Thursday, April 19, 2012

In Defense of Keeping Them Little

A disclaimer, before I begin... When I write ANYTHING on this blog, I'm generally commenting on a situation as it applies to our family. If your family does x, y, or z differently, I don't necessarily mean that I disagree/disapprove of your choices, I'm only talking about what works for the people under this here roof. I think most of you know that, but just in case... I feel a couple of posts brewing that I feel might be difficult to write without inadvertently offending someone. We'll see.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a Facebook update from a local music venue, announcing that they'd added a concert by The Fresh Beat Band to their summer lineup. I'll admit my immediate reaction was totally hokey - I actually got choked up. Why? Because Harper LOVES The Fresh Beat Band and I knew she would lose her mind with excitement over the idea of seeing them in concert. Matt and I discussed it and decided to go ahead and buy a couple of tickets. Since there aren't really any gift giving occasions between now and the concert, we did tell Harper she was going to have to work this summer to earn her ticket. We'll have her do various jobs around the house and yard (dog duty if you know what I mean) because we aren't complete pushovers, and the tickets were not that cheap for a kiddie concert. Harper is nearly out of her mind with excitement - it was so much fun to show her the tickets.

Sometime recently I was looking at the Facebook page of the venue and I noticed that a parent of one of Harper's school friends had commented on the concert announcement saying she was so glad her daughter was out of that phase. Initially I had a moment of panic, wondering if we were going to end up at a concert primarily attended by toddlers. And it got me thinking. So what?

I don't think many people who know Harper would claim she is immature. But we have been pretty careful with the media influences in our home. I don't try to shelter the kids from the outside world and I am very frank in answering questions about difficult topics. Currently this pertains more to Harper than to Michael, he isn't asking those kids of difficult questions just yet.

My children rarely watch something that isn't preschool television. We do watch the occasional more mature movie, but only with pretty careful vetting and an awareness of our kids' particular sensitivities. I'm careful about what kind of music they listen to and we do have children's music in fairly heavy rotation. We rarely listen to the radio unless it is NPR in the car. They do listen to some adult music, but again I'm aware of the lyrics and pretty cautious.

Even when it comes to toys, we probably skew a little younger than the children actually are. Not in games and books necessarily, but certainly in terms of playthings. Both kids still love the Fisher Price Little People sets and Harper specifically asked for more furniture for her Loving Family Dollhouse for Christmas. Michael has some Little People superhero stuff, but none of the regular action figures yet. I'm not necessarily opposed to these in the long run, but I know his play will be increasingly violent with more adult looking figures and I don't see any reason to introduce him to that if he's not asking for it.

So yes, we're going to see The Fresh Beat Band. And we watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And we listen to Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Justin Roberts. And there are still Little People underfoot. Oh, and when Harper had ballet pictures on Tuesday, I didn't even put any make up on her.

I think keeping some of these big kid influences at bay is good for my kids. And I have the luxury of doing so because my seven-year-old doesn't happen to have any older siblings. Will Michael be exposed to some things earlier than Harper was? Of course.

There's no Star Wars here, or Harry Potter (for the kids), or Transformers, or make up beyond chap stick, or pop to drink. I'm not saying never, I'm just saying not now. Because I am a killjoy. And because this works for us. And mostly because there is time. Lots and lots of time. For all of it.


Emily said...

I totally agree, and aim to keep them little for as long as possible. Katy loves Fresh Beat Band (I looked at those tickets here, but by the time I heard they were coming it was sold out. And like you said, I was a little surprised at the price). I know Harper is 18 months older than Katy, but I don't see her outgrowing it anytime soon. And so far we haven't even seen any Disney movies except for Cars, Toy Story, and Lady &the Tramp, but that is assisted by my kids' fears of villans. I would've let them watch the othes by now if they wanted to.

This is something that concerns me about our culture - kids are encouraged to act older than they are way too young. Especially girls. The part where I struggle is when they catch wind of it and want to jump on board. David has gotten into Spiderman and Superman - of course he hasn't seen the movies or anything, but I notice his play getting more or more aggressive. I'm trying to keep it in the realm of pretend, hoping it doesn't spill over into real relationships.

Anyway...I could go on...I am working toward this but have room for improvement.

Chris said...

I agree with you completely, Kelsey. And part of my problem with having 4 is that it is soooooo difficult for me to keep the bigger kid stuff from infiltrating Melina's life (i.e. Batman). So keep doing what you are doing. By the way, the girls still like the Fresh Beat Band! (Probably because they, too, are forced to watch preschool things when all are in attendance!) Thanks for posting, too. I've missed you!

