Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kids these days

There is one thing I know for sure about mums (and I include myself here). Mums love talking to other mums about things they are worrying about. Sometimes with reason, sometimes without reason, sometimes just for something to do, and sometimes just to satisfy some strange need to drive me crazy, I think. Naively, I thought that once we got through the tiny baby stage; the home birth or hospital? stage, the vaccine or homeopathic? stage, the circumsized or intact? stage, we might move past the navel gazing and ruminating and just constant casting about for very important issues to concern ourselves with as Parents.

Foolishly I had started to believe that once our kids were firmly established as eaters of all kinds of foods and explorers of all kinds of toys we could stop worrying about the minute quantities of pesticides they might take in from an errant Freezie offered at a birthday party or the chemicals that may or may not off-gas from their lego.

I had clearly forgotten about the very important issue of Kids These Days.

Have you seen what they're watching? Have you heard what they are listening to? And most importantly, how can we stop them?

Between mums exchanging notes (actually writing notes! on paper!) about which '80s tween movies and television shows are superior to the current, lowbrow offerings for teens in this day and age, and Facebook school parent groups engaging in mass hand wringing over the chances of children being exposed to Top 40 music for four hours a year at the annual Dance-a-thon, I'm starting to wonder whether all of the "alternative" families in my neighbourhood (and by that I mean nuclear families who "choose to reject pop culture") are actually a fundamentalist religious group.

Look, I know that 99% of children's television programming is utter dreck, and I can only imagine how much worse it is going to seem over the next fifteen years. And yes, much of the music on the radio is unimaginative and uninspired (I'm guessing: who actually listens to the radio?), but that's a matter of opinion. I also know that a lot of what's out in the mainstream cultural world is misogynist (I still check Jezebel every once in a while just to be sure), and racist, and homophobic, and violent but even still, I just can't stomach the idea that as a parent, I should get to be the arbiter of taste for my child.

I guess that my memory is not short enough to actually believe that somehow the offerings of today are so much worse than those of my own childhood. I'm certainly not as myopic as the mother I recently encountered who suggested that Prince's entire catalogue is a more appropriate alternative to the more sexually inappropriate offerings of the strangely popular Gangnam Style ("But it has the words "Sexy Lady" in it!! SEXY LADY!"). I also remember when The Simpsons was banned in my home and others for reasons very similar to those cited by another parent on my street who won't let her kid watch Disney channel's tween content. I'm not saying that Dog with a Blog is going to become the cultural touchstone that the Simpsons is now, but I've also never seen it (or heard of it before googling "Disney Tween TV Shows") so anything could happen, culture evolves.

Just face the facts: Your kids are going to listen to music that you think is shitty. They are going to watch movies and TV shows that are at best a stupid waste of time, and at worst offensive and inappropriate. They're going to take that stuff in whether you like it or not. You know how I know that? Because I did. And you did. Because our parents thought the pop culture of our time was garbage. And their parents thought that too and on and on since the beginning of time. I'm sure somewhere out there there's a cave drawing that caused a six hour parent council meeting in it's time. 

The thing is, it's not your job to curate a tasteful cultural experience for your children. You don't need to indoctrinate them into a world of indie music and fascinating documentaries. Your job is to be yourself and help your kids figure out how to be themselves. To help them develop the confidence to make their own choices about culture and self-expression, whether or not you think those choices have artistic merit. Of course, misogyny and racism and violence aren't matters of taste. But they exist and it's your job to help your children be able to identify them, and to help them understand the impact of perpetrating those values and actions and hopefully to help them develop the strength of character to call people out on things that they believe are wrong.

So you're an indie musician and you want your kid to support other indie musicians? Great! Play those records at home, take your kid to concerts and give them the opportunity to learn an instrument. But know that your kid might still end up loving Nicki Minaj or some crap. You can't control that and you don't need to. If your kid is young enough that they're partcipating in an elementary school Danceathon, or being invited to Ninja Turtle viewing parties, then they're young enough that almost every single thing they love right now will eventually be something they're a little embarrassed that they loved. Don't make yourself one of those things by ramming your musical tastes and love of whimsical sweaters down their throats.

And you know what? If at the end of the day, your kid turns out to be a confident, intelligent and loving person who also listens to Top 40 and lines up on opening night of the most recent reboot of the Terminator movies, you're still going to be pretty lucky.

....

p.s. The overheard conversation that prompted this rant, between two ultra sincere, neo-hippy, alterna-moms about the dearth of quality, non-stereotyping, non-violent, non-gendered programming for tweens also featured this exchange:

Insufferable Mom 1: "Oh! My kids are really into Fresh Prince these days and I'm just loving it"
Insufferable Mom 2: "Oh yeah I loved that show when I was a kid. I had the biggest crush on Iced T because of it".
Insufferable Mom 1: "Was he on that show?"
Insufferable Mom 2: "Yeah, he was!"

:-/

... in case you weren't allowed to watch Fresh Prince when you were a kid because it was too mainstream at the time, I'll fill you in: "Iced" T (Ice T) was not on Fresh Prince. But it's a totally honest mistake.

Here's Will Smith:




and here's Ice T:
 

You can totally see the resemblance, right? They have a certain something in common. Right?

1 comment:

  1. Hahahahaha! This post is too good, I want to share it with the world. So glad I randomly checked your blog at 1:30am, it's just what I needed to sleep soundly tonight.

    ReplyDelete

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