Sliding Scale Standards
Though we have a big family, the six children tend to break down into three distinct subgroups: the big kids — my husband's son and daughter who are now adults; the twins — sometimes called the kids — now 17; and the little boys, 11 and 12 now, but who, because of the nature of family nomenclature, will still probably be called the little boys when they are 41 and 42 years old.
In 20 years of parenting I have learned one thing: never say never. Never say your child will never throw a public temper tantrum — because she will, and very soon. Never say your darling won't read comic books or Mad Magazine, because one day you will be thrilled to see that he is reading anything rather than turning on another screen. And never, ever say my kids won't watch _____________ (TV, cartoons, horror movies, music videos, Disney crap — pick whichever poison comes to mind when you fill in that particular blank).
The big kids were just 10 and 13 when we got married, and most of the movies and television we watched were throwbacks from my childhood. It was fun to watch the old stuff together: screwball comedies, really old Disney flicks, and black and white TV shows like the Munsters and I Love Lucy.
When the twins came along, I restricted their viewing to public television and a few well-chosen videos (Road Construction, Dead Ahead was a favorite). That was about it until they hit grammar school and found out from friends that cable offered a much wider variety of programming than their mother had led them to believe. Still, I set our boundaries and stuck to them: violence was my big bagaboo and I remember hearing my son say, "Sorry, I can't watch that — there are too many guns." I was so
But things began to slide about the time the twins hit third grade. I had two toddlers, two school-aged kidlings and two high school-aged stepkids who all had lives and needs and trasportation requirements. I simply no longer had time to monitor every single minute of television that was watched in my house.
First, it was cartoons like Rugrats and Animaniacs that began to slip in. Then the occasional cop show showed up. PG-13 movies were introduced into family movie night when the big kids starting groaning at suggestions of yet another Disneyfest. And my toddlers came right along for the ride.
I rationalized as best I could: "Oh, that innuendo went right over their heads," or "We've talked about what language is appropriate to use and what language is not," and even "Hey, guys, cover your eyes during this next part, OK? It might be a little scary." You try keeping six kids between the ages of 2 and 21 happy with a single form of entertainment and then get back to me.Continued on the next page