Anonymous said...

Jill has said more than once that you and I are very much alike. I could have written this post nearly verbatim. With Jacob recently turning 10, we're trying to strike a balance somehow: what we believe/believe in for our family balanced with how to prevent our children from being "too different" in the eyes of their peers. In our society, children grow up entirely too quickly. Quite sadly, I see far too much evidence of this in my kindergarten classroom every day.
Beth Anne Krahn

AM said...

I don't have kids but I think it is wonderful that your kids are tracking younger...because kids grow up just too darn fast now a days. My 10yo niece wears make-up, dyes her hair and knows way more about adult stuff than I think she should. I remember being 10. There was no hair dye or make up for me and I was just fine with that. I would hazard to guess that your children are more age appropriate than the norm. Oh and I'm 48 and I still love FP Little People. I even gave my mom the Little People Nativity for Chirstmas one year.
So I applaud you because it can't be easy.

Hillary or Ryan said...

I completely agree with you! I hate, hate, hate Bratz dolls. Really, we have a doll that is sleazy for our daughters? I am okay with Grady getting into Star Wars at this point, but we buy the younger looking figures for him...Imaginex? I love Disney Princess toys, but that is reinforcing other stereotypes of society (prince charming sweeping you off your feet and saving you). Fresh Beat husband just mentioned they are coming to Madison at some point. I don't think we'll take the kids yet as they are too young for concerts at this point, but in a few years the Fresh Beat Band would be great for them. And I'll admit it, I like the Fresh Beat Band too. :)

CARRIE said...

Unfortunately, N has a penchant for being exactly like her mother and wanting to be a grown-up way too fast. Dang heredity!!!

She has long since given up much of her interest in what might be considered "younger" toys and music. She does still have to listen to it because of the boys, and she readily admits to me that she loves Justin Roberts' "My Brother Did It," but she wouldn't dream of sharing this with her friends.

I have been giving most of her Disney Princess and Barbie movies to my niece who is almost 3. And it makes me sid that that phase was so short-lived.

If Harper is happy with how things are being done and you are too, then run with it, girl! I am beside myself because N seems too eager to be grown.

bluedaisy said...

Completely agree with keeping kids little for as long as possible. I have things I'm really, really strict about & then other things that kind of slide. But ultimately, I agree with your thoughts...they've got the rest of their lives to deal with all of that!

Jill said...

you have to do what you think is best, you're right, there's tons of time. All the sudden? K doesn't want to watch the 'Elmo' part of sesame street. The only thing I can figure is that someone told her Elmo isn't cool. Tough cookies, kid, because a few months ago you loved him and I bought you TWO pair of jammies for this fall. You'll wear them and like them.

Erin said...

Great post and I've saved it in my reader for a while now meaning to comment when I had "the time." HAHAHA!

First off I LOVE that Harper is SO your daughter :-) Of course she is over the moon excited about a concert. Where could she have come by that love of music?

I always thought I'd be this way as a parent, choosey and selective about what my children are exposed to. But Brett has very different standards and I've learned to compromise (a lot) on this. It bothered me for a while but now I've mostly cooled on fretting about shaping their young minds toward a black & white (good vs. bad) worldview. I cringed for a long while after Cal & Emmett first saw Star Wars episode 4. I hated that they knew the word "War," you know? I hated that they had it printed on their t-shirts and they saw lightsaber battles and, well, all of that. I've since let it go, but it was a struggle for me for a while.

Funny though that both Brett & I (and especially Brett) feel really protective about Willa's exposure to princesses? I know there's a double standard there, but we complete shy away (not completely limit since that's not realistic, but certainly avoid) any princess stuff. Willa loves Jesse from Toy Story, and we appreciate that sort of female heroine more than, say, that Tangled Rupunzel character or any of the traditional princesses (Cinderella/ sleeping beauty/ Ariel...)

Like you said, TOTALLY a personal choice thing, and I completely get that others do things differently for good reasons. Great topic, Kelsey!

Mommy Daisy said...

I'm with you. We went to see Clifford this year, and Z was one of the older ones there. But he thought it was great. (He'd love seeing the Fresh Beats too!)

We just started letting him watch a fwe "superhero" shows on TV. But unlike others I read about, I will NOT take my 6 year old to see "The Avengers" movie. I wish it wasn't rated PG13, so he could see it. But the fact is it IS rated that, so he won't get to see it.

I'm pretty protective. My parents were with us as kids and I'm glad for it. Of course there were a few awkward times growing up when friends mentioned someone I'd never heard of, but honestly it didn't really bug me. And now I understand and I'm glad.