Monday, June 01, 2009

Violence is not child's play

have i ever posted about the lion and lamb project?

i can't remember.

from their website: "The mission of The Lion & Lamb Project is to stop the marketing of violence to children. We do this by helping parents, industry and government officials recognize that violence is not child’s play –and by galvanizing concerned adults to take action."

i got involved with the project when daphne white, the founder of the organization, did a chat with me on mommy chats. this was when i was doing mothering magazine sponsored chats. this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, so i really was happy to learn about daphne and her organization.

during the chat, or after, i can't remember...i learned that daphne was shutting down the organization (the fight was getting too hard, and she wanted to move on with her life) and that the website would disappear as well. that site is a wealth of wonderful information. i couldn't let it disappear. so i offered to keep it up for her. and i still am. i did some original tweaking to fix some of the gobbly gook code, and fixed a mess of broken links. but i haven't really done anything since. i would like to actually go back to it when i find time and clean it up some more. i'm sure there are more broken links now.

anyway, i was just thinking about this recently...since my son is at a very impressionable age. i have always been very adamantly against violent play for children. violent games, violent toys, violent shows, etc. i've kept it out of my children's lives as much as i possibly can. i seem to be in the minority.

i feel like a minority among minorities. i'm already a "freak" in that i am pro-natural birth and homebirth, and exclusive breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding, and cloth diapering, and being a family bedder, and anti-cry-it-out for my babies, and VERY anti-circumcision, and anti-spanking, and i believe in delaying academics and homeschooling and unschooling, and no soda for my children, and i'm sure there's more that i'm leaving out...

and trust me when i tell you i take NONE of those issues lightly. they've all come from a LOT of reading and learning and research and asking questions and spending time talking to so many people and on and on and on...and coming to my own conclusions on things.

add to that list my anti-violent play stance.

i already had this belief before i became a mom. i was raised by a preacher and his wife (my dad and mom) that were anti-violent play and didn't even allow us to pretend to shoot with our fingers, much less have toy guns or weapons of any kind. (i distinctly remember for my brother's 6th birthday, i think, that he got a cannon game that my mom made a big point of returning to the store.) so i was raised this way.

but as an adult, studying child development at CSU Sacramento (later getting my bachelor's in Child Development), i learned even more that sold me on the belief that "violence is NOT child's play." at least it shouldn't be. this was a big part of my college education. and its why you won't find any quality preschools that will allow war toys in their programs.

so finding daphne and her organization was a godsend.

on that site is a wealth of research and proof of all the things that i had been taught as a child as well as taught as an educator. violence does not belong in childhood, even pretend violence.

i firmly believe this.

but, i am a minority on this. even among my vegetarian and peace-loving anti-tv hippie-esque friends (i'm not sure what hippie really means anymore, since its meaning has greatly evolved in the 2000s, i think, but some would think that the circles i hang with are hippies. i don't necessarily agree...some yes, but not all of them.) sure, some of them are similar minded, but i am finding even among all these alternative lifestyles that i'm in the minority. so many people i hang with are fine with their children playing war or having toy weapons or watching violent shows or playing violent games, etc.

i am not trying to say that i would want to change them...because i wouldn't want anyone trying to change MY ideas on things, so i certainly am not on any mission to change anyone else's! they are all very intelligent and loving parents, so i don't doubt that this is something that they just don't have a problem with, just like i don't have a problem with some of the stuff i let MY kids do that they wouldn't dream of letting their own kids do. we all have our things we feel strongly about.

i just find it interesting, that's all.

i read a book awhile back that really cemented these beliefs in me:

i own a copy of this book and intend to read it again soon...tyren is going into this age where i fear he might get drawn into this type of play. i've seen hints of it already.

i don't worry about maeven. its really true that girls are drawn to different things than boys and she's just never had any desire to pursue violent play. plus she's older and past that impressionable age where she's wanting to mimic everyone around her. tyren is smack in the middle of that stage. i am very concerned about what and who i expose him to.

he's turning 4 in about a month. this is where i've seen violent play explode in the little boys i used to teach preschool to. so far its not happened with him and i hope i can handle anything that comes my way in a way that i can feel good about.

i'm trying not to go completely overboard and ban things. but i don't want it in our lives. i don't want him playing violent computer games (daddy plays his at night after the kids are in bed, deliberately to not expose them. and the kids know that daddy's games are not for children. i treat it the same as alcohol and coffee and soda. not for my children. when they grow up, they can choose for themselves. for now its our choice for them.) i don't want him having any violent toys, i don't want him being around children who obsess with violent play.

