Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shielding my son from Violence

New piece posted on the Momoir Project

As my son and I were playing outside the other day, we watched a bird land on our roof.
“Mommy, can I step on that bird?” my three-year-old son asks.
“No!” I yell, “Why would you want to do that?”
“So, I can smush it,” he smiles.
“That is… that is… just wrong, Lucas. We don’t hurt animals.”
“Why?” he asks.
“Because we just don’t. It’s mean. It’s horrible.” I try and convey in my tone how offended I am by his suggestion, but in his eyes I see a twinkle. I can see he’s enjoying getting a reaction out of me. I change the subject, unwilling to fuel the flame of rebellion.
I don’t want my son to want to hurt others. For this reason, I’ve carefully sheltered him from any television violence. So much so that he doesn’t know what a gun or sword is. We call them “tools” which he equates to Bob the Builder and assumes are for fixing things. Despite the fact he’s practically named after George Lucas, he’s never seen Star Wars — I think we can wait a little longer before light sabers and gun ships become part of his repertoire.
But how long can I shelter him from a boy’s seemingly natural interest in violence? Won’t I let him watch cartoons with his Dad? Will he not be allowed to play certain video games that his friends play? Will I deny him gun toys? How long can I put off, truly, the main source of entertainment for most boys? And if I do shield him, won’t he just find other sources of it, and won’t it be that much cooler if it’s forbidden?
Lighten up, people tell me. Little boys have been playing war for as long as history can tell us. But lighten up to me means becoming desensitized to the reality of what we’re talking about. Playing war, to me, belittles the reality of the many wars going on right now: the lives lost, the children dying. Maybe I do take it all too literally, but I just can’t take it when violence is a source of entertainment.
Worse, I can’t handle it when violence is not even given a second thought. I go to people’s houses and they have CSI playing in the background where some woman (always a woman) is murdered, and it’s background noise. It’s like the news – where a little ticker tape at the bottom of the screen tells me 14 people died in a plane crash today, a woman’s body found in a ditch today. It dishonors those 14 people, that dead woman, to just let them be information, like the weather report.
I know I’m not like most people. I know that because I’m so affected by media violence, I’ve made a conscious decision to censor it from my life. But is it my right to do that to my son, leaving him socially ostracized from his male peers as he grows up, unaware of the world around him?
I’ve created a bubble for myself and for my son as I try to protect us from images and messages of violence. I can try and seal the bubble shut as the messages get louder and images get bigger, but at some point, he’s going to want to pop it for himself. I guess my only choice is to be there for him when he does, and hope that he asks questions.

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