Sunday 21 December 2014

Sex, Violence and Santa




Before I became a parent, I decided never to lie to my children. Yes, I can hear you laughing.

I wasn't going to lie about sexual things or violence because I remembered that when I was young, I was never shocked by half the things that adults considered shocking. As a child, I lacked the emotional depth to even see the shocking element within adult situations.

Most people lie to their children about sex and are panic-stricken when their child comes across pornographic images—hard to avoid, these days. I don't bring the subject up, but if my child asks a question, then I assume he/she is old enough to handle the answer. I do try to be as detached and clinical as possible. So long as you stick to answering only the question that was asked, the awkward follow-up question rarely comes.

One afternoon, I made the mistake of typing the words "Canadian Beaver" into Google search. After asking me what that man is doing to that woman, I waited for my 6-year-old to ask me if I had ever done that with Mommy. But, his next question was about Pokemon. ADHD, it seems, is a built-in safety feature designed to protect the psyche of young children.

If a prepubescent child happens to see pornography, they understand it only in terms of things they've experienced. Mostly, they think naked people are funny. They do not understand any of the negative things about such images. A parent's reaction to such images, however, has a very large impact. If you get flustered your kids will notice and will re-frame the image as offensive and shameful, though they won't understand why. You will be perpetuating embarrassment and shame for another generation.

I'm not saying that kids (or anyone, really) should be encouraged to consume porn. The average preteen will have little interest. And once the hormones hit, I think parental guidance is required to lend perspective and reduce the long-term negative effects that idealized and objectified sexual images have on gender roles.

Oddly, most people seem more concerned with sex and less concerned with the violence to which their children are exposed. I do not agree with children freely consuming violence in video games, TV or movies. Violent imagery can be scary and desensitizing. But it's not a simple thing. Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner are silly and kids know that it is not real. They do not get scared, nor do they begin to plot hanging a 10-ton anvil above the snack machine, at school. Well, some might. But I say if they can lift a 10-ton anvil, then they can do pretty much whatever they want.

At the other end of the scale from Road Runner cartoons, an adult horror movie is made to be chillingly real. The violence looks more realistic and is emotionally staged so that you relate to the characters. Small children will be frightened to think that such things actually happen or become desensitized, believing that such things are relatively routine and less important/shocking than they actually are. Either way, it skews an otherwise natural development toward the negative. And, I don't think that a few words from a parent can really eliminate the negative effects. It's emotional, beyond the reach of words.

So, my parenting plan was that I would curb my children's exposure to violent images, not worry about porn and never lie about anything. Most especially, I wasn't going to lie about such trivial things as the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. But, like many of my plans, it bore little resemblance to what followed.

I have never understood why we will tell our children not to take candy from strangers then take them out trick or treating. We teach our kids that telling the truth is always best and then lie to them about Santa and the Easter Bunny.

When legitimate news organizations started Santa-tracking via satellite, I was appalled by how far adults will go to perpetuate the fantasy that a jolly, giant (for an elf) flies around the earth in 24 hours, on a reindeer-powered snow sled that must travel at near-light speeds.

Lying to kids is now an industry. You can pay people to send fake Santa letters to your kids. You can type their vitals into a website which will generate a personalized Santa video. Even the government's in on it. Write a letter to Santa and the post office will generate a reply. If you've never believed in government conspiracies, now you know it's possible.

Why do parents do this? To see the smiling, deluded faces of innocent children? It's like leading a rabbit into the slaughterhouse with a carrot. The illusion is unsustainable and hobbling to their development of reason.

And that's not why parents do this.

They do this because all the other parents do this and if you don't, then your kid will become a pariah.

Kids tend to blurt out whatever they are thinking and your kid will be the one telling the others that Santa isn't real. He/she will be the Typhoid Mary of Peace,  Joy and Happiness throughout the holiday season. Parents will not let their children be exposed to your child. Very quickly, your childrens' only friends will be imaginary. And the next thing you know you're setting an extra plate at the dinner table for "Mr. Sniggles."

I don't want to have to lie about Mr. Sniggles. On the other hand, I don't want to to be the one breaking the bad news to little anime-eyed innocents. My sister, Lindy, still remembers her trauma when Uncle Bart folded up her imaginary friend and threw him in the garbage can.

And that's why I lie to my children.


And, while you're here...
Why not buy my time travel, action/adventure novel?

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