Friday, February 05, 2010


"Lots of Landmines, No Metal Detector:  Part the Third"

With each successive child, it becomes harder to keep World at bay. The door that cracked open with Child #1 gets shoved even wider with Child #2, Child #3, and so on, until the barrier is blasted off its hinges to expose an entire startled-looking family licking Cheeto gunk off their fingers. The humbling that comes from giving way and giving in due to sheer fatigue and overwhelmage is an excellent lesson for all parents, but especially for crunchy types who may have fallen, unawares, into moral righteousness. More than anything, parenthood demonstrates how little control we actually have. It's also a great lesson in the subtleties of Nature vs. Nurture. Before having kids, I might have argued that nurture can overcome anything innate. I also would have maintained that gender differences are largely culturally imposed.

After having kids, I went back, ripped those pages out of my diary, crumpled them up, and gave them to my peaceably-raised son to use as bombs. Yes, much can be affected through environment--but holy Ted Bundy, some programming is just in us from the get go. That lesson was driven home dramatically for me, indeed, when I gave birth to a male.

The girl child had been a kid of talk and cooperation and playing store. The issue of weapons as toys, which so often distresses pacifistic clog wearers, never even came up.  She just wanted to have tea parties with her dollies. Then Paco hopped out of me and asked for a flame thrower.

It is true that two years after having Paco, we overheard him explaining to his 4-year-old sister what the word "gun" meant. She was baffled. "What do you mean: 'gun'?" Drawing upon a yard full of sticks and lungs full of "bang-bangs," he demonstrated. He even showed her the options for how to fall down after being hit by a blast: injured (which requires moaning) or dead (which requires breath holding and no scratching of the nostrils, no matter how itchy they get).

See, Paco knew about guns because we allowed him to be around other kids, and his brain paid attention to parts of their play to which his sister had remained oblivious.  In another of its clever sideways tactics, Sly World also sidles up through "community," something all Birkenstockers value highly. As it turns out, we have an amazing community in our neighborhood, with sharing of food, music, clothes, and playdates. Having embraced our community, which features 4 boys just older than Paco, we also embraced play that revolves around guns...and two options of how to fall down (Moan or Hold Breath, No Nostrils). Further, having embraced playdates at each others' houses, we also have had to accept that most homes have televisions on all day long; thus, our children go over to play but come home talking of Sponge Bob and Bionicles and commercials and gaming systems. To keep our kids away from screens, from play involving mock violence, would mean isolating ourselves and cutting off potential friendships.  Plus, if something is taboo, it becomes shiny and golden.  To neutralize the long-term appeal that would come from making something off-limits, we just step back and let it blow through.

Willingly, we compromise our values.  Bring it on.  Then we can eventually watch it head for the horizon.

Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of how we can't cook up our own version of World and stick it on a carefully-proofread menu occurred when we--get this--wanted to expose our kids to, cough cough, the world.  Three years ago, we planned a three-week trip to Guatemala, where my sister was living and teaching.  This would be their chance to feel like the minority, to see poverty, to not understand the language, not to mention Mommy and Daddy's chance to bring home a suitcase of gorgeous textiles and huge discs of chocolate.

In preparation for the trip, we had to get passports for the kids, which involved going to a government office, taking a number, and waiting in line for some time.

Guess what government offices do to help "entertain" children in the office?  Hint:  it's on par with the government feeding the nation's children mozzerella sticks as part of a "nutritious" school lunch.

The government office kindly provided a television in the corner for waiting children to watch.

On the television, that day we waited in line for passports,

were

The Teletubbies.

Upon which,

HELLO,

my children (ages 3.5 and 6) had never before laid their eyes.

Which,

HELLO,

kind of had been one of my three remaining points of pride when it came to parenting.

But there they were:  Laa-Laa, Dipsy, Po, and Tinky Winky.  Nonverbal.  Vapid.  Round.  Illogical.  Toddlers on acid, really.

Girl easily ignored the images on the tv, as she's never been keyed visually.  But Paco?

Couldn't believe that it was Christmas and his birthday and Easter and Halloween all at once--because seeing those funny guys there on the screen just about arrested his heart with joy.

Yelping, I scrambled to cover his eyes and throw my coat over the television.  Sure, we could do blue raspberry ICEES.  We could live with the occasional mini-hot dog.  We could engage in games that involved severing limbs with imaginary lasers.

