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How do you let your children stay as children?

girls may 2013I feel a little bit like King Canute trying to force back the sea – despite my best efforts at keeping my children locked up in tower and insulated from the insidious pressures of the outside world there are distinct signs that the outside world is forcing its way in and making them grow up too fast.  I’ve tried hard to let them stay as children but I seem to be fighting a losing battle

I think part of the problem is that as soon as they head out into the wider world of school you are hostage to the lowest common denominator of What Other Parents Do – no matter how little TV or how little unapproved TV your little one watches they suddenly get to find out about Peppa Pig, ‘Mummy there is a place called Disney where the princesses live’ and Barbies from their new friends and you are POWERLESS to stop it

Car radios are another thin end of the wedge – one moment they are happy listening to the calming sounds of Classic FM or a nursery rhymes CD and the next, thanks to lifts with people who play Other Stuff they are asking for bouncier music and singing the latest jingles at you

And then there’s the parties and school activities

I really don’t want them to be that square kid in the corner with the unfashionable clothes, who has no idea of popular culture and lives in a hippie hinterland but neither do I want them to grow up too quickly

I had a massive crisis of conscience over allowing my 5 year old reception classer to go to the junior school disco – yes I’m sure it was all fun and innocence but is it just me that thinks there is something a little bit wrong to a bunch of small children bouncing around to ‘heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey seeeeeeeeeeeeexeeeeeeeeeeeee laydeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’? I just knew before she went that it would happen and still let her go… Watch my morals and boundaries wilt in confusion around me

I was under the impression that there was some sort of censorship on the radio, that naughty words were removed from songs to allow the brains of our children to remain unsullied and unaware of swear words (carving out an exception for incidents of terrible driving and my boss calling me at lunchtime on a Sunday when any NORMAL person would be sitting down with his family). The girls have taken to singing bits of songs that they like off the radio (yes I can’t stop other people playing popular radio stations, sadly…) as they build up a playlist of their favourite songs. So far this list has such classics as I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester and Mamma Mia. Last weekend I deciphered their single line as being part of the latest Britney Spears / Will.i.am ditty only to discover that it isn’t exactly clean and innocent… It has now been embargoed on the basis it has naughty words in that Mummy Doesn’t Approve of and I had to put up with an entire hour of Bigger singing one line of The Wanted’s latest whilst trying to work out if that, whilst having no bad words in, was totally inappropriate from a feminist perspective….

Then there are other little things, like nail polish – Bigger came back with a tiny bottle of plain glittery nail polish in a party bag and was desperate to try some on her – another crisis of boundaries and we agreed she could have some on so long as it was all removed before school on Monday. Have you TRIED to get a three and a half year old to stand still long enough to remove nail polish? Or realised WAY too late that the cheap and nasty stuff refuses to come off even after bucket loads of remover and rubbing for hours leading to ‘Mummy I can still see a sparkle’to which the only reply is ‘I’m sure it’ll wash off in the bath’…

The latest Disney sexualisation of a PERFECTLY GOOD princess is yet more evidence of this horrid outside world trying to beat down my boundaries and to influence our girls in ways that make me terribly, terribly uncomfortable. It is one thing having to explain to them that yes it is a bit peculiar that Mummy is the only girl in her meetings, it is quite another to try and explain why Merida is 10 years old, a million times sluttier and has exchanged her frank look for a sultry come-hither version and appears to have had a boob job… (you can sign a petition here, not sure it will stop them but we can but try)

So the question is what can I do to try and hold back the tsunami of external influences and let them stay as children a bit longer?  Short of locking them in a tall tower and refusing to let anyone else have the key….

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16 comments to How do you let your children stay as children?

  • Caroljs

    I’m all for keeping children as children. I’m mean mummy no nail varnish, lip gloss, play high heeled shoes. I’ve compromised with play jewellery. It’s tough as family keep trying to buy her that stuff and I have to put my foot down. We don’t have music channels on and we listen to absolute 90s the music is much better

  • I can recommend an expat lifestyle for that… No? Mind you, once you get back to your home country – even for a short visit – all bets are off. And of course, all the English language music that gets played on the radio stations here has all the swear words & other profanities left in. Which is nice… Actually, now I come to think of it, nowhere is safe!

