably more in tune than their adult counterparts.

Like my post on high-heeled shoes for girls , children's clothing is another topic of hot debate. Some of it mirrors dresses like Katy's (minus the cleavage, let's hope) and looks bizarre, like a mini pole dancer decked out in glitter and rhinestones. I walked into The Children's Place the other day and thought a motorcycle gang had taken over: what happened to all the cute, trendy (yet ghastly expensive) clothes I remember? And who replaced them all with skulls and crossbones all of a sudden?

Children dressed in their Sunday Best for a wedding, 1958. Photo from www.fashion-era.com

Children's fashions seem to be mirroring adults', with higher and higher hemlines that creep up before you know it, mini-heels and flared legs. (Photo from The Children's Place website)

Not that these are too terrible, but somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if an adult guy saw girls like in this in public and thought they were much older than they really are. 

One place I've noticed that seems to be really over-the-top in some of their styles is Target. Affordability is probably the biggest point that snares parents in, because in my experience, all those cute-but-conservative "preppy" clothes only come from places like The Gap and cost an arm and a leg. 

From Target. I'm not really sure what this get up is, but it's labeled under "teen fashion."

I've noticed that, for now, the most effective way of combatting cultural crap that I don't want is to turn off my television. No, your kids can't live in a bubble, but just not having access to all of it has helped so far. Most of the people who really had a problem with The Great Sesame Street Gaffe could probably benefit from just turning it off permanently - but I think that's hard for some, because it infringes on the viewing habits of other people (namely the parents). I had to make this decision too when I decided to cancel cable, and finally said, "Who cares? My kids are more important." HGTV can wait. My kids are only young once. 


11 comments:

Kristin said...

You must be channeling my mind because your post said everything I've wanted to say (but so much better).

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that yes, children are aware of everything. You don't have to teach them anything, they will learn it by themselves.

I too can remember things from my childhood. When I was 8 or 9 y.o. we went to my grandparents house for a month long vacation. I still remember the things my grandfather had on the walls of his house: nude posters of women in a myriad of poses.

Of course, they were ingrained in my mind. After that I pursued pornography, got addicted to it and praise Jesus delivered from it as an adult.

The other day my children were eating grapes and playing with it. My DD7 was putting them to her chest and pretending she had boobs (her words). Then my DS5 decided to do the same, to which she promptly told him that boys didn't have boobs. I added "You are a boy. You sure don't want boobs." Then my DD7 added "they are for nursing babies. Boys don't have babies." They went on playing with the grapes.

Differently from my children, I had the wrong idea about breasts. I thought they should be big and meant to be exposed to men.

My children know what they are for. They were all breastfed until 2 y.o. and see their siblings being nursed as well. The sight of breasts don't bother them when they are being used for what God intended them to.

I don't let my kids watch Sesame Street. I just don't like all that politically correct and green stuff they insert in the show. They do watch other programs but I watch them first or with them so I know what they are being exposed to. Many at times I have turned programs off saying they were no good. Commercials are a No No at our house. You can be watching a family program and all of sudden during commercials be bombarded with semi nude women, beer commercials and demonic movie trailers. WE hold the remote in our hands the whole time so we can flip it off if needed. TV is definitely not safe for children as so many other things in life today.

I too have given up on many shows because of my children. No more Law&order, CSI, Criminal Minds etc. Now we watch Man vs. Wild, Dirty Jobs, Foodnetwork shows, MythBusters, HGTV shows, Discovery Channel and History channel when it's appropriate for their age.

My children love them. They learn so much. We sit down together and answer their questions and they get to be amazed at all the fun things that grown ups get to do. :)

Also keeping my children at home is one way that I can oversee what they are being exposed to. I get to choose the books they read, the shows they watch, the places they go. As we live together, they learn to make choices. :)

Your article was well written and to the point. Being a Christian or pursuing anything moral these days is reason to be persecuted. So, rejoice! :)

The Deranged Housewife said...

LOL Kristin ... the power of cut, paste and edit ... LOL!

Anonymous - your post was so powerful. I think people like to completely dismiss the idea of porn and how damaging it can be. We have some insight into it's effects in that some serial killers have admitted an obsession with pornography, that eventually led to their fantasies about killing women and carrying out those fantasies. I'm not saying this happens to everyone, but people are so reluctant that it can be a powerful, negative force in our lives.

Everything you said about tv I totally agree with - the commercials are just as bad as the programming. Oftentimes I'll have a VHS tape in for the kids and when it's over, the tape will shut off and whatever's on TV at the moment will pop up. Unfortunately we can't just disconnect it altogether because it's hooked up through a network with other houses, and we don't have a box. Otherwise that'd be completely off, too.

One thing I use as a good tool in our house is the internet. The kids are NOT allowed to use the computer - not even touch it - unless mom says so (which usually I don't). My son is getting a basic education in school about computers and getting on the internet, which I have mixed feelings about. I'm actually kind of surprised a parochial school would endorse this, given the problem of internet porn, etc. Obviously they're looking at approved sites under strict supervision, but still. At what point will he decide to get online at home when mom's not around and start surfing?

Some say depriving them of certain things will only make it worse, but you never know. They may grow to realize these things can be powerful forces in their lives, and if used in the wrong way, dangerous and detrimental. In the meantime, I'll take my chances.