But. this. was. unacceptable.

Scrambling towards kid and tv, I tripped, maimed a granny who had merely hoped to renew her driver's license, jammed my car keys into a teenager's buttocks (best time he had all day), screeched wildly, and failed to reach my son in time.

By the time I'd hurdled the coffee table, Paco was a goner.  His heart belonged to The Tubbies.

For several months afterwards, everything was "Tubby, Tubby, Tubby," which, at first, made me come running, but quickly I learned he was referring to his friends from the passport office.  He wanted Teletubby sheets on his bed.  He wanted a Teletubby plate to eat off of.  He wanted books, puzzles, games of The Tubbies. 

Rather than resist in any outright way, we just made sure The Teletubbies mysteriously never aired on our television.  Once, our neighbor gave him a Teletubby cup she found at a garage sale.  I tripped her on her way out the door.

To Paco's face, we remained neutral, not wanting to spark his interest with resistance.

However, behind his back, as my previously-whip-smart preschooler slowed his motions and turned and clapped in the living room, pretending to be a big yellow doofus named Laa-Laa,

I tended to some overdue business.

Fixing a stink eye on her and baring my claws,

I chopped Bitchy World in the Adam's apple,

roundhoused her behind the knees,

and, leaping on her crumpled form with great alacrity,

pinned her throat to the floor and held her there as I put my mouth to her sweaty ear and muttered sinisterly,

"Not this one, World.  Not. this. time.  This time, I win.  You might think you own him, with your fancy high-fructose corn syrup and your head-turning Xboxes, but I'm here to say you've stepped over the line.  There will be NO TELETUBBIES on my watch."

Then I moved in closer and pulled a Mike Tyson on her deceptively dainty ear lobe,

delighting in turning the tables as I

left my mark on her.

20 comments:

Amy said...

My crash and burn parenting TV moment involved the Power Rangers. Trust me--if Paco hasn't seen them yet, do all you can to prevent it. Gah. They make the Teletubbies look like Masterpiece Theater.

diane said...

I really like the Teletubbies, I realize that I'm taking my life into my hands by telling you this.

furiousBall said...

you know, jamming your car keys into teenage butt is as american as apple pie being jammed into teenage butt... just less messy

Jazz said...

You know, I never, until this moment connected the fact that if you have kids Teletubbies might follow.

It's a scary thought it is.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What I really admire (besides your brilliantly scathing and hilarious writing) is how you selectively fight your battles as a mother. And I agree with Amy--keep the damn Power Rangers as far away as possible. FAR away. Distract him with flame throwers if necessary.

jess said...

You are made out of awesome, J.

secret agent woman said...

Teletubbies actually made Barney seem tolerbale, and that's really saying something.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

This may be the funniest thing I've ever read. I'm stealing it unless you stop me!

lime said...

dear god, if ever there was a place to draw a line and defend it to the death the teletubbies are it. it offends the once naive cloth diaper/make her own washable wipes new mother i once was. it horrifies the magna cum laude education graduate who knows a thing or two about the cogitive and language development of toddlers. it brings out the rabid banshee in the mother of young grade school children who watched her previously eloquent child (who at the age of 2 used and defined the word "frustrated") into a babbling echolalic moron after a mere 2 episodes.

there.will.be.no.teletubbies.

not on my watch, sister.

Pam said...

Hands up in surrender, don't shoot but we have it the other way round here in Oz Jocelyn.- Teletubbies encouraged, guns banned, by rule of government...aint much harm waddling la-la vacuous beings can do, other than be waddling and vacuous. Not having a go, see me waving the white flag??

Jeni said...

