Parenting in a media rabbit hole

Several months ago we eliminated cable television from our budget. Primarily this was financially driven but a secondary bonus we discussed was moving our 5 year old daughter away from commercial television. We hoped that with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime providing our television needs that we would have more control over her tv viewing. We were mostly correct.

I know a lot of people take up lots of issues with Netflix. For us, it’s been fantastic except for one little issue: No parental controls. Having the kids version is great because it makes the search easier and we don’t have to have Angelina Ballerina and the Fresh Beat Band in our line-up. I long for the ability to block certain programs (Caillou anyone?) for whatever reason I deem necessary. There is one program in particular that we would like to block… Veggies Tales.

Let me preface this by saying our objection with Veggies Tales is not based on our ideological, religious, or spiritual beliefs. I won’t bore you with those details because frankly, they are irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is that we do not attend church. Banning Veggie Tales is a parenting choice, one that throughly pisses off my mother.

Lil’ A finds the show entertaining and funny. And truthfully, talking veggies are kinda ridiculous in a funny kid humor kind of way. Our kid gets humor in a way I have not seen in other children (I have 11 years experience working with children). She is socially very savvy, understands and uses sarcasm, and can navigate both children and adults with ease. Some of this is only child based, some of it is nurture, most of it is probably nature. All of this makes her extremely curious and prone to ask some interesting and often parent-challenging questions. There are times I just don’t know how to answer the unbelievable questions this kid is posing.

Since watching Veggie Tales the inevitable questions about God have begun. At first we were able to give vague answers as we quietly tried to discourage her from watching without making it a big deal. She seemed pacified. Boy were we wrong. That little brain of hers has been working overtime on the God puzzle.

As parents, K and I have avoided this topic because it is an abstract concept for a child to understand, especially one that has not been regularly exposed to religion. One answer leads to more questions that lead to more convoluted answers which spawn even more questions. Our parenting philosophy has always been based in honesty when she asks a question. We want her to trust us when she’s a teenager and if she thinks we are lying liars who lie that is so not happening. But if she isn’t asking the question then there is no reason to bring it up, right?

The other night, K asked her not to watch Veggie Tales anymore because we didn’t want her to learn about God from talking vegetables. I heard this secondhand so I’m not clear on how it all went down but the next day I got the shit end of the stick. It became not just a full on Veggie Tale meltdown but one with guilt attached!

A asked me why she couldn’t watch Veggie Tales anymore. I was doing good… at first. I explained the idea of faith and how it’s very hard to believe in something you cannot see or feel (please no one get all metaphysical on me, she’s 5). We talked about how there are lots of different religions that teach people how to believe in God. This was good. I was finding a groove. I stressed that her daddy and I wanted her to take her time and learn about all the religions she might someday be interested in but that it was a choice she should wait to make until she was older.

That’s when the wheels fell off the wagon and I was left stranded in left field (too many metaphors?).

She looked me dead in the eye and said, “You don’t want me to watch Veggie Tales because you don’t believe in God!” and in her most dramatic move ever, she stomped her foot and ran crying into the next room.

After a minute of uncontrollable sobbing, I asked her to return and started it all again. This time with a little bit of tolerance and inclusion thrown in for good measure. Somehow this lead to me telling a supercraptastic version of Noah and the Ark. Her reply, “Huh?” EXACTLY! It’s confusing! Because my kid just can’t take it at face value, she wants ALL the details…. Noah didn’t take the baby animals? None of their friends? What happened to all of the other animals? They all died? That’s so sad (which of course leads my sweet, compassionate Cancer child to near tears again)!

This lasted for AN HOUR! I love my child more than anything. I want her to enjoy childhood and not be burdened with all these questions so early in her life. Whatever path she chooses will not be hampered by the fact that she didn’t make a decision at age 5. Do I want her to believe the same as I do. Of course but that isn’t, ultimately, my choice to make. What is my choice is how all this information is downloaded into her brain and the God question should be answered by her parents not Larry the Cucumber.

I want to block Caillou because it is an awful show and she is always whiny after watching it. My reasons for blocking Veggies Tales has nothing to do with objections to the program, in fact I like a lot of what happens on the show with respect to teaching children about manners, kindness, accountability, and more. With that said, I can find programming for her that teaches the same lessons without the additional questions – for now.

So nearly a thousand words later and what’s my point? Parenting, as we know, is tough in any age but I think we have it especially hard now. So much is coming at our kids from so many different directions that it is nearly impossible to keep up. Our children are over-saturated with media of all types. However, we have a moral imperative to do so in order to, not so much protect them, but to be able to answer all their questions. Otherwise they stumble into the world under a rose colored glasses delusion of how the world should be. I want A to be able to emerge from the rabbit hole with an open but informed mind.

7 thoughts on “Parenting in a media rabbit hole

  1. I’m all for the blocking of Caillou . . . god, I hate that kid.

    And I hate the “Recently Watched” queue in Netflix, just because it means that, anytime I watch a “John movie,” I have to head through the list of kid stuff to get the movie I was just watching into the “highly unlikely to be accidentally clicked by the kids” category.

    As far as the god discussion . . . well, you know how I am on Sunday mornings. It’s going to be a long, hard conversation we have when my kids start understanding what’s going on at church (but I had to church most every week . . . being that I get paid to play with my organ). But, yeah, at the heart of the story of the ark comes “why would you want to believe in a god who would do this?”

  2. I have similar issues with religion as it pertains to may two children, my eldest (13) is a confirmed unbeliever who is essentially indifferent to religion, but my eight year old comes out with some religious memes that he has picked up from his mates at school, when push comes to shove I tell him that I don’t believe in any sort of God and I calmly explain that some people seem to need to believe but I’m not one of them.
    Its not easy to deal with such things but what part of teaching our children to be good human beings is?

    • It’s definitely a struggle. We have tried best to avoid saying what we do or don’t believe in as yet. She’s 5 and I feel it’s just too much. I remember at 13 my mother encouraged me to read up on all religions and choose one that fits my belief system the best. This was so much more of a gift than she can ever realize. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • Its rather pointless IMHO to avoid pinning your colours to the mast when it comes to your belief (or lack there of) in god or the supernatural. but I think there is merit in pointing out what you believe in with a non judgemental caveat that others believe otherwise. My wife believes in the existence of ghosts, now I think that is a nonsense idea but I don’t degenerate her belief to my kids because I know that its important that they appreciate the diversity in the world so I say its not what you tell them that you believe that matters as much as how you explain the beliefs of others.

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