That which enters my kids’ minds

Don't try to tell me what my children can and cannot read.

In 1999, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut released in theaters and, according to some, polluted kids’ minds.

As a fan of South Park at the time, I headed to the theater with some friends and checked out the movie. While there, I noticed the theater taking far more precautions than usual to keep those under 17 from getting through the doors. Though far from the worst movie I’d seen, it was still a good ways from being appropriate for younger people.

The column

The gnashing of teeth over kids seeing South Park got pretty intense. At the time, I was the editor of the local newspaper and I wrote a column basically saying it was not the job of Malco Theater to keep your kids’ minds free of smut by keeping them out of South Park.

kids' minds

Far too many parents were dropping their kids at the front door of the theater and driving away. It bothered me because many of these parents, who could not take the time to even ensure their kids were buying a ticket to something other than South Park, blamed the theater if their kids saw an inappropriate movie. Yes, the theater should ensure the kids go into the theater for which they’ve bought tickets.

Sadly, some parents were trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility.

When I said so in a column, whew! Folks got mad. I assumed then, and as now, that I simply cut a little too close to home.

The Book

One of the more significant areas of disagreement between my ex-wife and I occurred around a year ago.

One night, I started getting a number of texts from my ex. They were pictures of pages from a graphic novel my then fourth-grader had checked out from the school library. The pages in question dealt heavily with certain issues that I felt very strongly were not appropriate for a fourth grader (or younger).

The daughter and I had some conversations about the content. We talked about family values, age appropriateness, and relationships. It turned into a positive.

The fight hit when her mom wanted to get the book removed from the school library and I refused to go along with it.

Anybody who knows me knows I oppose the banning of books. Period. But I also oppose telling other people’s kids what they can and cannot read. It is not my place to determine what goes in your kids’ minds.

Similarly, I do not want you telling me – or my kids – what they can or cannot watch, listen to, or read.

Don’t try to tell me what my children can and cannot read.

Be the parent

I’m the parent and what enters my kids’ minds is my responsibility.

Just today, I spoke to the parent of a student. I teach 6th grade ELA and this parent had no idea that her daughter had just read the novel Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, much less that she’d even read a novel at all.

After, I just sat there kind of amazed at the lack of involvement in this child’s life. Maybe she assumed that school is not her responsibility.

I check out what my kids are reading. I watch their shows and listen in on their music. Heck, I read their text messages. Like I said, what enters my kids’ minds is currently my responsibility.

This often leads to conversations, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes down right confrontational. I’ve upset the girls’ before (I don’t want you watching that again), but in the end we discuss it. I am transparent as to why I have a problem with something, and we move on.

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