Friday, 18 January 2013

The Monster in the Furnace

I’m not the best parent when it comes to screening age-appropriate media for my two-year-old. To be honest, I kinda take pride in not coddling her too much. She not only recognizes James Bond in a picture, she can recognize a James Bond movie within a few frames of car chase or fist fight. I’m not terribly careful with my language around her, but hey, at daycare she dances to OutKast, peppered with the “N” word, so it’s not just me. (Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t shoot my father-in-law dirty looks when he messes that one up. And it does mean I should probably pay a bit more attention to what goes on at daycare.) We ride the bus, listen to the news, watch sports — things that aren’t necessarily appropriate come up everywhere. At the breakfast table, I read aloud from the paper, “The sex club is four storeys of easy-to-clean surfaces…”, too enamoured of the idea of easy-to-clean surfaces to think of my audience in time.

Some of the books on Cookie’s bookshelf are too old for her — not by much, only a year or two, but the age gap makes obvious the monumental strides in maturity she’ll undertake in the next couple years. Like, how she’ll go from a smiley happy girl who loves everyone to someone who realizes that sarcasm is a thing. Cause these books are full of that: kids saying the things that kids say, but that Cookie doesn’t realize kids say yet. (Berenstain Bears, I’m looking at you.) And since she doesn’t fully understand the context, she thinks it’s okay to say these things.

It’s not the fault of the books, not really, although it does distress me that we think it’s okay to have characters say hurtful things to each other in early school-age books for the sake of authenticity. After our first reading of these books that end up in our home via hand-me-down or something someone saw on television, we hide them. But not always successfully, and Cookie has a hell of a memory, so the “shut ups” and “gimmies” linger.

But just as distressing is the prevalence of monsters and ghosts. Even in books written for her age. Cookie doesn’t know about these things until they show up unexpectedly mid-story. I mean, it’s not like we go around talking about monsters. Why would we even want to introduce the concept? But right there, in the middle of one of our otherwise favourite books, The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers, I have to explain what a monster is. And then that whole can of worms is opened. And then I have to explain every bloody time that monsters aren’t actually a real thing, trust me, please trust me, please. (Because god forbid I read it wrong. She notices. She always notices.) But reassurance doesn’t work, clearly, because now we’ve got nightmares. And fear of going to sleep. And fear of being alone in her room. And now, just as the teeth are in, we’re back to sleep training again.

Thanks a lot, monsters. She’s never sworn or crashed her toy cars, but she picks up on you?

-East End Mama


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