Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thoughts on Motherhood : When little boys become big boys.

Griffin has been writing a play at school entitled "The Killer Ninja and the Samurai Sword." As we drove to school the other morning, he told me all about the plot and the action in each scene. To my dismay, it involved a ninja kicking a samurai in the head and stealing his magic sword. As each scene unfolded the two ended up beating the living crap out of each other in various dark forests and caves until the ninja eventually chopped off the samurai's head with his own sword.

I instantly regretted that I had allowed him to watch blocks of Power Rangers over the summer. On an especially challenging day, he easily watched two solid hours of Lord Zedd and his evil minions try to take over the earth. There were explosions and epic battles that unfolded between the Power Rangers and sinister aliens right before his innocent eyes.

In short, I ruined my kid.

In an effort to counteract the gratuitous violence that had infiltrated his brain, I tried to talk about other ways to show conflict in a story without using punching or clobbering. I told a tale of a ninja that had the power to control people with his eyes and a samurai that could move objects with his brain and the two had an epic battle of whits. I tried with all my might to open his mind to other possibilities. He went along with me for a few minutes and soon lost patience with me.

"Look mom, I just like adventure and battles. Quit trying to change me! This is my story, not yours! If you want to write your own story then go ahead but please just let me write this one!" he shouted toward the front seat. The car grew silent...

My sweet little boy had just put me in place and I was floored. My mind wandered back to my childhood and it seemed so vivid as memories of realizing my sense of self came flooding back. I remembered feeling the need to assert my own opinion. And I felt so stifled and deflated when I felt like my way of thinking was challenged.

He had given me an independent push. My heart stung a little bit because I realized that just when I think that I have figured my children out, they change. I have to be willing to grow with them so I quickly apologized for making him feel like I was trying to change him but also told him that it was my job to show him other ways of thinking.

This one moment in the car with my aging six year old opened my eyes. He is growing up and forming opinions of his own. In his mind, they are huge and I must respect that. I must give him the space to express his own thoughts. It was a very humbling moment for this mama.

I can, however, make him watch Veggie Tales instead of Power Rangers for the next six weeks. Maybe those singing vegetables can cancel out the damage done by his exposure to intergalactic battles. Perhaps he'll write a play about a killer ninja tomato.


Linda D. said...

I love that Griffin is asserting himself and defending his ideas for his own story! Sort of a rite of passage to be able to do so! It's a bittersweet moment when our kids start valuing their own ideas above ours, but it's a sign of growth! Love this post! So insightful!

Linda D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda D. said...

Oh yes, I can recommend a great book by Gerard Jones called "Killing Monsters: Why Children NEED Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence"

Jones argues that kids love fantasy violence not because the media indoctrinates them, but because it gives them coping skills they desperately need. Listening to their stories validates their emotions, builds stronger "selves", and helps them withstand peer pressure.

So, watch Veggie Tales but don't be surprised if that giant tomato doesn't indeed behead an evil squash!

Singedwingangel said...

OH I remember struggling with the same thing and getting the same response. It has to be a boy thing it really does..

Sue said...

My daughter-in-law has the same thing going on with her boys. Their imaginary play gets pretty gruesome at times.

I think much of the toy/entertainment culture supports (or at least, does not eschew) violence, and I fear that our country's culture does, too. It's a bit troubling to me.

I guess we just need to be even stronger models at home. Hopefully our own examples will counteract the outside influences. I'm sure hoping so!


Katherine said...

It's hard when your children push back. It's a struggle between being proud that they are thinking for themselves and being sad that, well, they are thinking for themselves.

Caroline said...

I love your parenting style, Leigh--you are so communicative. I think it's great that you have a dialogue with him. I do think we can't always (underscore, "always") protect them from things (especially all the junk on TV) but we can teach them how to PROCESS the information they are fed and try to limit it when we are at our best. I have this same struggle with my kids.

I think your sense of humor about things is actually going to create an atmosphere that "lightens things up" so all that sword fighting stuff isn't taken so seriously and next year he'll have a new interest! Maybe rock climbing!

The contrast--all the girl themed shows would have our little ones thinking they are helpless and nothing without blonde-haired beauty. In the princess line-up (on every packaged girl toy) my girls always ask me which one I like the best and I always say "The smartest one!" :) I do think Dinsey/Pixar has gotten better creating leads with more wit (and grit) but the silly stereotypes still exist!

Anyway, Griffin's play sounds like it's going to be an Indiana Jones rival and I hope you post about the outcome! I bet it will be fabulous!