How long have Teletubbies been around anyway? I think my kids were beyond the age of watching that kind of programming when they came on the scene. Mine grew up watching Sesame Street and they and I watched and loved that together. My grandkids I don't think have ever seen Teletubbies and I don't know why? Well, they aren't all that big on watching full programs -commercials have always been their big interest although the grandson LOVES Elmo and Dora; his sister did watch Dora. But the subject of guns now, that's something else. I had a holster and 2 guns, plus a cowgirl outfit when I was a kid -about 50 years ago it was that my aunt and uncle got it for me and there was never any flack given out by my Mom over it. I even wore it to school -holster and guns too, come to think of it! Where we live -in central Penna. -is kind of the hunting capitol of the country I think. Folks here eat, breathe and sleep, hunting, rifles, handguns too (for the occasional snake in the grass ya know.) I grew up though with no uncles who hunted although a couple of my Mom's first cousins did and most of our neighbors did too. My ex did not however, hunt and truthfully, I probably owe my life to that because no hunting meant no gun and no gun in the house was a good thing when you're married to an alcoholic who was a bit of a lunatic at times. My son then, like me, was not raised around guns being a normal part of the home but ALL his friends were and he never had a lick of interest then or since in hunting or guns, etc. Cars though -oh my how he loved them then and still does. And he taught his little sister all kinds of stuff about cars. Their Dad is an auto mechanic and daughter Mandy here can converse with her Dad about cars with the best of 'em! My son-in-law is a hunter -well, when he can get a license to hunt deer anyway that is. Two years running his application was too late and he couldn't hunt then. So now there is a rifle, as well as a handgun in this old house. Yes, they are locked away in the gun cabinet he has in the basement but Kurtis shows no interest whatsoever in any type of toy gun (nor does Maya) with the exception of squirt guns! And then, they are only for the sole purpose -and fun -of seeing how wet you can get someone, in their minds. (Or the dog or the cats too on the getting things wet.) Granted they are still young and who knows, as they get older, gain more information about such things, they might decide they want to go hunting but it wasn't an innate thing in the grandson, that's for sure. But again, the cars thing -that bug bit both Maya and Kurtis very early on and they both love cars, trucks, fire engines, trains -anything that runs! They were drawn to them before we ever even bought a toy car or truck for either one of 'em! So, some stuff does have to be nature and yet, not too! Sometimes this stuff really does make a person stop and just do the head scratch thing ya know.

Becky Cazares said...

Wow, the things I missed by resisting popping out a kidlet or two sans wedding ring and subsequently marrying at age 44 when the desire to have teenagers whilst simultaneously cashing social security checks had long since waned! Sigh, I missed all the truly important battles in this game called life. How sickening of the media moguls to dumb down our young-uns with this tripe. Sigh, indeed. I had no idea. It certainly 'splains a lot.

Patois said...

So that's where World's black eye came from.

Oh, look, it's Tubby Custard. Uh-oh. It spilled. Thank goodness Noo-Noo is here.

cathy said...

Eh oh !

( waves and runs away )

Fragrant Liar said...

Teletubbies. The modern-day version of body snatchers. It's an outrageous invasion of unspeakable proportions, so let me say how sorry I am that your son was overtaken by them. Goodbye cruel world indeed.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Never had to do the Teletubbies. My nemesis? Barney. Usurped the heart of my youngest away from Carman Sandiego, Bill NYE they Science Guy and Wishbone. Sesame Street of course a favorite of mine. The stars. The stars.

I remember my first two kids never saw anything but a Disney movie until they were 10. The third child saw Jurasic Park at age 3. Twisted forever. That's when I gave up a lot of the police role. They will turn out fine. I don't know what he comes from the Teletubbies singing, but Barny - I love you, you love me... This too shall pass.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Ugh...Ironman, Spiderman...all things Superhero. I tried so hard, was so sure I could keep it all away until he was fie or so....but alas, my three year old once stood in the middle of the supermarket and blasted an employee with his Buzz Lightyear blaster, leaving me mortified and horrified. She, with her miniscule redneck mind laughed and said, "Ain't that funny that he's so little and knows all about thems guns."

I said, "Yeah. Ain't it? Wonder where he got that? Weren't from me..." nervous laugh.

And then I shot her. . .



a look of pure annoyance and took my perfect view of my parenting skills out the door with me, only to be blasted with a laser by my child. My innocent, oblivious to guns child. Or not.

Have I mentioned I've been taking a lot of decongestants? Oh....I have.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

My children are too old to have been seduced by Teletubbies, but Sesame Street was delightful in their day. I have no clue why some people leave their TV's on constantly so that it's impossible to have a conversation with them, but one rule is infallible: Children will always gravitate to the lowest, most offensive common denominator, whether that is shoulder rockets, garbage "food," or ghastly entertainment. And this is what keeps our culture from ever fulfilling its creative potential as generation after generation repeats these same counterproductive patterns.

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chelle said...

We are those parents that do nto have the tv on like ever. We have playdates now and the girls come over and ask where the tv is and then why it isn't on.

HELLO you are here for a PLAY date go I dunno play ...