You guys, the inevitable slide into peer influence has begun. I always thought it would be words we don’t use* or some sort of violent swordplay, which we could handle. There have been hints that this was coming. For example she said, “hey hey hey lemme see lemme see” when she noticed I was reading something unfamiliar. She also tried out some version of nany nany boo boo and, when asked who said that, blamed it quickly on another little girl. I know we can’t keep the outside world at bay (and we don’t want to) but then bad guys showed up and with it my personal line in the sand.
I didn’t even know it was a line, you guys. But then there it was, it turns out the line is bad guys. Frankly, I might prefer fuck.**
I even know where the exposure came from. Not school, but my dad. Not local hoods leaning up against trashcans and flicking ash in the street, but friends.
It’s not like she doesn’t get exposure to what we’d all agree are bad guys. For example, I have a video game she loves to watch and while a part of it is gathering lovely purple flowers another part is sticking an arrow in folks who are out to get my flower-gathering guy. For awhile we had her sold that I was simply putting them to sleep (as they silently crumpled to the ground). Now she clearly gets that some characters have malicious intent and we’ve got to manage the situation. Debra and I have spent some time explaining why flower-gathering-guy has to do this without relying on good/bad. Flower-gathering-guy has issues, obviously, since he’s storming into other people’s castles and breaking open their safes. He is not all good. And those other guys have a short fuse, which is why old flower-gathering-guy sometimes ends up falling down and starting over. After all, they are protecting their shit, it’s reasonable that they’d be upset. Talking about motivation with regard to characters in a video game seems bizarre but it works for us.
I know, some of you are aghast that I’d let my child watch something on a screen, let alone a video game. I’m pretty sure if I were a good parent I wouldn’t have a blog at all and RR would be potty-trained. So that’s settled.
All this is to say that my dad – totally naturally, I might add – referred to flower-gathering-guy’s opponents as bad guys. And then we hung out with some kids who were quick to show RR who the bad guy toys were and demonstrate how they should interact with the good guy toys. At that point I realized I wasn’t ok with a no-shades-of-grey view of morality. It was also when I realized that I overthink things (I’m just saying it so you all don’t have to. I have flaws.). Debra and I just aren’t down with the idea of categorizing every toy in black as a bad guy. We don’t dig the fact that good guys are invincible, infallible champions of right. We don’t like TV shows geared to kids that feature villains with no redeeming qualities.
I want her to think about people and things as a whole without relying on a flat characterization given to her by someone else. That’s asking a lot of my almost four-year-old but, since she isn’t wasting time on the potty, she’s got time to work on this concept. This hamstrings us a bit. For example, we can’t tell her that people who pull up next to her and offer her candy are bad guys. We have to tell her that she cannot approach strangers in cars at all (unless they are in uniform and in public – and dude, even that isn’t safe).
We’ve got our own shades of grey here, of course. So she plays with kids who are/have bad guys. That’s not different from coming home having played princesses. It’s just kids. It’s why we’re parents so that we can live with these small people and bring them up in line with our family’s values. But we’re biting the bullet and asking our most frequent houseguests and promoters of bad guys that when they stay over they join us in steering the kids toward other kinds of play. I’m pretty sure that makes us total assholes. We’re not scolding the kids, or asking anyone to make grand proclamations, we’re just hoping for an alliance that turns bad guy play into sandcastles, tag, and that weird game where they slam doors and shriek.
Chalk this up to another parenting surprise. Who knew?
*Except that recent weekend where a car pulled into a parking space we were headed for and I emphatically said ASSHOLE and RR repeated it, turning it over and over like a shiny rock and saying it loud and clear. We convinced her that I said A SOL – and that I was really calling noting that the man driving looked like our cat, Sol***.
**Yeah, not really.