  • There’s not enough cotton wool in the world to protect them, sadly. I was really worried about my children starting school, but we still have a great deal of influence at home. They only watch CBeebies and occasional sport on television. I sometimes listen to Radio 2 in the car, but mostly we listen to their Disney or CBeebies CD’s. I know they will gradually be exposed to more outside influences, but I’m ready to explain contexts and encourage critical thought. Yes, I’ve thought about this a lot.

  • I think I’ve resigned to it all. I can’t see a way of stemming against all of these things, so I decided that rather than enforcing boundaries which may make them more attractive, to let them go with it. I have no idea if that is a good or bad approach. So we have barbies, nail polish, gangnam style by 2 year old, princesses, school discos (no swear words so far phew). I try to trust that they will find out themselves what’s good for them, that they are intelligent enough to see through the consumerism (with the gentle help of us parents). And they do have their own take on things, 6 year old is now (finally) less interested in all things pink and princessy and her tv choices are good ones (we don’t have live tv which helps). I do admire parents who’ve managed to stick to natural toys, unisex clothing and the like (and independent (Steiner and Gaelic) schools to avoid the peer pressure) – for me it was too big a challenge.

    • Hannah Brewer

      It does feel that it is virtually impossible to keep these things away from them – even with the best will in the world outside influences do sneak in

      We’ve stopped live TV which I think helps too

  • It’s part of the reason I choose to live rurally (although only a short drive to a big city). It does give a level of ”protection” from the world.
    On the other hand I too don’t want my kids to be scared of the world once they are old enough to face it.
    My daughter, now 10, has, after a number of years of wanting to emulate bigger girls (makeup, music, etc) has realised that puberty is just around the corner and I am seeing a subtle but distinct shift back to her wanting to stay young. she says this herself even.
    Don’t worry ladies, a little nail polish never hurt but yes if you can keep them away from Nikki Minaj and her ilk for a couple more years it can only be good for them.

    • Hannah Brewer

      That’s really interesting that sometimes they shift back a bit – will watch with interest

      Who is Nikki Minaj or do I not want to know?

  • I don’t have girls so no nail polish worries (!), but for boys it is another set of issues ie not letting them get too obsessed with video games etc. All the kids at school talk about games and although we let them play on the iPad I restrict what games they use and certainly nothing violent (unless Angry Birds counts as violent…). But they still come home talking of zombies and the like. I try to steer them towards children’s rather than adult stuff, but it’s impossible to protect them from outside influences completely.

    • Hannah Brewer

      Ha! Wait until the goth years (do they still do goth?)

      Mine have picked up about zombies too – had an ‘interesting’ discussion about exactly what had to happen for you to be dead and then to become a zombie, complete with a demonstration of how a zombie looks…

      I’ve countered by buying them the BFG to read at bedtime next!

  • My eldest daughter who is 9 went through the pink sparkly phase but is thankfully coming out the other end. She still likes to look pretty on a special occasion but loves to read, likes watching quiz shows on TV and has taken up football. I think we just need to let them know there are alternatives out there and to give them the confidence to be their own person.

    • Hannah Brewer

      Am very relieved that they do come out the other end – know that I should enjoy it and let those adults that want to push pink and sparkly carry on but gosh is it hard to not worry about the implications

  • Karen

    What a great post. I’m with Sandy Calico and Cartside – I see my role as putting what my girls are exposed to in context and encourage discussion about alternative points of view but I’m also careful about setting the kind of boundaries that just make things more attractive. I don’t allow make-up (unless during ‘proper’ dressing up games) but it’s hard when they see you putting it on for work every morning…I’m becoming more guarded about what they watch but accept that dolls/barbies/my little pony come with the territory with girls (thankfully they don’t seem too fixated with this) – I balance it with lots of outside time, building dens, climbing trees, creative stuff and I often discuss there is no such thing as girl/boy toys – – they loved trains for ages and one had a pirate ship for Christmas. I don’t know about you but I find myself in endless discussion about acceptable language with my two as well. I don’t allow ‘shut up’, ‘fat’ or ‘stupid’ for e.g but have great discussions about why other people can and can’t say things. Ah! The minefield of parenting!

    • Hannah Brewer

      Oh the language minefield, tell me about it – have had to have a big discussion about adult words and them not being suitable for little people and they are to ignore them and move on…

      Good point about not making things seem more attractive by banning them – perhaps nail polish for halfterm holidays isn’t such a bad idea and it will make them very happy

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