When I was around six, I started telling my younger sister (then 4) that tomatoes were poisonous. I was always an absolutist. Things were either black or white, good or bad, yummy or poisonous. I stuck to my position, I knew they weren’t poisonous, and I can say today with a degree of insight I lacked at that young age, that I liked the quirk, that calling tomatoes poisonous, added to my personality.
Fast forward 12 years. My sister is with her best friend. This friend enjoys eating tomatoes raw, like an apple, with a little salt. My sister grimaces and says, “How can you eat those?! They’re poisonous!” (knowing they are not, but now it is understood poisonous=gross) Said friend, looks at her and laughs, she says she loves them, and has my sister ever tried? No, my sister has not. She has never tried a tomato. Why? Her beloved older sister, who would never tell such a horrendous lie has told her they are poisonous and gross. Yet her beloved best-friend, whom at 16 trumps sister, is saying they are yummy. Come on, try it, just one bite. She bites. She is amazed. She is filled with a sense of happiness mixed with rage as she comes to understand that she loves tomatoes! She loves tomatoes! She loves tomatoes and for 16 years of her life has never had one because her sister told her they were poisonous!
I thought the story was funny. I still get a kick out of it. I am sure she will not suffer any ill-health issues because of her lack of lycopene or anti-oxidants for 16 years. Yet the reason I was reminded of this story was a Facebook post I read today.
What is it that makes us try to “create” our children? I know there’s always that classic, narcissism. But at some level we actually justify our choices believing that we will make our child’s lives easier or better. Maybe we will even make them smarter!
I have withheld media from my son’s life for the majority of his 7.5 years. He didn’t even see a TV on until he was 2.5 and that was when he developed a bad case of pneumonia that left him confined to bed, and me out of options for entertainment. About a year later we had a similar event and I let that insidious PBS kids into our lives. That lasted about 6 months and I began to feel the addiction take hold. Don’t get me wrong, not on him, on me. It was so easy. So easy to get stuff done with my son glued to Curious George, at one point I would try to convince him he liked the show “Imagination Movers” just so I could get some more done! I realized I was in trouble. So once again we ended our affair and all media went out the window. This was a very fine line for me to walk. I was a child of the 70’s and a child of 70’s TV at that. I had some real love affairs with Bugs Bunny, Dukes of Hazzard, Three’s Company. Would I deprive my child of that? My husband is hooked on news television, so he was relegated to the basement where we wouldn’t see or hear the TV, although we all knew it was constantly on. But I held my guns, only watching TV myself after the boy was asleep. Occasionally in very special situations my complete ban on screen time for the boy would be lifted for a holiday program, or some other very special occasion. And then the questions. Why can’t I watch TV? Why can Josie watch TV? Why can Luca watch TV? I always said TV was bad for his brain (sound familiar?). That worked for a while, but eventually he started wondering why his favorite Queenie (my sister) would let her daughter do something that was bad for her brain. Then it became viewed as a punishment. How quickly things turned. This was never what I wanted. I truly believe that TV is bad for a young child’s brain, I guess I just thought our ban would turn into an acceptance. That’s just the way it is, there is just no TV at our house. That was not to be. Although I am glad he’s never seen Star Wars, I do feel badly that no other 7-year-old he has ever met can believe he’s never seen Star Wars. I feel badly because he feels badly, he feels badly because he has nothing to say, no explanation.
Well, I’m thinking about it. Not because I’m caving to his peer pressure but because I was 7 when I first saw the movie. I saw it in the theater, when it first came out, with my older brother who had no intention of protecting me and my 5-year-old sister! I remember waiting in a line that ran around the outside of a movie theater that is no longer there. Long replaced by movie mega-plexi. So many of my memories are tied to movies, TV, and music. And like many other children of the 70’s I have (secretly) waited for the moment I could share Star Wars with my son. I believe that I have done my due diligence, and that it is OK to start letting some of that in. I have begun with classics that I feel are relatively benign, trying very hard to avoid popular media, because frankly, I do believe popular television is poisonous, I mean Phineas and Ferb?! However, I don’t want him going around telling people television is poisonous when he’s 16-years-old, he has already been guilty of telling his friends that they were ruining their brains by playing video games. Well, with that, I can’t really disagree 🙂