TracyKM said...

I agree with so much of what you wrote. However, I do have to mention something...you talk about hemlines for little girls being so high. I collect OLD knitting patterns, and the dresses for little girls (up to about age 6)barely covered their bums. Short dresses are more practical with toddlers and preschoolers.
I also liked Anonymous's comment, but after watching a lot of Dirty Jobs with my kids, I'm a little hesitant to recommend it as he does make some VERY mature comments/references. My kids don't ask what he means so I don't say anything, but I wonder how they're interpreting it.

The Deranged Housewife said...

My kids are not old enough yet for Dirty Jobs, even if we were to watch it. But I agree - there is a lot of sexual innuendo depending on the job he's doing. Horse insemination, anyone? Blech.

The patterns you mentioned - did they come with panties underneath? Or were they meant to be worn with something underneath? Interesting. I like to sew, and will usually not even consider patterns that come from "Project Runway." LOL *cringe*

Rachel O. said...

One of the things that struck me in your post was when you spoke of parents not raising their kids to be serial killers... It made me think of a conversation I had with a former co-worker. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and my coworker did not know I was pregnant. I had been tossing around the idea of quitting my dream job that I loved and staying home to raise my child. In this conversation, my co-worker expressed regret about the hours he worked and the fact that he was unable to attend church with his family and how he felt that he had neglected his teenaged son's spiritual upbringing. God really struck me then, that if I do everything else right, but fail to teach my children about Christ and His love and sacrifice for them, then my entire existance as a parent was in vain. Part of teaching them about Christ is modeling Christ-like behavior. I try (and fail) to do this everyday. It's really hard being a parent, but at least I know what my children are being exposed to when they are in my own home. I, too, was exposed to things at baby sitters that no child should learn about.

The Deranged Housewife said...

That's part of why we a) left our old (dead) church and b) put our son in a parochial school. Their doctrine is different from ours, but right now they're going over the basics, and that's important to us. Another parent I know who's daughter is in the same class has an older teenaged son who is going through the local public schools and having a hard time with drugs, etc. The parents are trying their best and are concerned about the lack of morals in the public schools ... it doesn't help that another parent is the one who facilitated their son's drug use on at least one occasion. Everywhere you look there are obstacles that are undermining your authority as a parent, and some people think there's no choice but to throw all caution to the wind and just take their chances. ..

Anonymous said...

about Dirty Jobs, yes, sometimes his comments are pretty crude. This type of talk is everywhere even in children's movies - another reason for me to be Mom the Police. :) I have in the past just turned off programs that were going in the wrong direction. And then, again, I am learning not to make too big of a fuss, because a lot of times, things will go unnoticed by children (mostly words, not images). I pray constantly for wisdom so that I will know the difference, and when and how to act.

As for the computer, my DD7, DS5, DD3 use the computer at home. They can only do so UNDER MY SUPERVISION. I don't feel comfortable letting someone else (teacher, babysitter, friend) be the supervisor. Their laptops are in our main room where I can see them playing at all times. They are not allowed to take laptop into another room. My DH and I do the same. Whatever we are doing in our computer or laptop is open for all to see at all times.

They are not allowed to browse the internet. They haven't been taught that yet, but they do know how to turn the computer on, use the mouse, text editor, and fun and educational games.

We have 2 laptops that are just for that. They do not use our laptop and computer where our important data is stored. It would be a nightmare to have something erased because they pressed the wrong key. :| My husband has also installed firewalls and anti-adware and virus in the laptops.

Here are some of the websites they are allowed to play in:
www.starfall.com
www.pbskids.org
www.activitytv.com
www.coolmath-games.com
www.fun4thebrain.com
www.funbrain.com

Some of these websites have games to teach the children how to use and control the mouse, learn to read, do math, thinking games and more.

For some of the games they like to play the most we create shortcuts on the desktop, so all they have to do is click on that to go directly to the game.

My mantra, because of my own childhood experiences, is to always know what my children are doing. So I am either right there with them, or close by where I can peek in at any moment.

DD7 knows when something is bad and not supposed to be watched. She will turn the TV off, or close her eyes when evil things come on a cartoon they are watching. She will do it by herself without being told.

Unlike me when I was child, she has learned to turn away from evil. She has no curiosity to see it, unlike DS5. He tries to see it.

It's all about training and teaching our children to choose life and not death.

Again, thanks again for blogging such important issues. :)

TracyKM said...

The patterns were shown usually with frilly panties (don't know if they were underwear covers, or the underwear itself). Some of the baby patterns do include knitted 'panties' or sometimes wool soakers. But no, it's not like they were wearing pants under (I read an ultra-conservative Christian blog where the girls wore fairly long dresses with pants underneath. Seems a little much to me...I want my kids to be modest, but shorts under a skirt are enough for me).

19lt70 said...

Thank you for articulating yourself so well. I have 6 daughters ages 2 to 15 and just this summer we cut our cable. I mean, The Disney Channel? Trash. I don't watch TV and my husband has gotten over missing his Discovery Channel geeky science shows. My kids are all avid readers and manage to watch a few benign shows on the internet. And I don't really miss Sesame Street. There is quite a liberal agenda on that show that I don't agree with. I miss Elmo sometimes, though.

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