he is my little mimic. he picks up everything around him. so i try to surround him with what i WANT to influence him. so the children we hang with are children who don't go around pretending to kill each other all the time. its worked well so far. the only violent play i've seen with our weekly play dates are occasional sword play, which seems to mostly be very rare. and i just distract him when it happens. so far its worked.

if it comes up, i try to distract him casually...but if its something that it would be a big deal for me to get him away from, i try to stay back and look for an opportunity to distract him away from whatever it is (a tv show, a game, a toy, violent play, whatever)...so i don't flat out ban it for him because i think that would just make it more appealing to him. i figure if he gets a little exposure here and there it won't be the end of the world because he's not going to have that in his home life, which is the major part of his life, so hopefully that will be enough to keep it from becoming an obsession. and i do see children who literally obsess on this sort of play. this is why i avoid these children.

yes, i'm picky. but i'm ok with that. i know that what i feel is right for me and my kids. my husband understands and agrees with me. he doesn't want them exposed to this stuff any more than i do. probably he doesn't feel as strongly as me, since he did have plenty of violent play as a child and turned out to be quite a kind and caring husband and father. so obviously just because a child engages in this sort of play they don't ALWAYS turn out to be gang bangers and thugs.

but that doesn't mean i'm ever going to be ok with letting my child play that way. just because its not a given doesn't mean its ok. just because some smokers don't develop lung cancer doesn't mean its healthy to smoke. just because some alcoholics don't pickle their liver doesn't mean its healthy to drink excessively. you get the point.

its not ok with me and it probably never will be ok with me to have children that play violent games and play with violent toys or watch violent shows. sure there will probably be a time later in childhood where i'll be more ok with things because they will be mature enough to handle more. but that doesn't mean i'll ever be really comfortable with it. heck, i don't like that my husband enjoys hacking up monsters either! i'm not ok that my brother is drawn to really dark and twisted books and movies. it is really sick and bizarre to me and i don't get it. probably never will.

i am working hard at just keeping this out of my children's lives as much as i possibly can, but not to the point where i feel i'm going really overboard. i know it doesn't feel right to make a big deal in front of my children's friends...so i just play each situation as it comes and try to calmly deal with it when it arises. during the toddler and preschool years, i found it fairly easy to take my kids into another room to play when family members would put on games or shows that i felt were inappropriate for my children to watch (no small feat, but doable)...and i continue to do this as i feel is needed, and adam does as well. thankfully he agrees with me on this and so he notices inappropriate things as much as i do.

and now that maeven is older and just the personality she is, she knows when things are inappropriate and covers her eyes or walks away. she isn't drawn to it anymore than i am. and i suspect she feels about it the way i do, sometimes physically ill by what some people find entertaining. she's so much like me in so many ways. she also works at helping to shield her little brother from things. sometimes i have to tell her to relax a little because she goes overboard sometimes...but i really appreciate that she's on my side with this. she knows when to take her brother to play elsewhere because someone is doing or putting on something inappropriate.

it does get harder and harder as tyren gets older though. because before he was pretty oblivious. now he's getting more aware of things. hopefully he'll be like my brother, and not really care that much about what mommy and daddy are distracting him from. tim never seemed to care much about the banned war play. neither did i. some kids, i know, would make it a continual battle. hopefully it won't come to this. if it does, i may have to compromise my principles a bit to avoid the battles...but i won't compromise them completely. if tyr turns out to be a child that its a huge battle to keep him away from these sorts of things (and i am of the mindset that some is taught, but some IS innate. i'm not totally hard core.) i will have to figure out some ways to make it ok with both of us. not sure what that will look like, but i'm open to it if it comes to that.

i just hope it doesn't come to that. i can't see me ever fully relaxing about violent play. like i doubt i'll EVER be ok with him having a toy gun. squirt guns, sure, we already have those because they are fun and none of the ones we have even resemble a real gun, if my son even knows what one is. and when we play we don't pretend to shoot each other, we squirt with water. and we call them water squirters, which they are. i'm ok with that. and there might be more things i'll be ok with...but i don't ever see myself ok with him having ninja turtles or g.i. joe or power rangers. probably won't ever be ok with that.

but i've learned a lot of things from being a parent...and one of the biggest is never say never. so i try to keep a somewhat open mind...and keep steering my children in the direction i want to see them go.

i just hope i can handle it as well as my parents did and have it be a non-issue like it was in my childhood. times are really different now, so we'll see.

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